Park, Housing: Not an Either-Or

In 2003, as a taxpayer I voted against spending more than $16 million to expand and renovate the Chapel Hill Public Library. The town had a small but functional library, surrounded by the woods and trails of Pritchard Park, and while the demand would only grow as the town grew, it seemed to me we […]

Will we always have Paris?

Maybe Town Council’s next intercity visit should be to Paris, a city that Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane cited as her favorite because of its low buildings. At council’s Nov. 15 meeting, we reviewed a concept plan for a 5-story building of apartments, offices and retail, with 68 parking spaces on less than 4 acres at […]

Growth on what conditions

For 10 years before becoming Chapel Hill’s planning director, Ben Hitchings held the comparable role in Morrisville. There, he used a process called “conditional zoning” to develop and redevelop parcels to spur growth. At council’s Nov. 15 meeting, we heard a staff proposal to add conditional zoning to our Land Use Management Ordinance. CZ makes […]

A win for Chapel Hill

Who won last Tuesday’s municipal elections? The residents of Chapel Hill did. Chapel Hill voters elected four newcomers to the four Town Council seats. (Mayor Pam Hemminger, whose only opponent was a write-in candidate, won re-election.) The council members-elect are younger than the incumbents they are succeeding, and for the most part, seem less entrenched […]

The flip side of success

Town Council approved plans for a Wegmans to be built on the site now home to Performance Automall. While most residents of Chapel Hill and beyond welcomed the news, dozens of households had mixed reactions. If Wegmans is successful, it will bring in $336,000 in gross property tax receipts and as much as $1.5 million […]

Sitting on the Historic District Commission

In an interview aired on National Public Radio recently, Magazine Editor Hall-of-Famer Tina Brown described her desk-on-a-treadmill, noting, “Sitting is the new smoking.” That shot a little dart of fear in my heart, because my role as a Town Council member requires me to sit a lot. Council meetings, work sessions, committees, task forces and […]

Town — and County — Treasures

The alliteration of “Town Treasures” makes for a snappy title for a well-earned honorific. But the roster of seven recipients shows that the Chapel Hill Historical Society wisely seeks excellence beyond town borders to include members of our community county-wide. The historical society has been celebrating Town Treasures for a decade now. The program has […]

Economics of affordability

A council member told of going to dinner at a new restaurant in town and having to wait a half-hour for a table. Initially, he took that as a good sign of how well the new business was faring. But once he was seated, he noticed that several tables had been removed since the last […]

What’s driving driverless cars?

As we plan for autonomous vehicles, bear in mind that the car, not the driver, causes the demand for infrastructure. At our Sept. 18 council work session, town planning director Ben Hitchings presented some futuristic ideas of the day when everyone owns, or at least uses, a driverless car. Our starry-eyed discussion focused only on […]

Opportunity cloaked in petulance

For 15 years, UNC has lobbied to close Horace Williams Airport, but the tiny landing strip at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Estes Drive Extension has amazing staying power. Now, with the help of a petulant board of governors, UNC may get its wish. Built in 1928 in what was then […]