It’s the start of the Town Council cycle for Chapel Hill and Carrboro, which means we’re once again planning to keep you informed about issues involving civic life in both of our towns.

We also have opinions about what the Town Councils should tackle this term. Here are five ideas we plan to track:

Connecting Carrboro With Linear Parks

Over the summer, our friends at NEXT put together this impressive website outlining the decades of work that has been put into creating a linear parks network for Carrboro. While these efforts have faltered in the past for a variety of reasons, we hope that the Carrboro Town Council takes up the mantle again.

Unhoused residents in Chapel Hill

The share of Orange County homeless residents who are chronically homeless has risen to 25 percent, a three percentage point increase over last year. We need to find permanent funding for Orange County’s Street Outreach, Harm Reduction and Deflection (SOHRAD) program, which connects unsheltered people with a range of services.

Expedited review of Affordable Housing

We were really excited to see the Town staff report on the expedited review of affordable housing from last May. (It’s worth reading in full.) As the report notes, “the complexity of the development review process is limiting the production and overall supply of affordable housing in Chapel Hill….the result is that delivery of affordable units struggles to keep up with needs.”

Biking improvements

In Chapel Hill, there are several big projects underway or on the verge of starting, such as the Estes Drive project and the Fordham Boulevard side path. We also now have curb-running bike lanes on Franklin Street, which makes the street safer for everyone. We’ll be looking for the councils to build on this momentum by looking for other places where improvements can be made. For example, we’d love to see protected bike lanes on Cameron Avenue and Elliott Road, both of which are controlled by the town and connect to existing greenways.

Shaping Our Future and “Complete Communities”

For too long, development in Chapel Hill has been an adversarial process. Instead of adopting plans, and then working with developers to realize them, we act as if each development is an unexpected and unwelcome hostage negotiation, with community groups fighting over what has to be sacrificed (housing! trees! parking!) to make the project happen.

Earlier this year, the council decided to combine several planning initiatives into one, with hopes of reaching consensus on the future of our community. We’re happy significant progress has been made, and the council appears to be on the brink of supporting a plan that will connect our community with greenways and the planned North South Bus Rapid Transit line. We’d love to see our town council come together on planning issues so we can turn to other issues that have been neglected, like parks and playgrounds, social services, and education.

In the last municipal election cycle, we helped increase turnout by over 20 percent. We're all volunteers who care deeply about Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and we're working to make Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable.  Please consider a small donation to help us keep our digital lights on, host events, and hire students to do data deep-dives.

Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....