A new group calling itself the Coalition for Safe and Just Housing has formed around the development project at 828 MLK.
Like with other groups, this group centers around a single issue that neighborhood defenders want to block, and uses language that is designed to heighten fear and anger among residents.
I can’t know anyone’s intentions, but it makes sense to be skeptical of a group that has repeatedly rallied against landmark affordable and multi-family housing developments, justifying this by saying they’re concerned about an environmental issue.
— ? ellie heffernan ? (@EllieHeffernan9) April 22, 2022
Emails from the group paint a horrifying picture: that Town Council doesn’t care about low-income residents, that only *one* Town Council member (who lives a half-mile away from the site) understands these issues, and that the other eight members of the Town Council are charging ahead without doing their due diligence.
This is not true.
As Mayor Pro Tem Karen Stegman pointed out in her blog post outlining the nine-year process, Town Council is carefully considering how to move forward with the land around 828. Geoff Green notes in a previous blog post how the process has unfolded methodically and with input from subject-matter experts.
In a letter sent to Town Council on 5/13/22 (doc), Lindsey Walata, a Carrboro resident and geologist with over 30 years of experience with soil and groundwater investigation, details why the redevelopment is safe and why the Brownfields program is “thorough, stringent, and will protect human health and the environment.”
And – it should be noted – that this process isn’t complete. A letter from the neighborhood bordering the development (viewable here) asks to work with the town and Council on improving the development of the site. Their concerns seem both perfectly reasonable and ones that can and should be addressed. They are not trying to completely block development on the site. It should be noted that one of the signatories has a leadership position at the Environmental Defense Fund.
What do we know about this new group?
The new group is led by Edward Marshall, who was also the leader of a group formed in 2021 called the Booker Creek Neighborhoods Preservation Alliance. That group is closely aligned with CHALT members and has been instrumental in blocking flood mitigation infrastructure that Town Council approved in 2017. It is advocating for alternative flood mitigation measures to be adopted town-wide; the measures have the potential to slow down or halt development throughout Chapel Hill and prevent greenways from being built. We will explore these issues in an upcoming post.
How does this new group overlap with existing groups?
There are overlaps in people between the new group group and other existing groups. First, it should be noted that CHALT, Friends of Bolin Creek, and the Booker Creek Watershed Alliance – not to be confused with the Booker Creek Neighborhoods Preservation Alliance – all share an IP address and other metrics that indicate that their websites are currently managed by the same entity. Both CHALT and Friends of Bolin Creek have been vocal advocates against the Town’s 828 plan, often citing each other’s material as a mechanism to strengthen their argument. The admin for both sites is listed as the same person, Julie McClintock.
McClintock, who represents Friends of Bolin Creek in their communications to the town about the 828 site, is married to John Morris, a leader in the Booker Creek Neighborhoods Preservation Alliance alongside Edward Marshall. McClintock was an invited guest speaker at a July 2021 meeting hosted by Marshall about the Booker Creek project.
In 2021, Julie McClintock invited Edward Marshall to give a presentation to the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board, on which Julie McClintock sits. (An email dated 9/7/21 and sent to Council appears to have been meant for Edward Marshall.) In the presentation, Marshall made clear that the Booker Creek Neighborhoods Preservation Alliance is not just about the Booker Creek watershed, stating, “I think citizens in Chapel Hill feel out of control. We don’t own our town anymore. And it’s time for us to get control of our town back. This is just an indication, the Booker Creek thing, is just the tip of the iceberg in my view.”
What else should I know?
This is a complex issue but the people behind this group have a history of acting in bad faith around new housing in Chapel Hill.
CHALT has “fought vigorously against nearly every major development proposal” in Chapel Hill since it launched.
We know that CHALT members often form groups around a singular issue or development to block them. This new group is using many familiar tactics that we have seen around other development projects.