We did what this year?

What a ride 2013 turned out to be. Yet despite the ups and downs, we moved forward.

We began the year with Town Council members choosing Sally Greene over 10 other well-qualified and diverse candidates to fill the seat Penny Rich vacated a couple months before. In the November election this year, Greene was elected by vox populi, along with incumbent Ed Harrison and two new faces – George Cianciolo and Maria Palmer – after Lauren Easthom and Gene Pease declined to re-up.

In February, 123 West Franklin redevelopment of University Square won approval and brokered itself a bargain in payment-in-lieu for affordable housing. Originally, developer Cousins Properties offered a $60,000 payment-in-lieu for its mixed-use project expected to cost $80 million to $100 million to build. Many on council thought that figure was ridiculously low, and when then-Chancellor Holden Thorp suggested $250,000, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt jumped at it. Jim Ward, who had been thinking $1 million, was not pleased, but still voted for the deal. The next morning, commercial tenants began scouting out other places in town to move to; the owners of Butternut Squash have filed a lawsuit, alleging that they had been promised the opportunity to return after the redevelopment, but the developers reneged after the café owners had turned down at least one offer to sell.

Council approved the 194-unit, 600-bed Bicycle Apartments in the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District at the end of February. Immediately the developers parked the Bicycle and changed its name to The Lux at Central Park, marketing the complex as an upscale party venue for students.

In March, homeowners in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction bought their way into Chapel Hill’s fire district to reduce their homeowner’s insurance premiums, having rejected the opportunity to be annexed into the town proper. That same month, council voted to charge for parking in park-and-ride lots.

In April, the renovated library reopened. Downtown, condo owners began moving into 140 West.

The skies opened up the last day of June and flooded out many low-income neighborhoods, and Town Hall along with them. The Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing buckled down to work seriously. During renovations later in the fall, town staff proposed an upgrade to Town Hall facilities that would make life easier for developers to get their building permits.

Council ended the year with a flurry of votes: reconfiguring and slimming down its advisory boards; agreeing to sell more than $2 million of cemetery land to Raleigh affordable housing developer DHIC for $100 in return for building affordable rental apartments; and approving a plan for Central West that incorporates almost everything the Steering Committee asked for.

With the decks more or less cleared, we have much to look forward to in 2014, beginning with whether or when to approve a development agreement for Obey Creek and the unfolding of the Ephesus-Fordham small area plan.

Happy New Year!
– Nancy Oates

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3 Comments

  1. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  January 3, 2014

    Hi Nancy,
    ETJ residents are paying a full one-third of town taxes for fire district designation (while town residents pay at an 8.8% rate), and annexation was never brought up for a vote. The prior mayor noted that the economic studies for annexing the southern ETJ found it to be a fiscally deleterious to the town. ETJ residents are still subject to Chapel Hill whims, rules and even scape-goating and mayoral castigation, without being allowed to weigh in on anything the town does.
    Cheers and Happy New Year.

  2. George C

     /  January 4, 2014

    Deborah,

    Unless I’m mistaken you still represent the ETJ on the Town’s Planning Board so does that not count as “weighing in”? Residents of the ETJ were invited to participate on the Obey Creek Compass Committee – does that not count as “weighing in”? And as for annexation being brought up for a vote, cities and towns are now required to be petitioned by 100% of the property owners of an area in order to be considered for annexation.

    I agree that ETJ residents might be considered to be subject to the “whims” of the Town but this situation was not created by the Town but rather by the State when it essentially eliminated annexation of most areas not already annexed. I think the fact that 20% of the Planning Board members (the ETJ and the JPA reps) are from outside the Town limits suggests that the Town is not hell-bent on suppressing this 3% of the population within its planning jurisdiction. I’m sorry that you feel differently.

  3. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  January 5, 2014

    Hi George, and Happy New Year,

    The Planning Board only gets to weigh in on projects that are brought before it, as you remember from your years on that board.

    I never said the Town was hell-bent; them’s your words.

    Annexation was not sought by the Town because of cost-benefit analysis years ago, when annexation was an easy stroke of the pen.

    Mayor Kleinschmidt is on video castigating ETJ residents as freeloaders on the good name of Chapel Hill (and memorably claiming that the North Chatham fire department takes its sweet time “pedaling up the road”).

    The Obey Creek Ventures LLC property is in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction. Of the 17 members of the compass committee, 2 are ETJ residents, and 50% of the committee, by design, are Chapel Hill Town residents who do not live near it: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=2239

    Chapel Hill residents pay 8.8% fire tax, and the Town charges ETJ residents 15%. Orange County says that’s because it can and there is nothing anyone can say, do, or vote on.

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