My sister in Chicago periodically sends me articles about the shenanigans of Chicago 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