Happier New Year

We started a new tradition this New Year’s Eve – we wrote all the bad things that happened in 2017 on little slips of paper, then tossed them into the fireplace. It was not as big of a bonfire as I expected, given the national politics and ripples into global and state affairs. And it felt good to watch the edges of a year’s worth of disappointments and worry singe and curl and waft up the chimney.

The looking-back research necessary for coming up with my burnable list meant reviewing what had happened on council in 2017. (Only two issues made it to my stack of notes to burn.) Most of what we did on council this past year was praiseworthy. To wit:

— We approved an ambitious set of guidelines for development along West Rosemary St. Yes, they will require financial sacrifices on the part of taxpayers and developers, but if followed, they will result in a downtown we can be proud of.

— We approved the construction of a Wegmans grocery store. The traffic issues did not get resolved in the best way possible — SECU, which owns the property next door, would not continue the easement it extended to Performance Automall so that the site could be accessed at the traffic light on U.S. 15-501 — and the residential neighborhoods on two sides of the property will take the quality-of-life hit for the rest of us. The expected sales tax revenue will enable us to afford amenities and services without a property tax hike.

— Speaking of amenities, the American Legion Task Force reported on its work, encouraging us to think generationally and preserve the entire parcel as community gathering space. A thousand people responded to the survey on how to use the land, the vast majority of them supporting some form of community-wide access.

— We approved a light-industrial zone along Millhouse Road and affirmed our support for mixed-income housing along Homestead Road. Elkin Hills became the newest neighborhood conservation district, preserving affordability in the neighborhood of small houses. We annexed Carraway Village and the Merin Road Community, which will generate additional property tax revenue for town coffers.

I tossed two issues into the fire, but unfortunately, town residents will have to deal with the impact for years to come:

— We were unable to make any meaningful corrections to the Ephesus-Fordham form-based code, and the town manager approved another massive apartment building some call Son of Berkshire, this one built in the Resource Conservation District.

— A council majority approved a Conditional Zoning process, essentially sight unseen. The process would allow spot rezoning anywhere in town and gives final approval of a project to the town manager, who can relax quality-of-life safeguards. Developers can negotiate with individual council members in private, which the Morrisville mayor and planning board chair warned against based on their experience with Conditional Zoning.

We have much work to do in 2018, but much to look forward to as well. Stay tuned, and Happy New Year!
— Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. Nancy

     /  January 3, 2018

    Interesting piece about the balance between encouraging people to invest in the community (which drives towns to invest in schools, transportation, recreation & other quality-of-life issues) and protecting property owners’ ability to maximize their profit.

  2. Interesting call to save NYC subway also https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/magazine/subway-new-york-city-public-transportation-wealth-inequality.html

    Interesting that the citizens built-out a network that developers profited from – and that those enriched developers will fund further improvements (or defray the original taxpayer investments).

    Sound familiar? #DOLRT

    “If the story of the subway is the story of density, it is also the story of land — and more to the point, the story of land value. Before the first tracks had even been laid, real estate speculators were gobbling up farmland and empty lots along the proposed route and then quickly flipping their parcels at huge premiums to builders. When the subway recovered from its last major crisis, it again began throwing off enormous returns for the owners of the land above it. From 1993 to 2013, the average price for a co-op or condo in TriBeCa rose from $182 per square foot to $1,569. In the process, prime real estate in Manhattan was transformed from a place where people lived and built businesses into a high-yield investment in which absentee owners parked their money and watched it grow.”

  3. I meant to say – the developers will NOT be funding additional transit from their taxpayer provided windfalls.

  4. plurimus

     /  January 5, 2018

    Chapel Hill and Manhattan Island share a kind of odd relationship in that Manhattan is physically an island with hard geographic borders. Chapel Hill is an artificially created island contained by logical borders in the form of a “rural” buffer (really a buffer of expensive subdivision sprawl interspersed with few actual farms).

    I think it’s still lost on people that the advantage Chapel Hill enjoys in this comparison is that a logical constraint could be made flexible (in certain areas) without sacrificing the “rural” character. Also with the appropriate effort the buffer could be improved upon making available advances that bring the advantages of rural living into the 21st century without mcMansions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *