Council must govern

Form-based code — it’s everywhere in Chapel Hill these days. First, Town Nancy OatesCouncil approved it for 190 acres in the Ephesus-Fordham area. Currently, Northwood Ravin is trying to get the same liberties offered by form-based code, though it hasn’t used the highly charged term, in its proposed mixed-use development The Edge, at the corner of Eubanks Road and N.C. 86. And in between, town manager Roger Stancil slipped form-based code benefits past council’s notice by allowing Northwood Ravin to convert 40,000 square feet of commercial space at 123 West Franklin into residential apartments.

Not only is Stancil turning revenue-positive space into revenue-negative — commercial property generally yields more in property tax revenue to the town that it costs to provide services, whereas residential property costs more in services than it pays in taxes — but he gave his approval without giving Town Council a chance to weigh in.

Northwood Ravin reportedly asked for the office/retail to be reclassified as multifamily residential space because of less than expected pre-leasing interest. Tepid interest in renting office/retail space signals low demand. So why not entice prospective tenants by lowering the rent?

Isn’t that the “market force” theory we’ve been hearing from Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development officer, and Aaron Nelson, head of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, anytime a council member presses for affordable housing amidst the deluge of applications for luxury apartments? Build more apartments and the oversupply will temper demand, which in turn will push down rents, Bassett and Nelson say. But when a perceived oversupply of office/commercial space arises, Stancil’s response is to shift the burden to taxpayers to protect the developer’s profit.

The economic environment hasn’t changed since council approved 123 West. But the municipal regulatory environment has. In approving form-based code, council “gave away the store,” as Jim Ward said, by giving up inducements for developers to contribute to affordable housing and good stewardship of environmental resources.

At the Nov. 24 council meeting, Stancil’s staff presented a plan to incentivize developers to build green and improve energy efficiency. Matt Czajkowski pointed out that not only were the rebates the town would pay developers coming from the revenue the town had planned to use to repay the bond, but developers would have provided all of those environment-friendly things free in exchange for greater density had the town written those requirements into the form-based code in the first place.

And now East West Partners perhaps wants a piece of that deal for its building in Ephesus-Fordham. East West has twice delayed the next step in the process, maybe to qualify for the town’s energy-efficiency rebate.

Town Council has the authority to rein in Stancil’s cowboy antics. And council members have the smarts and the professional expertise to recognize when they’re getting snookered and taxpayers are being taken advantage of. We elected them to do the hard work of protecting the interests of the community. It’s time for them to do so.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Terri Buckner

     /  December 8, 2014

    East West has delayed on the Ephesus Fordham negotiations, not Obey Creek.

    How is Stancill making decisions that he’s not authorized to make? Or did council give him the authority that previously resided with them?

  2. Nancy

     /  December 8, 2014

    Thank you, Terry. I went back in and made the correction. As for Stancil, I’d say he is stretching his authority in 123 West by calling a 40,000-square-foot shift that affects the town’s bottom line a “minor modification.” Council may be trusting him to make good decisions, rather than micromanaging, but he may not be living up to their trust.

  3. anon

     /  December 8, 2014

    In many ways Eubanks is worse than ephesus fordham.
    The project (again mostly residential) would make a disaster of the roads, and therefore needs more lanes added just so it’s development can function and wants the town to pay for the added road capacity.

    at least for ephesus fordham the infrastructure needs improvement regardless of any new development. can’t say that about eubanks

  4. It’s time to hire a new Town Manager. Stancil needs to go.

  5. many

     /  December 9, 2014

    To me the troubling part of this is the disconnect between what is said vs. what is done. Added to that is the lack of communication about why, and a sense that there is a somewhat orderly future.

    Reasonable people have made reasonable comments and raised reasonable concerns and it seems as if those concerns are not being addressed. The 20th century ways of communication with government are archaic and inadequate. Government seems worse than reactive, it seems unresponsive. As a result, the level of rhetoric and hyperbole is raised and the gulf grows.

    Eubanks is an area that will see significant development. Based on the DoT transit plan just released, it is likely to become a major interchange. Development pressure there will increase significantly, yet no one seems to be having that conversation yet.

    Carolina North is another area that will be developed in the near future and although that discussion is ongoing, the result seems to be shaping up to be as unsatisfying as Ephesus-Fordham.

    Add in Obey Creek to the mix and there is significant change brewing North, South and East.

    That’s a lot all at once.

    Based on observation and some experience, I am all but certain you cannot expect satisfaction by assigning blame for all this to one individual. To me the causes and solutions are much broader. The siloed structure of town government and services, a lack of expertise in dealing with concerns in a 21st century venue, the lack of forward vision (or probably more correctly, the abdication of that vision to developers short term thinking) and the towns choice of monologue over dialog are all areas for improvement and many of them beyond the sole control of the town manager.

  6. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  December 11, 2014

    Many (whoever you are), I don’t know if it’s a question of siloed structure. For example, at the Obey Creek special meeting on Monday, a council member said that staff had, for a year, not provided information that council had requested last January so that they could make informed decisions. This is a purposeful (in)action that weakens council and strengthens the developer/applicant in its interactions with Town government. The process proceeds, and council must act, but its members do not have traffic, environmental, data-based fiscal studies… and this isn’t because we are in the 21st or any other century. What this inaction does, as I see it, is tell developers that visioning groups, compass committees, and citizen efforts to communicate with the elected town council can be discounted, because council does not have anything to work besides the developers’ proposals. Staff will not give council what they ask for.

  7. many

     /  December 11, 2014

    Deborah (who ever you are 🙂 )…. that too. What I meant by the 20th century reference is that the means and methods being used by the Town (both staff and elected officials) is antiquated. Purposeful or not, the traffic, environmental, data-based fiscal data is available and staff is not the only source.

    The notion that elected officials can only rely on or accept data from staff lends credence to my comment about silos.

    Anyway. I think we agree in effect if not entirely in solution or motive.

  8. David Schwartz

     /  December 12, 2014

    Deborah wrote: “This is a purposeful (in)action that weakens council and strengthens the developer/applicant in its interactions with Town government.”

    Whether it is purposeful or simply incompetence, it is unacceptable. The Town Council had an opportunity to hold the Town Manager accountable for this and other staff failings back in September when they reviewed his performance and deliberated whether to renew his contract. They could have sent a strong message of disapproval by not renewing his contract or by renewing it for, say, only a year with further extensions contingent on performance improvement. Instead, they reportedly voted unanimously to renew Stancil’s contract. So Stancil has gotten the message that he will pay no price for putting the interests of developers above those of the broader community.

    We need to recognize that the interests of the Town residents and those of the Town Manager are not perfectly aligned, at least not necessarily so. Our costs are his revenues. That is, while we would like to keep our taxes as low as possible consistent with enjoying the level of government services we desire, the Town Manager would like his budget and staff to continually increase and certainly not decrease.

    I have it on good authority that Stancil has explicitly told his staff that the security of their jobs depends on getting the development proposals currently in the pipeline approved, i.e., that without the additional revenues from new development there will have to be layoffs. He has thus created a situation where the staff, particularly the planning staff, experience a conflict between their desire to keep their jobs and their desire to serve the public interest. If in fact the staff is in this tight financial situation, it is because of poor fiscal management on the part of Stancil himself and his staff, and poor oversight by Council members.

    Thus, one way to think about what is happening is that, because of reckless and irresponsible spending over the past 10 years, the staff are now colluding with developers to approve projects that do not serve the pubic interest in order to increase the town budget against the wishes of the residents who will ultimately foot the bill for all this through increased taxes and decreased quality of life.

    Stancil may indeed need to go, but in order for that to happen, it seems that several Council members will first need to go.

  9. Nancy

     /  December 12, 2014

    Gordon Merklein, executive director of real estate development at UNC, told me that council had been informed of the square-footage swap in an email sent by Roger Stancil to council members in October, giving them a week to voice any objections. I subsequently read the email. Council would have had to read it carefully to see that the swap not only reduces the revenue-positive office/retail space but that it adds another floor of height to the buildings, reduces parking, removes townhouses that “engage” with the street, and increases the size of the apartments, suggesting the target tenants are upscale.

    George Cianciolo appears to be the only council member who responded, and he voiced support for whatever decision Stancil and staff thought was best.

  10. David Schwartz

     /  December 12, 2014


    Can you post the email so we can all read it?

  11. DOM

     /  December 12, 2014

    David Schwartz –

    “I have it on good authority that Stancil has explicitly told his staff that the security of their jobs depends on getting the development proposals currently in the pipeline approved”

    Wow, quite a statement. You might want to be more explicit about the worthiness of your “good authority” before coming out with serious accusations like that.

  12. DOM

     /  December 12, 2014

    David Schwartz –

    “I have it on good authority that Stancil has explicitly told his staff that the security of their jobs depends on getting the development proposals currently in the pipeline approved”

    Wow, quite a statement. You might want to be more explicit before coming out with serious accusations like that.

  13. many

     /  December 12, 2014

    DOM, I am not sure why you think that Davids statement is an accusation. I took it as a prediction likely to come true .

    I do not think it is far fetched at all to believe the town government would need to downsize unless new revenue sources can be created. I think it is also prudent to discuss this with employees and voters so they can prepare.

    Some town services that had been benefiting from UNC have had that funding source significantly reduced ovber the past few years. Look for even more cuts to UNC budgets coming soon.

    Sales tax revenue is down due to online shopping and the fqact that it is cheaper to jump across the county line to shop in Alamance or Chatham..

    The state has failed to replace federal stimulus funding to schools. – This is where the Kay Hagan 500 million dollar school funding campaign ad cam from.

    I expect that the 2015 county re-valuation will find that many county properties are less valuable now than they were in 2011, shifting the tax burden to properties where valuation has held up which is probably 90% in the towns. I also expect that many people will contest valuations.

    2012 N&O article:

  14. David Schwartz

     /  December 13, 2014


    You asked me to be more explicit about the worthiness of the source of my information. Here it is: This information was relayed to me by a prominent Chapel Hill resident whose word I trust 100%. That person, in turn, was told this by a Town staff member who claimed to be in the room when Stancil said it. I asked my source to rate the reliability of the staff person who told him that Stancil had said this. He said he considered the staff person to be 85% reliable. Thus, my “good authority” is that I heard it from someone I trust 100%, who in turn heard it from a staff person he trusts 85%.

    So, technically it is hearsay, but what motivation would a staff member have for claiming that Stancil said this if he in fact did not?

  15. Bonnie

     /  December 14, 2014

    Many great points. That reval is scheduled for 2017 and last spring, tax values were 5.5% above market values. If things don’t change, county tax trates will increase by 4.5 points. I presume town and school rates will go up too,

    But first (2016) the county is going to try to convince the voters to approve a bond referendum which sanctions a 4-5 point tax increase.

  16. Fred Black

     /  December 15, 2014

    Nancy wrote, ” town manager Roger Stancil slipped form-based code benefits past council’s notice by allowing Northwood Ravin to convert 40,000 square feet of commercial space at 123 West Franklin into residential apartments.?

    So then someone with facts informs her that the manager sent an email to the mayor and Council. Nancy then says, ” I subsequently read the email. Council would have had to read it carefully …”

    Do we not expect our elected officials to read an email carefully? Note too that all emails are available for reading online or hard copy.

    Nancy, your credibility suffers from these types of posts. And David, your “hearsay” comments serve what purpose? Why not just come out and tell us what you plan to run for in the 2015 election, if of course there is one.

  17. Terri

     /  December 15, 2014

    Here’s the email so people can decide for themselves.

    From: Roger Stancil
    Sent: Wednesday, October 08, 2014 6:55 PM
    To: Donna Bell; Ed Harrison; George Ciancolo; Jeff Deluca; Jim Ward; Jim Ward2; Lee Storrow (; Maria Palmer; Mark Kleinschmidt; Matt Czajkowski; Town Council;
    Cc: Phil Mason; Gene Poveromo; Amy Harvey; Catherine Lazorko; Dwight Bassett; Flo Miller; Jason Damweber; John Richardson; Mary Jane Nirdlinger; Ralph Karpinos; Roger Stancil; Sabrina Oliver
    Subject: Minor Change to 123 West Franklin (university Square)

    The Office of Planning and Sustainability has received a request for changes to the 123 West Franklin Street project at University Square. The staff has reviewed the request and recommends approval by the town manager as a Minor Change. The staff has reviewed this request with the Town Attorney who agrees that these adjustments do not include a request for any exceptions to regulations that would require Council approval of a modification of the special use permit. Because this is a high visibility project, I wanted to provide you an opportunity to review information regarding the request and ask questions before I approve the request. Please let me know before Wednesday of next week if you do.

    The information from the staff is shown below and attached.


    The applicant is proposing some changes to the approved 123 West Franklin Street project (at University Square) that we wanted to summarize for you about and that you may want to share with the Council. We have received the corresponding application for a Minor Change to the Special Use Permit. As provided in Land Use Management Ordinance subsection 4.5.4(b)(1-7), the Town Manager may approve minor changes to Special Use Permits. We have reviewed this application and recommend approval of the Minor Change and we wanted to provide you with this information in case there were any specific questions we could address prior to issuing approval.

    The application has been reviewed by the Planning & Sustainability Office and we think it qualifies as a Minor Change to the approved Special Use Permit, per the LUMO standards noted. We think that the changes, in the context of this large-scale downtown mixed-use project, are not significant. The overall site redevelopment and the project’s contribution of a mix of residential, office, retail, open space, and parking to the downtown remain intact. The Town Attorney has also reviewed our recommendation.

    Please find a comparison planset for 123 West Franklin (large file that is slow to open), with proposed (dated 2014) and approved (dated 2012) plan sheets shown in sequence. Also attached is the Statement of Justification for the requested minor change, provided by the applicant, as well as the Special Use Permit, approved by Council February 11, 2013. The applicant is scheduled to return to the Community Design Commission for approval of revised elevations in October or November.

    Key Changes Proposed
    Floor Area:
    Overall decrease of 2,500 s.f. of floor area, including (see detailed table below):
    Retail, 2,500 s.f. decrease
    Office, 40,000 s.f. decrease
    Residential, 40,000 s.f. increase
    Proposing adding a partial 5th floor of residential to Buildings A & B on W Franklin St. This additional height provides architectural interest and is stepped back from Franklin Street. Proposing elimination of approved townhouses on the eastern elevation of Building C parking deck. Townhouses were eliminated to make the deck more efficient and allowing Building C Parking Garage to comply with 2012 NCBC requirements for an open garage and natural ventilation. Green vegetation is proposed on the eastern deck wall to soften impact along the sidewalk. The office space on the park has been redesigned for flexibility and allow retail to engage the park.

    Building Orientation: The upper floors of Building A has been rotated 180 degrees with lower level courtyards and upper terraces now facing West Franklin Street, providing additional articulation and interest. Further a sky bridge connects A to C allowing raised access between buildings.

    Dwelling Units: The number of dwelling units is proposed to decrease to 285 from the 300 approved.

    Parking Spaces: Approved parking spaces proposed to be reduced from 1,023 to 955. Overall reduction of subgrade parking, reallocated to parking deck on Building C. Proposing redesigned Building C parking deck with fewer levels, 5 instead of 7.
    Access & Circulation: Proposing to move the approved driveway connection to Cameron Avenue about 75 feet to the East to address cost and time issues relocating AT&T infrastructure. The new signal will be provided at the developers cost which will enhance safety at the intersection.
    Green Space: Proposing enhanced, redesigned park landscape and hardscape to enhance pedestrian circulation and better serve as a venue for the adjacent uses and entertainment events.

    If you have any questions, please contact me. I would be glad to meet with you to discuss further.
    Mary Jane Nirdlinger, Planning and Sustainability
    Phil Mason, Planning Manager – Development Services

  18. George C

     /  December 15, 2014

    I find it hard to believe that David Schwartz could post this with a straight face (of course, for all I know he might have been laughing his head off when he posted it), especially in CH where some folks don’t believe anything they hear even when they are hearing it directly from the source:

    “You asked me to be more explicit about the worthiness of the source of my information. Here it is: This information was relayed to me by a prominent Chapel Hill resident whose word I trust 100%. That person, in turn, was told this by a Town staff member who claimed to be in the room when Stancil said it. I asked my source to rate the reliability of the staff person who told him that Stancil had said this. He said he considered the staff person to be 85% reliable. Thus, my “good authority” is that I heard it from someone I trust 100%, who in turn heard it from a staff person he trusts 85%.

  19. DOM

     /  December 15, 2014

    George C. —

    “in CH, some folks don’t believe anything they hear even when they are hearing it directly from the source…”

    Hear, hear!

  20. Bonnie

     /  December 15, 2014

    Terri. Thanks for sharing. Nancy summarized it nicely – don’t you agree?

  21. Terri Buckner

     /  December 16, 2014


    In the absence of an active press, people in the community have to resort to hearsay and personal interpretations to understand current events. For that reason I don’t think your response to David is reasonable. You have insider knowledge, the rest of us have to do the best we can, relying on those insiders we have access to and those like Nancy who are willing to invest their personal time to raise issues of concern. I don’t think they always get it right but that’s why you and Fred have the freedom to come here and correct the record, instead of just sharing your frustration.

    Personally I would like to understand why a modification that replaces revenue generating space with around 40 new revenue consuming spaces is considered ‘minor.’

    And no Bonnie I don’t think Nancy got it right. The manager sent out an email in October saying what he was going to do and the council didn’t object. The details of the swap were very clear so IMHO, the council agreed with the mgr that the swap was ‘minor.’

    As George, a researcher by profession, understands, it’s important to clarify and define your terms upfront. Clearly based on the other emails received by council on this issue the public needs that definition.

  22. George C

     /  December 16, 2014


    First, for David Schwartz to try to publicly impugn the Town’s manager’s character based on secondary hearsay is totally reprehensible in my opinion. I consider it a sleazy tactic but, given the source, I’m not surprised. I’m sorry to hear that you don’t see it that way.

    Second, space is revenue generating only if you can find someone to pay to occupy it. We have heard from developers and realtors alike that Chapel Hill is having trouble recruiting retail/commercial businesses because of the high costs of leases (due to high costs of land acquisition and high property tax valuations). How much revenue do you think was generated from that empty lot on Elliot Road that sat vacant for years.

    Third, not all residential is revenue negative. The two highest taxpayers in OC are GreenBridge and 140 West Franklin. Residential that doesn’t require a lot of infrastructure and doesn’t generate a lot of school children can, and often is, revenue positive.

  23. Bonnie

     /  December 16, 2014

    I see elected bodies bombarded with information and lack the skills to understand the full consequences of their decisions. Par for the course, Roger’s memo provided no conclusive information to help. In your research terms, it’s like presenting the study and asking your audience to guess the hypothesis and the results.

    In the management world where I and come from, the consequences of actions are swift and can be profound. As a consultant to senior executives, I was expected to clarify the likely consequences of issues and alternatives – upfront. That’s what shapes my view of “transparency” and hidden agendas..

    I believe Nancy nailed it.

  24. Terri

     /  December 16, 2014


    For several years now, community members have been asking for modeling tools to help everyone understand the relationship between commercial and residential growth. From your response, it would appear that you have access to such tools. What a shame that the information you provided on those economic costs is only done in the context of anger.

  25. George C

     /  December 16, 2014


    You’re right about the anger. I get very POed when someone attacks the character of a hard-working public servant using anonymous information supposedly gotten through several levels of hearsay conversations. If this were happening at the University you’d be the first to take a position against it but when it happens to a public servant as part of a plan to discredit the elected officials who appointed and support that official you seem to think it’s OK. It’s not!

  26. many

     /  December 16, 2014

    My two cents;

    I agree with Terri. The problem is the council didn’t say “tell me more please”? The frustration that George & Fred seem to be expressing is probably rooted in the fact that hindsight is 20/20 and the town manager and staff must be trusted positions.

    I think the change is use (form if you prefer) from retail to residential does not constitute a minor change. Perhaps there is middle ground between major & minor and perhaps that middle ground needs more definition, but in the end, these will be larger and more exclusive units and that is the main impact.

    Adding a partial 5th floor might be interesting to some and an imposition to others, but that’s not what its about. It’s about a premium.

    Like it or not downtown parking is an issue and the reduction in spaces is a reduction to any positive effect on that problem. The folks that buy these units are not going to suffer from parking issues, but the parking available in downtown will be a net loss

    Resource consuming vs. resource generating may be as harsh a distinction as major and minor. In the end there is very little short of teaching, farming and mining that is truly resource generating. At best, most of our activities are resource refining.

    Articulation and interest are a matter of interpretation. I have to ask the big “how so?” Changes in orientation will effect the streetscape and that is what the much ballyhooed and much maligned “form based coding” is all about, no? If you want to get urban form based coding right then changes in orientation are hardly ever minor.

  27. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  December 16, 2014

    Greenbridge paid $429.92 business property tax on 9/18/14. University Mall will pay $602,614.37 in combined town, school and county property taxes for 2014. The Walmart in Hillsborough will pay $213,110.79 in county and Hillsborough tax, plus business property tax of $23,483.41. I’d like to see George Cianciolo’s data for 140 West Franklin and Greenbridge. I think what he meant was the C.H. economic development presentation showing that high-rise residential Greenbridge yields the most in property tax PER SQUARE FOOT. It was this presentation that swayed council to vote for the form-based code and the Ephesus-Fordham rezoning without examination.

  28. Terri

     /  December 16, 2014

    George wrote: “I get very POed when someone attacks the character of a hard-working public servant using anonymous information supposedly gotten through several levels of hearsay conversations. If this were happening at the University you’d be the first to take a position against it but when it happens to a public servant as part of a plan to discredit the elected officials who appointed and support that official you seem to think it’s OK.”

    First, David reported what he heard second hand. While that may technically qualify as “several,” in a closed system, second hand may be as close to direct information as many of us can ever expect to get. One of the lessons learned by the university has been that it’s better to make information public than to try and keep it private or controlling access.

    I did not read David’s statement, or anything he’s ever written, as part of a calculated plan to discredit the manager or elected officials. He doesn’t agree with the recent spurt of growth initiatives, but neither do a lot of others, including me. Those decisions are baffling; they appear to be complete 360 degree changes from Council’s historical approach to growth. In the absence of any real understanding of why that change has occurred, people speculate. If you, George or any other council member, were on the other end, I expect you would be speculating too.

    I think It would be better for everyone if those issues that Council expects will be contentious were handled publicly; or at the very least a public explanation was provided before the speculation began. This is a public relations issue as much as anything else. I don’t see the conspiracy.

  29. DOM

     /  December 16, 2014

    Terri –

    “First, David reported what he heard second hand.”

    No, he did not. He simply said he had it on “good authority.” This kind of disingenuous “reporting” is a major cause of the copious disinformation being dumped on uninformed Chapel Hill citizens of late. These kinds of smear tactics are eerily similar to the b.s. that the Tea Party was spewing a while back.

    Let’s all do our best to call it out whenever we see it.

  30. George C

     /  December 16, 2014


    I guess you don’t read the DTH as often as I thought: I’m glad for you that you don’t think this attack was calculated. I’m not that generous.

  31. Terri

     /  December 16, 2014


    What’s the difference between an attack and legitimate questions about town operations? It feels like you are saying that citizens have no business challenging town staff and elected officials and I don’t believe you feel that way. My father used to say “it’s not way you say but how you say it.” Is that what you are angry about–the way they raised the questions (through public petition)? How could the questions have been raised that would be more acceptable to you (and the other council members)?

  32. Fred Black

     /  December 16, 2014

    Terri, there have been two managers of the town since I’ve lived here. Some of the same people have wanted both fired. When I use to teach managers and managers to be a public administration course, they all understood that there would always be people who wanted them fired, comes with the territory. I’m convinced that we will never hire a manager who pleases everybody; just the way it is.

    Those who want the current manager fired have indicated that since the current Council doesn’t appear to want to fire him, they need to replace five Council members to do it. Great, that’s how our system is designed to work, but the personal attacks are not part of our system. So go for it! (If of course there is a 2015 election!)

  33. Nancy

     /  December 16, 2014

    Wait, Fred. What’s going to happen that there won’t be a 2015 election? What has the General Assembly done now?

  34. Fred Black

     /  December 16, 2014

    Nancy, not a done deal yet but “they” have on their agenda a provision that will move muni elections to the even year elections.Not to be optional. I think only 5 or 6 do even years now.

  35. Don Evans

     /  December 16, 2014


    Calling Roger Stancil a hard-working public servant puts him in the same category as UNC’s Deborah Crowder. May be working hard, but who’s he working for?

    As with Donna Bell, you seem to think Roger is your boss. Last I heard, he answers to the council, not the other way around. Which means residents’ concerns should be taken very seriously, because council members answer to the voters.

  36. George C

     /  December 16, 2014


    If citizens have a problem with the manager’s performance and want to petition Council to look at it, that’s certainly their right. But for one of those citizens to make a statement that the Manager’s behavior was, in another unrelated situation questionable and to base that statement on “good authority” which, after further questioning, turns out to be second-hand hearsay is unacceptable in my book. I’m very sorry that you don’t see the difference.


    It is a shame that you didn’t clarify this situation for your readers when you had the chance and as you told me you intended to do so. On Dec. 11th when you emailed me asking for a copy of my email in support of the Manager I emailed you not only my email to the Manager but also the Manager’s original email to Council informing them of his intended action and asking whether we had any objections. In your email you said “Thank you. I’ll make the change in the blog.” That was 4 days before Terri posted the copy of the Manager’s email.

    Perhaps allowing your readers to get a better sense of the true situation 4 days earlier wouldn’t have made much of a difference. On the other hand, it might have.

  37. DOM

     /  December 16, 2014

    Don Evans –

    “Calling Roger Stancil a hard-working public servant puts him in the same category as UNC’s Deborah Crowder.”

    More objective news distribution? Weren’t you a newspaper man once?

  38. David Schwartz

     /  December 17, 2014


    Go back and dispassionately read my original comment in this thread and you will see that I in no way impugned the Town Manager’s character. Rather, I offered an explanation for why the Town Manager might be promoting development outcomes opposed by many, and perhaps most, Town residents. I suggested that his actions are attributable not to malfeasance or bad faith, but simply to the fact that, in the short-term, the interests of the staff do not align perfectly with those of the town residents, and I related something Stancil supposedly said as an example that seemed to support my analysis.

    The validity of my analysis does not depend on the accuracy of the particular example I offered in support of it. As “Many,” noted, the Town’s financial situation is such that it probably is true that, if new sources of revenue are not found (e.g., higher tax rates, major new real estate development) there may need to be staff layoffs. If you have information to the contrary, please share it.

    It is perfectly reasonable for Stancil to want to try to protect the jobs of the staff he supervises—what kind of a manager would he be if he didn’t try to do so?—but it is the job of Council to ensure that the long-term interests of the Town as a whole, and not the interests of the staff or of some small but powerful segment of the Town population, takes precedence.

    Issues of power, money, and conflicts of interest in local government make some people uncomfortable, but we need to be able to discuss these matters openly and honestly, without name-calling and without questioning people’s integrity and good faith.

    Since we have your attention, let me ask you the following question: In 2009, you posted the following comment on the Orange Politics blog:

    “Many of the “annoying” stipulations that Council requires of developers are the result of concerns expressed by the citizens of Chapel Hill (who elected the Council in the first place). Developers are not always citizens of Chapel Hill nor do they always have the best interests of the citizens at heart. For instance, when a traffic impact analysis shows that a new project is going to have a significant impact upon traffic flow at neighboring intersections, and the citizens of affected neighborhoods raise this concern, why shouldn’t the Council require the developer to use the lowest number of parking spaces feasible? When a proposed development is going to remove a significant number of specimen trees and Chapel Hill citizens have repeatedly said that one of the things they truly value about our Town is its tree canopy, why shouldn’t Council require a developer to demonstrate how they are mitigating tree loss as much as possible? When a developer is going to build a project why shouldn’t Council require the developer to build the infrastructure (sidewalks, turn-lanes) to make that development as accessible as possible without making the Town bear the costs for a private project? Many, if not most, of the so-called onerous stipulations that some have suggested the Council imposes on developers are the result of the Council listening to its citizens’ concerns.”

    I find that I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote in the above comment, but I wonder whether you still do. I say this because the current tendency among a majority of Council members, including you, seems to be to try to eliminate as many as possible of the “annoying” and “onerous” stipulations that you so eloquently defended in 2009. What has changed?

    If you do still believe that you have a responsibility as a council member to ensure that new development in Chapel Hill conforms, within reason, to citizen values and concerns, then why, in the case of Ephesus-Fordham, did you approve a redevelopment plan opposed by the overwhelming majority of residents who voiced an opinion on the matter, and why do you seem to be doing the same thing in the case of Obey Creek?

    I appreciate you taking the time to engage in this discussion and, if you feel that my and other people’s criticisms of Council members’ or Town staff members’ actions result from our being misinformed, then I hope you will do what you can to ensure that we receive more and better information about these matters.



  39. DOM

     /  December 17, 2014

    Mr. Schwartz –

    You say, “Go back and dispassionately read my original comment in this thread and you will see that I in no way impugned the Town Manager’s character.”

    I did go back, and I found that the very first thing you said was, “Whether it is purposeful or simply incompetence, it is unacceptable.”

    If that isn’t ‘impugning’, what do you call it? You seem to be speaking with more than one tongue, Mr. Schwartz.

  40. David Schwartz

     /  December 17, 2014


    Go back and read it a third time. The first part of the sentence you quote, “Whether it was purposeful . . .” simply echoes a previous commenters allegation, while the phrase that follows, ” . . . or simply incompetence,” offers a more innocent explanation for Stancil’s action. If anything, the sentence you quote defends, rather than impugns, Stancil’s character.

    I don’t know Roger Stancil personally so I have no basis for judging his character and have never done so. I understand him to be a perfectly pleasant individual liked and respected by many of the people with whom he works. I have, however, judged his actions and job performance and have expressed criticism when I have felt criticism is warranted, and will continue to do so.

    I hope we can agree that there is a difference between criticizing a public figure’s job performance and impugning their character. Calling someone “sleazy” and “reprehensible,” as George said of me earlier in this thread, is an example of impugning someone’s character. That’s not my style.



  41. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  December 18, 2014

    In response to the question posed by George Cianciolo 12/16/14 about how much revenue was generated by the empty lot on Elliot Road that sat empty for years: around $24,217.18 per year.

  42. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  December 18, 2014

    Why no one has this info at their fingertips is a mystery; it’s right on the Orange County website.

    Similarly, Obey Creek generates $80,647.19 for its 90 acres or so for Orange County and the school district. I question why the town, which is spending a fortune on the proposed development of this project in terms of employee time, does not incorporate it into the Chapel Hill Fire District, let alone town limits itself. Would that be considered ‘not playing nice-nice?’ The rest of us in the ETJ (whom George and Mayor Kleinschmidt actually refer to as “freeloaders” with regard to the library and fire district, respectively) pay for Chapel Hill fire tax at almost twice the rate– .15 vs. .088– of Chapel Hill residents, so why is Obey Creek exempt?

  43. David Schwartz

     /  December 18, 2014

    While we’re on the subject of the old Plaza Theater lot on Elliot Rd, let’s note that Mayor Kleinschmidt argued it was necessary to adopt a form-based code for Ephesus-Fordham and provide incentives for developers because, according to him, in the past ten years the only new development in the district was the conversion of a gas station to a Starbucks. His implication was that Chapel Hill’s onerous permitting process was discouraging redevelopment.

    In fact, a redevelopment plan for the Plaza Theater lot was submitted and approved in 2009. It was called the “Village Plaza Office and Retail Project” and you can view the site plan here:

    My understanding is that the project never got built because the developer was unable to arrange financing due to the recession and the seizing up of the credit markets. If true, then the Plaza Theater site has sat vacant for all these years not due to any defects in Chapel Hill zoning and permitting, but because of macroeconomic conditions over which the town has no control.

  44. DOM

     /  December 18, 2014

    Mr. Schwartz,

    Since you seem to be so dissatisfied with Mayor Kleinschmidt’s policies and directions, I suggest you run for his office. Then you could tell us what you would do in his place rather than simply find fault with his every action.

  45. David Schwartz

     /  December 18, 2014


    I fully agree that it’s not enough to simply find fault with others. One should also put forth a positive alternative vision for the town and a detailed plan for how to achieve it. I, together with many other residents, have been doing exactly that for many months now, in editorials we have written for Chapelboro and the Chapel Hill News, in contributions to the Chapel Hill Matters listserv, and in letters and comments to Town Council.

    If you are genuinely curious to know what we would do differently, a good place to start is to look at the set of detailed improvements we proposed last spring for the Ephesus-Fordham form-based code. You can find it here:

  46. DOM

     /  December 20, 2014

    Mr. Schwartz,

    You say, “I, together with many other residents, have been doing exactly that for many months now, in editorials we have written for Chapelboro and the Chapel Hill News, in contributions to the Chapel Hill Matters listserv, and in letters and comments to Town Council.”

    I have yet to read any of your material that offers up concrete and realistic improvements to the state of the town; it’s almost always just accusing town staff and council members of ineptitude or worse. In point of fact, the town of Chapel Hill is on a definite upswing in the opinion of most folks I’ve spoken to.

  47. David Schwartz

     /  December 21, 2014


    I don’t know what you consider realistic, and I don’t know what of my material you have read, but it’s not true that I haven’t put forth concrete suggestions. For example, in a September 19 Chapelboro editorial, in which I defended and praised the Town Manager, I suggested that Council should direct the staff “to ensure healthy growth of our commercial tax base before encouraging population growth” and “to solve existing traffic and flooding problems before encouraging development that will make these problems worse.”

    In a June 16 Chapelboro editorial, I argued that new development should expand our commercial, rather than our residential tax base. This, by the way, is not a controversial idea. The Town Council also advocates prioritizing commercial over residential development. The problem is they they then go and approve projects that are predominantly residential and that add little to the commercial tax base. I don’t think pointing out that Council actions are inconsistent with their own stated policy goals qualifies as “accusing town staff and council members of ineptitude or worse.”

    In March 8 CHN editorial, I made the concrete suggestion that the proposed Ephesus-Fordham form-based code should retain some degree of public participation in the development review process, because evidence shows that public review typically results in better development outcomes. Due, in part, to my advocacy, the code was revised to include Community Design Commission review of projects in the Ephesus-Fordham district.

    Not all of my editorial writings include concrete suggestions. Some are intended to be more conceptual or analytical in nature. For example, my November 7 CHN editorial explained the sociological concept of “growth coalitions” and how there is often a conflict of interest between those members of a community who benefit from intensifying land use and those on whom growth imposes costs.

    My December 15 CHN editorial reports the results of a Town-commissioned survey and offers an interpretation of the findings. Neither this editorial nor the one published on November 7 “accuses town staff and council members of ineptitude or worse.”

    The folks who work at Chapelboro and the Chapel Hill News often seem to give my editorials inflammatory titles that can be construed as accusatory in the way you have described and that often misrepresent the actual content of my editorial. For example, Chapelboro titled one of my editorials “The Ephesus-Fordham plan is a scam” which implies I was claiming that the EF plan was criminally fraudulent, a ludicrous statement that appears nowhere in my editorial.

    I have called them on this repeatedly and asked them to go back and change the titles, and in some cases they have done so. Perhaps they imagine that fanning the flames of acrimony and confrontation is good for business. But it’s not good for our community. So I hope you’ll go back and look at some of the editorials I have referenced above, and that you will agree that my contributions to the public discussion have been more balanced and constructive than I get credit for.

    I’m happy to hear that most of the folks you have spoken with feel the Town of Chapel Hill is on a definite upswing, though I’m not sure how to interpret that information. That sentiment may be due more the general improvement of macroeconomic conditions than to anything the Town staff or elected officials are doing. It’s also the case, as I wrote in my recent editorial, that fewer than 30% of the residents surveyed by the Town reported feeling satisfied with how the Town is managing growth. I tend to place more weight on a scientific sample of public opinion than on the biased sample—biased in the statistical sense—we each individually encounter.

    For all our current challenges, this is still a wonderful place to live and it is only because I want it to remain so that I have chosen to weigh in on what I see as ill-advised changes in the way Chapel Hill approaches development policy.

    If you want to see some more concrete and realistic suggestions for improving our town, read my article about revitalizing downtown here: