Chapel Hill politics, Chicago style

My sister in Chicago periodically sends me articles about the shenanigans of Nancy OatesChicago politicians: ex-convicts who have served time for bribery, tax fraud and corruption running against one another; and a “visionary leader/advocate” filing to run again now that he’s out of prison for getting $40,000 of home renovations done in exchange for zoning changes to facilitate a development project. My sister and I laugh at these so-called public servants in office only to serve their own interests who feel no shame in living their lives void of ethics.

Now it’s my turn to send my sister stories.

While everyone on Town Council clucks sympathetically about the problem of not enough affordable housing, a majority of council members repeatedly vote to approve development that forces out what little remaining workforce and middle-class housing we have left and stick it to the taxpayers to subsidize for-profit developers.

Some recent cases in point:

In the Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment, council could have approved the DHIC affordable housing project and a couple of “shovel-ready” commercial projects, then taken time to figure out how to ameliorate flooding and traffic problems in the adjacent middle-class neighborhoods — and just as important, how to pay for them. Instead, council rushed through a plan that adds about 1,500 new residences to the area and no revenue-positive commercial projects.

I spoke briefly with Lee Perry of East-West Partners, which has a mixed-use project planned for Ephesus-Fordham, and suggested he voluntarily include some below-market-rate apartments in his project and thus position himself as a hero going into the Obey Creek talks that East-West has taken the lead on. But Perry didn’t take me up on my suggestion. Perhaps he knows that he has enough council votes in the bag for Obey Creek already.

Council passed a density bonus for Timber Hollow Apartments, an unprecedented boondoggle that will enable the developer to reap millions and won’t result in any affordable units for the community. The town attorney admitted that the plan may not be legally defensible, and the developer hemmed and hawed when council member Matt Czajkowski asked him point-blank whether he believed the deal was legal. Chapel Hill planning director J.B. Culpepper stage-whispered a response for the developer that side-stepped the answer.

One of the principals in Timber Hollow is a Pittsboro commissioner who has the power to vote yes or no on a massive development project Culpepper’s husband is trying to get Pittsboro commissioners to approve. Culpepper retired days later and plans to work as a private consultant to developers, seeing the financial success former planning director Roger Waldon has realized by doing the same.

Town staff have dismissed all community input on Obey Creek and spent town resources marketing the property, even though the land is not within town limits, meaning the town will receive only a share of the county tax revenue from the project. Here’s an idea: Annex first, invest town resources later.

Meanwhile, the town is asking the county to forego its share of Ephesus-Fordham tax revenue. Is this a back-scratching thing? Let’s see how many council members move into Obey Creek and work for the developer, as former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf moved into Meadowmont and worked for East-West after that controversial project won approval.

All this is very disheartening given that upstanding and above-board developer Gordon Grubb, who plays by the rules, has yet to receive council approval for redeveloping Glen Lennox that has been years in the making and will preserve affordable housing and provide other benefits to the community.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. DOM

     /  June 2, 2014

    Yikes! The shark jumped over the moon!

  2. many

     /  June 2, 2014

    DOM. Don’t ever change.

  3. bonnie hauser

     /  June 2, 2014

    Nancy – lets not forget that Chicago occasionally uses political power for the social good. My favorite was when Richard Daily Jr bulldozed Meigs Field in in the middle of the night in order to build a lakefront park. The private pilots were unhappy – but the citizens were thrilled.

  4. James Barrett

     /  June 2, 2014

    They demolished Meigs Field??? But that was the default starting point for Flight Simulator all during my mis-spent youth….

  5. Julie McClintock

     /  June 14, 2014

    Great story Nancy. It really is a mystery why more Council members did not adopt the incentives devised in the citizen recommendations to gain affordable housing in the EF Form Based Code. Throughout the EF public hearings Sally Greene insisted several times that incentives did not work. Yet on the final vote she proposed withdrawing the few properties on the southside of Elliott to make use of just that sort of incentive – low heights and then higher ones if affordable housing is employed. It would have been so simple to propose this plan for all the properties. Then we could have had many more affordable housing units in addition to those planned in the new budget!

  6. DOM

     /  June 16, 2014

    Let’s just keep beating this dead horse till the cows come home.

  7. DOM

     /  June 16, 2014

    …and pigs fly.

  8. Don Evans

     /  June 16, 2014

    Yo DOM!

    We’ve only been complaining about feckless, corrupt and myopic politicians so far. Wait’ll we start in on the developers of that ilk. Know any pigs among that bunch?

  9. DOM

     /  June 26, 2014

    Don Evans –

    Just because you don’t agree with the stance of some of our local politicians’ opinions doesn’t mean they are necessarily “feckless, corrupt and myopic.”

    Here’s what Ellie Kinnaird has to say about developers in CH – and those who contest new development in our community: