Waldon’s world

Chapel Hill has the potential to be someplace really special, if we could onlyNancy Oates articulate it. The town’s former planning director, Roger Waldon, who now makes his living guiding developers through the town’s rezoning and special use permit approval process, discovered that the articulation part is harder than it looks.

In an editorial published last week, Waldon wrote glowingly and in broad terms about development decisions Town Council made, work the staff has done, and what he referred to vaguely as the town’s “unique character.”

But nowhere in the piece did he provide specific examples to back up his opinion, and when I asked him last week to come up with some, he said he wasn’t going to go into any details.

No details on what part of Chapel Hill’s character he feels is being preserved by development plans for Ephesus-Fordham, Central West and Obey Creek. No specifics on what “emerging conditions” need to be dealt with or how they are being handled. No example of when “arguments in opposition to change” have won.

As far as identifying areas of town to be preserved, he cited campus (the town has no say in development on campus), historic districts (though by approving Lux apartments, council has changed the ambiance and quality of life in the Franklin-Rosemary historic district) and the rural buffer (which has been eaten away by Obey Creek and proposals north of Eubanks Road).

Waldon declined to name an established neighborhood that has not been changed by development or which council decisions he endorses.

All of those non-answers sounded like a man preparing to run for office, so I asked him whether he aimed to seek a seat on council. “Maybe I should consider it,” he said.

But first he’ll need a vision. Then he’ll have to be able to tell voters what it is.

Few council members have said what they want Chapel Hill to become, and even those have been known to vote counter to their professed vision. Some lament the loss of the town’s diversity, even as they vote approvals to ordinances and developments that will make our town less inclusive. Town manager Roger Stancil apparently wants Chapel Hill to become the next Greenwich, Conn., a place where wealthy social climbers can drop their town’s name to impress those to whom they feel inadequate and distance themselves from those to whom they feel superior.

Chapel Hill used to be special in its ordinariness. That’s no longer good enough for Roger Waldon, apparently. He has a year to figure out what he wants Chapel Hill to be and find the words to explain it to voters.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Terri

     /  July 28, 2014

    While Roger Waldon denies that the quantity and size of current growth plans will have any impact on the character of the town and the other Roger has to spend his own money to build a road on his own property, no thanks to “that small group of people who make noise about everything”, in Charlotte the town holds a retreat for neighborhoods to plan what they need:

    I thought that was the premise underlying Chapel Hill 2020 which is why I was willing to invest so much of my time in it. A few years later though, it feels more like the only ones who are supposed to benefit from the town’s planning exercises are people who might live here in the future and developers. Those of us who live and work here don’t count; we’re just ‘making noise’ and causing headaches for the Rogers.

  2. many

     /  July 28, 2014

    What have you done with Terri? Please bring her back, I cannot argue with you.

    Chapel hill IS a retreat, an island in the stream, a place where things don’t happen by default. Sort of an anti-Cary. No detail is the modi operandi in Chapel Hill. It leaves the most room for interpretation right where it counts. That is why form based coding is such an easy sell to the town planners.

    As far as Chapel Hill 2020 goes, it’s only five years away and there is still no vision or plan how to achieve the lack of detail it so clearly specifies. I also re-read the 2003 consultant report/critique of the land use planning this weekend (Google: CH LUMO Code Studio Report) and eleven years later it seems just as true as it was then. Perhaps this is the reason for the sense of urgency?

    Don’t blame “the Rogers”. They are rational actors. Maybe it’s that the voters aren’t paying any attention….. or perhaps they are. Maybe Greenwich is indeed what the voters want. All in all; it’s not a terrible aspiration. Greenwich is a great place to be if you have the money……..live in the back country or in Belle Haven…….and the guts to believe that the 0.1% bubble is really where you feel most at home.

  3. Nancy

     /  July 30, 2014

    Looks like Movoto agrees: Chapel Hill ranks among the Top 50 Snobbiest Small Cities.

  4. David

     /  July 31, 2014

    Waldon’s commentary and Michael Parker’s more recent one are cut from the same cloth. Their communications strategy seems to be, keep it upbeat, praise the Council and staff, talk about how wonderfully everything is going, marginalize dissent, present yourself as the positive visionary marching boldly into the brightly beckoning future, and don’t sweat the details. Lord help us of these two end up getting elected to Council. We may as well just hand Roger Perry to the keys to Town Hall and call it a day.

  5. many

     /  July 31, 2014

    Heh. I find it curious that Greenwich (06830) is not on the list. After all their population is only 61K and Beverly Hills (90210) at 31K isn’t either. I would also guess Southern Pines (28388) is missing, but maybe they are too small at 12K.

    Perhaps the Movoto list excludes those that have already achieved and is only for the presumptive?

  6. Terri

     /  July 31, 2014

    “As far as Chapel Hill 2020 goes, it’s only five years away and there is still no vision or plan how to achieve the lack of detail it so clearly specifies.”

    I agree. Staff added the “focus areas” into the plan, but the citizen contributions on the ‘themes’ were more broadly applied to the entire community rather than targeted growth areas. Interestingly, staff has gone back and added actions (around youth rather than the environment) to the theme group I worked on (Nurturing) and those staff contributions are being implemented while the citizen contributions are still languishing. I support the addition of youth support services to the overall plan, but it does seem that there should have been some kind of public discussion about it.

  7. Mark Marcoplos

     /  July 31, 2014

    Surely they could have a chosen a better description of what they were trying to illustrate than “snobby”. That’s irresponsible. On the other hand, anyone who utilizes those kinds of lists for anything important is naïve.

  8. Don Evans

     /  July 31, 2014


    Roger Perry already has the keys to Town Hall — they just haven’t set up an office for him yet! But I hear Mark Kleinschmidt is working on that . . .

    I’ve watched Perry’s red-faced rants in front of and directed at the council and have to shake my head at how council members give in to his bullying tactics. He knows if he throws a big enough fit, council members will give him what he wants, whether it’s public money to hire consultants for his projects or special dispensations on project size and displacements.

    Perry has used his connections to the town and UNC to further his business, plain and simple. The community is not better off because of his developments and his work on various panels and boards was simply to boost his influence, not make a better community.

    And higher education at UNC is no better for his “service” on the UNC Board of Trustees as chairman. But Roger is much richer for his efforts.

  9. many

     /  July 31, 2014

    “On the other hand, anyone who utilizes those kinds of lists for anything important is naïve.”

    Maybe they meant condescending?

  10. many

     /  July 31, 2014


    I can appreciate your points.

    More than themes, I am still missing what I would call basics. In short, we need a SWOT matrix/analysis.

    How do these projects tie together and contribute to the community? How are they linked by transit, by walk-ability, what are the traffic impacts? How do storm water and sewer demands fit into projections and affect capacity, as well as correcting known deficiencies? How are fire, police protection and sanitation affected? What about utilities infrastructure, what is being done to foster competition and keep costs down?

    There is more; with the economy recovering there is pent up demand, that environment often leads to overbuilding. There are competing projects throughout the 5 county area do we compare favorably in terms of investment? Where are the development dollars most likely to go?

    I don’t expect the replies to be hard numbers, but I am looking for indications that the impacts and costs have been considered and communicated.

  11. Fred Black

     /  July 31, 2014

    Don, if you call a man a criminal shouldn’t you cite some evidence?

  12. Don Evans

     /  August 1, 2014


    Never said that. Just said Perry knows how to manipulate the powers that be into doing what is best for him.

  13. Fred Black

     /  August 1, 2014

    “And higher education at UNC is no better for his “service” on the UNC Board of Trustees as chairman. But Roger is much richer for his efforts.”

    Well Don, it is a crime in North Carolina to use a government position for personal gain. Sure sounds like that’s what you are saying. Am I reading it wrong?

  14. many

     /  August 3, 2014


    I am pretty sure Don was being rhetorical. I got that right away.

    I have a serious question for you; why do you repeatedly commit the logic error of thinking correlation implies causation? I thought West Point was a better school than that.


  15. Fred Black

     /  August 3, 2014

    Dear many whomever you are. Your swipes would be more effective if you do your homework.

    People here attack folks and toss out allegations all the time. When it’s said that a sworn official got richer as a result of his service, I questions that There’s no logic flaw at all. I even asked Don for clarification so your opinion is immaterial. Maybe you should stay in your place of fear of having your words associated with your own name.

  16. many

     /  August 3, 2014

    Dear Fred

    I wasn’t offering an opinion just a simple statement of fact in an attempt to understand. There is a basic assumption on your part that there was accusation of a crime.

    However, the statement “But Roger is much richer for his efforts” does not imply that there was any crime. It could have been good fortune, a happy coincidence or an acknowledgement of Mr. Perry’s efforts.

    It is a completely separate sentence from ““And higher education at UNC is no better for his “service” on the UNC Board of Trustees as chairman.”

    You immediate leap to an accusation of criminality was (and still is) flawed logic on your part.

    Once again I can see that you like to dish it out, but you just can’t take it. Maybe you should rethink your approach to people.

  17. Fred Black

     /  August 3, 2014

    Still don’t understand what asking a question means!

    “Approach to people?” Now that’s rich! How do we know that you are a “people?”

  18. many

     /  August 4, 2014

    Heh. You are conversing with me Fred, unless you think you are engaging in a Turing test………

    Please stop dissembling. The asking of a question was never the issue at hand.

    “if you call a man a criminal shouldn’t you cite some evidence” is presumptive logical fallacy wrapped in a question. It’s like asking “When did you stop beating your wife?” It is a tactic I have seen you use for a long time and I am curious to know if you do it intentionally or reflexively.