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Chapel Hill Town Council: May 18, 2022 Live Blog

Follow along as we live blog tonight’s Chapel Hill Town Council meeting! The agenda is available here.

You can watch the full meeting here:

Announcements

Mayor Hemminger announces the kick off of Bike Month with a pretty sweet jazzy video highlighting the town’s cycling facilities, bus bike racks, and Fix-It stations!

7:08 PM

Three proclamations from the Mayor:

Public Works Week May 15-21, 2022

Kids to Parks Day is Sunday May 22, 2022

Period Poverty Awareness Week is May 23-29, 2022

 

7:13 PM

Happy Birthday Councilmember Stegman!!!

 

Public Petitions

7:14 PM

First is Charles Berlin: representing 500 people who signed the petition in opposition to the proposed Old Chapel Hill Road development, do not agree with “piecemeal development” that doesn’t meet neighborhood needs, want a “plan,” and “genuine” citizen participation.

Ed note: There have been plans. Charles Berlin is a member of CHALT leadership.

7:18 PM

Sandy Douglas is representing the signers of a petition on behalf of the Chapel Hill Pickleball Association (CHPA); advocating for using $400,000 in ARPA funds for pickleball courts in Chapel Hill; CHPA will match this amount. ARPA is the American Rescue Plan Act passed into law in March 2021 to to help towns and cities recover from the pandemic. The Town of Chapel Hill will receive a total of $10,668,497.

Did you know there are THOUSANDS of pickleball players in Chapel Hill?

7:20 PM

Virginia Gray advocating for a park on the American Legion property following recommendations from a staff report. Too many trees will have to be “sacrificed” if housing is developed. Petition would like to use ARPA funding for park improvements on this property.

Ed note: Virginia Gray is a member of CHALT leadership.

When the land was purchased in 2017, elected officials noted that they could use some of the land for park space, while other parts could be set aside for commercial development and affordable and market-rate housing. (The one council member who vetoed exploring other options besides park use was Nancy Oates.)

7:25 PM

Ronald Carnes from the Interfaith Council (IFC) and colleagues are advocating for council to increase their level of financial assistance to IFC, to help mitigate homelessness and hunger. This is currently the ONLY homeless shelter in Orange County. IFC also provides a a food pantry, emergency financial support, transition, and reentry support. IFC’s needs are “life or death” even though there are many other priorities for public funding.

[7:33 PM CORRECTION- IFC is requesting execution of an Interlocal Agreement between Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County to support the organization’s solvency and sustainability.]

Entering petitions from Maria Palmer – no drive-through at U Place and a petition for CPAC to change name and scope of work.

Councilmember Parker presenting a petition under “new petition policy” to fulfill promise made in 12/2016 to proceed with acquisition of American Legion Property. 

Councilmember Anderson comments that “one-off planning is anathema to the direction we’ve been trying to go.”

Petitions are received and referred unanimously.

Discussion Time

7:40 PM

Maurice Jones opening the public hearing on the FY 22-23 Budget.

$127 million budget is an 8.9% increase over current year

Town employees are getting raises – yay!

Town Manager Jones presenting the long list of unfunded priorities that could be supported by a property tax increase…

Council Members curious about why Orange County is pulling their share of funding for Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection (SOHRAD) positions.

Public comment on the FY 22/23 budget:

Another big advocacy push from IFC for additional support from the Town, reminding us that people without homes are dying in OUR community. This is not a “somewhere else” problem. Requested an interlocal agreement three years ago, a year ago, and two months ago. “Town budget is a statement of values.”

Did you know there’s been a 40% increase in homelessness in Orange County this year?

IFC staff and supporters are sharing moving stories about their experiences helping our unhoused neighbors.

Orange County has ZERO shelters for people experiencing domestic violence.

Council will be having a work session on the budget next week.

Thank you, Council Member Berry for an extremely moving, powerful, and personal statement in support of allocating budget funding to IFC.

Many Council Members also speaking in support of the requested 0.8 cent increase for transit service.

Mayor Hemminger advocating for prioritizing people over things like streets and vehicles.

8:37 PM Next item… Rosemary Street!

Formal agenda item is “Close the Legislative Hearing and Consider an Application for Conditional Zoning for 101 E. Rosemary Street from Town Center-2 (TC-2) to Town Center-3-Conditional Zoning District (TC-3-CZD).” Assistant Planner Director Judy Johnson is reviewing changes to the proposal.

Council Member Parker feels like the cycle center is still too prominent at the intersection. Wants to know what the key elements of a “parking strategy” would be.

Lots of council feelings about activating the street level spaces.

Council Member Huynh wants a retail space like Bulldega in Durham – me too!

Martin Johnson from NEXT is speaking in support of the project. Says that requiring a car-free building to have a parking plan is like asking a vegan to cook a steak (or something like that…) Martin really squeezed a lot into his three minutes!

9:10: Here’s the line: “Consider the absurdity of forcing a car-free apartment building to come up with a parking plan. It’s as if you were hearing an application from someone who wanted to open a vegetarian restaurant, but before you gave them permission to do so, you required that they come up with a plan for patrons who wanted to eat steak.”

9:12: The other member of the public mentioned that in places that have high demand for parking, people sometimes have to walk 5 or 6 blocks. Since they mentioned a bodega, they might be from New York, which famously doesn’t charge for street parking in the neighborhoods. (But does require residents to waste hours of time weekly moving their cars for alternate-side parking).

9:14: As is often the case, Amy Ryan goes first. As expected, she’s critical of the project—emphasizes its height. 

9:15: The discussion of the proposed apartment building at Columbia and Rosemary is a great example of how broken our development process is. Want a sidewalk of a certain width? Write requirements into the zoning standards. Don’t want a “cycle center” accessible from the street? Write a development code that restricts what the street scape looks like. Don’t have an applicant jump through hoops and meet with advisory boards and try to imagine what council would like. Instead, write clear and straightforward development standards that represent the kind of development you want, and provide certainty for residents, landowners, and developers.

9:17: Jess Anderson is critical of the project as well, emphasizing that in the past the town has had trouble with Carolina Square residents parking in nearby neighborhoods. If that’s the case, why aren’t they being ticketed? Parking enforcement works if you let it.

9:19: Tai Huynh echoes Jess Anderson sentiments about parking in the neighborhoods. (A very solvable problem). 

9:22: Paris Miller-Foushee echoes others who say that “affordable housing” is one of the town’s values. If that were the case, the town would enthusiastically support 2 cents for housing, and stop trying to use a conditional zoning process that raises the cost of housing for everyone. 

9:25: If anyone is wondering why rents have gone up 24 percent (or more) in Chapel Hill since January 2020, look no further than this meeting. After working with Grubb for six months or more on this project, the Town Council is effectively telling the developer to go back to the drawing board. As a result, this project will likely be scaled back, or canceled altogether, leaving the thousands of people who work at UNC to search for housing in an increasingly competitive market. 

9:34: The public hearing is continued until June 15.

9:38: Now the Council continues to waste its time—and ours—by hearing proposals that should be approved by town staff. No one is forcing the Council to do this. 

10:05: And with that, we’ll end the live blog.

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