David Adams, a local resident who’s not happy with Chapel Hill’s elected officials, wrote a piece in Chapelboro expressing his opposition to five council members’ petition asking to explore the use of the American Legion site for affordable housing and a park. This is something we’ve discussed frequently here at the Blog Blog (here, here, and here, among others), and one of us wrote a response in the comments that’s reprinted below (with one typo corrected). Also, if you’re so inclined, please sign this petition in support of using the American Legion site for a world-class park and affordable housing.
Whatever the merits of the governance argument (tl;dr, the idea that council members should not independently assess issues, and serve only to express the viewpoints of their constituents), it is absolutely not true that the full agreement to purchase the Legion property (the purported “surprise” provision regarding the sale of part of the property was adopted 8-1 by the Council) somehow is in opposition to the 2013 parks plan. Here is the exact language from the parks plan: “The eastern section of Chapel Hill is not served by a community park. The closest community park to this area is Community Center Park; which, as noted above is much smaller than a typical community park. One option for meeting the community park needs of the eastern section of Chapel Hill and relieving some over use of Community Center Park may be the expansion of Ephesus Park. Ephesus Park could be expanded by 1) adding facilities in undeveloped areas of the existing park property, 2) working with the school to expand/improve facilities on school property, and 3) purchasing or leasing acreage from the adjacent property owned by American Legion Post 6.” At no point does the parks plan commit to the use of the *entire* American Legion site as a community park. Rather, the Council’s actions in 2017, and the recent council member petition, are entirely consistent with the current parks plan.
But regarding the governance argument, the writer talks about a petition signed by over 900 persons asking that the entire site be used as a park. There’s another petition with more than 500 signatories asking that part of the site be used as affordable housing. It’s up to our elected officials to chart the best path forward, not dueling petitions which supposedly reflect the wishes of the community. And I for one support the council members’ plan, which would add significant additional acreage to the existing Ephesus Park, provide additional housing options for the most financially challenged members of our community, and may provide funding to actually turn the Legion site into a park and not what it is today, a vacant site that is usually empty.