Off the radar?

My daughter and I set up our beach chairs on the top of the Wallace ParkingNancy Oates Deck last Thursday night, nervously, given the lightning that flashed all around us. Meg McGurk, director of the Downtown Partnership, assured all of us who had gathered to watch “Wall-E” that staff had been monitoring the storm cells on radar, which showed that the rain would pass south of us, and that other than a few sprinkles initially, we would be fine.

She had barely finished speaking when the torrential downpour began, chasing us back into the shelter of the parking deck and on home. Our route took us around a huge oak that had fallen across South Columbia Street near the Carolina Inn.

So the parallel was not lost on me when I returned home and read Sally Greene’s legal-brief-length blog post on why she voted for the developer’s preferred version of Obey Creek. Just like the Downtown Partnership staff who put their faith in an information source that led them to erroneous conclusions, so, too, did Greene.

A community member at last week’s public hearing on Obey Creek pointed out the obvious conflict of interest Roger Perry had in telling council members not to worry about traffic congestion, how much it would cost taxpayers or the downside of building in the resource conservation district. Just approve the largest plan, he said, because it would cost him $29 million to prepare the site even if a smaller option were chosen, and he needed maximum return because he had investors to pay.

I understand Perry already is shopping around the various parcels to flip to new private equity investors.

It would have been very helpful had Greene mentioned any of her reasoning in the six years prior to the vote and been able to engage with her constituents in her decision. Instead, all we can do is point out her flawed assumptions when it’s too late to correct them.

Greene says “we have a responsibility to the region to accept our fair share” of growth. I might be convinced if we were making room for some of those seeking modestly paid positions. But we’re cherry-picking the well-off, building housing only for the economic elite.

Greene makes reference to “an exemplary affordable housing strategy,” noting that Obey Creek will comply with the inclusionary zoning ordinance for any condos it might build. Since when is obeying the law “exemplary”? And of the planned 800 rental units, the developer will accept up to 20 Section 8 or Veteran Vouchers. Even with the government subsidy, he likely will not break even on them. He can console himself with the fact that he will collect top-dollar rent from the other 780 units.

Then there’s the notion that Obey Creek will be a transit-oriented community, though its million square feet of parking suggest otherwise and the town has no money to pay for buses there.

I’ve always held Greene’s intellect in high regard. Her missive disappoints.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. anon

     /  June 22, 2015

    1) it is good that nearly everyone thinks east 54 is ugly. (I wonder how it’s doing commercially since the stuff inside seems somewhat hidden). Hopefully an east 54 will never happen again (some irony that East 54 is also – I believe – the main developer behind obey creek)

    2) maybe Obey Creek will have the sense to build out quickly since the “largest development ever in central North Carolina” in Chatham may make that area a traffic nightmare. I think Southern Village will be a lot more affordable in 20 years than it would be otherwise with the traffic coming to that area.

    3) it’s a myth that more private developer driven residential leads to more affordable housing over the long term; check out real estate prices for shacks in silicon valley/northern california for example. There’s really high density there that’s still unaffordable. Long term Private owned affordable housing is a myth.

  2. Runner

     /  June 22, 2015

    As much as you want to complain about East 54, I do think it houses the best restaurant in Chapel Hill. The members of the Runner household are big fans of the great food and service at Elements.

  3. many

     /  June 22, 2015

    “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness” – George Orwell

  4. anon

     /  June 23, 2015

    if East 54 was designed better people driving by
    might actually realize a restaurant called Elements was inside it… and FYI I mentioned E54 since Sally Greene’s blog post on approving obey creek as learning from the “design flaw” of E54

  5. Deborah Fulghieri

     /  June 27, 2015

    The verbosity alone of Sally Greene’s apologia tells the reader that she is uncomfortable with having gone along with the dominant personalities in her group.

    I think Obey Creek will be car-oriented, because the Town planners made a point of not including transit in the development agreement they prepared for the developer.

  6. many

     /  June 28, 2015

    Sally Green defends her vote with rambling newspeak clearly concerned more with reactions to the vote than with actual facts and effects. Others are silent, preferring to lay their eggs on national political success rather than the dog’s breakfast of recent development decisions.

    The pundit wannabes have ratcheted up their babbling. On one hand celebrating Obey Creek (pointing to the Green manifesto), and the soon to be multi-Billion dollar transit white elephant……… while on the other hand criticizing “The Edge”, “Lloyd Farm”, scolding us about whether we are designing for 2017 or 2070. The reader is left wondering exactly why Obey Creek and EF escaped their righteous generational scorn, or why they fail to be concerned with the rapidly deteriorating condition of CHT?

    The profiteers and their proxies on the TC successfully argue for a bigger (not better) Obey Creek with it’s significant traffic impacts on an already over burdened corridor and bullies us with Trumpisms like:

    “You kind of say to the world, ‘OK, stand aside, we’re coming through. We’re going to do the things that are necessary to be competitive.” – Roger Perry

    The silly season has shifted up into second gear folks, brace yourselves.

  7. Terri

     /  June 29, 2015

    “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” E.F. Schumacher