ETJ and trust

At its Oct. 21 meeting, Town Council will preside over a public hearing to consider expanding the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction north of town. The proposed plan would incorporate the historic Rogers Road area, the old landfill, Northwood and a large chunk north of Eubanks Road into the ETJ. Accepting this proposal would allow the town to have sole decision-making power over rezoning decisions.

At present the land is subject to joint approval by the town, Orange County and Carrboro. And from the way the redevelopment process has played out with the Central West and Fordham/Ephesus Church areas, getting a second opinion on what the redevelopment will yield would be a good idea. Especially if that opining voice has the authority to vote a project up or down.

Town staff seems to be enamored of a trendy concept called “new urbanism,” a plan that dots a coffee shop and a hotel in the midst of some apartment buildings and deems it a “walkable community,” as if none of the residents in those apartments would ever have need to leave the complex to, for instance, go to work or worship or buy groceries or visit friends who didn’t live in the same building.

The zeal with which town staff and a ruling cabal on council embrace the concept of new urbanism seems akin to the enthusiasm in the 1970s for urban renewal. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to tear down dilapidated houses and replace entire neighborhoods with institutional, in many cases cheaply built, apartment buildings. Within 30 years, municipalities began tearing them down.

We have a similar situation today in the redevelopment plans presented so far. The overriding concern appears to be: Can the developer and his investors make enough profit? Town staff ignore whether the project functions effectively for the people who live here.

Considering how ineffectual middle- to upper-middle class residents have been in getting town staff to pay attention to quality of life issues in the Central West process, do we really want to turn the town loose on an area whose residents don’t have the money and may not have much experience in fighting town hall?

Take a look at the map, and see what you think:
— Nancy Oates

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  1. Bonnie Hauser

     /  October 16, 2013

    Nancy – having worked with the Rogers Road community on closing the landfill and securing a community center, water and now sewer service, I’d never consider them “inexperienced”.

    That said while there’s an inherent issue with the ETJ’s because the residents don’t have voting rights over those who make zoning decisions, I prefer that one, not two governments control zoning.

    As I understand it, the proposed ETJ is targeted for affordable housing and possibly a school. Plus the ETJ designation makes it easier for Chapel Hill to particulate in the plan to provide sewer service to a community. I believe that annexation is part of the long term strategy.

    This one’s really different than CW or Obey Creek. Just more complexity to the challenges that face the town.

  2. Chris Weaver

     /  October 22, 2013

    The problems associated with regulation without representation that ETJs present, and the historical form in which they have been utilized against the property owner is worthy of a deeper look. There is a Pulitzer prize in there for the person willing and daring enough to expose it.