Happy Valentine’s Day, civic nerds! We’ll be liveblogging the Carrboro Town Council work session, which kicks off tonight at 7pm.

The topic tonight is the public input process for Bolin Creek’s missing greenway.

You can head down to Town Hall, or watch the livestream, which will be on YouTube and also on Legistar. Work sessions don’t have public comments but we’re expecting this to be a late meeting.

Should you want some pre-reading, we’ll point you to the many pieces we’ve written about the greenway, which a small group of people have been blocking since 2009.

6:36 The meeting is going to kick off in 24 minutes and we’re doing finger calisthenics to prepare. asdfjkl; asdfjkl;

6:39 There’s a Zumba class going on at Town Commons which we may attend in lieu of this meeting.

6:42 YouTube link is live. Chat is disabled for the live stream, which we think is probably a smart move. One person is watching the livestream. (It’s us.)


7:01 Mayor Seils wishes us a Happy Valentine’s Day. Reminds us that it’s a work session, no public comments, no formal action. In-depth consideration to provide guidance to town manager. Purpose of tonight: options for public interest process for Phases 3 and 4 of Bolin Creek Greenway master plan. Council in 2009 said more input was needed at that time, and that all three alignments should be included.

7:03 Town staff will update us on a bunch of stuff, including what happened in 2009 and input ideas. Council will then discuss input ideas.

7:03 The Mayor asks everyone to stick to purpose – goals for public input process. Asks audience to allow staff to give presentation.

Trish McGuire, Planning Director, is up to bat. She’s talking about the Conceptual Master Plan.

Children are at the meeting! This is lovely!

McGuire is giving an overview of what the Board decided to do in 2009, and then outlines the public engagement process, which included public engagement sessions, working with the greenways commission. (The project was set to go forward! But then….)

In 2009, the majority of commenters supported the preferred alignment – which is along the Bolin Creek Greenway. It’s illuminating that the alternate routes had to be put back in by council. They were rejected by the public and landowners. Their inclusion in final report was political.

Trish is sharing the diagrams that we wrote about in the post detailing what happened back in 2009. She’s relaying current context and funding. (Aside: The slides are somewhat difficult to read (light gray type on light white background! Not great for accessibility)).

There’s lots of various funding options. STI, regional flexible funds, other infrastructure grants. There are also other town projects underway. (This slide is much easier to read! Black text on white background.)

7:17 Q from Council Member Foushee: Looking at 2009 conceptual master plan, have heard different things about word ‘conceptual.’ What’s it mean?

Trish says the percentage completion-to-construction plan is 10-15%. In other projects that have been completed, they have next moved into design phase which answers a lot of questions that aren’t in a conceptual plan.

Foushee: This is the beginning. But we know that things have changed. So we need to merge and add in other stuff.

Trish: Yeah, in the next phase of a project you talk about specifics. Design plans are more detailed.

(TBB note: When projects are stalled for 14 years (!) things change.)

Council Member Posada: What is a timeline that you would reasonable expect to come back if we’re getting this input? What’s a good timeline?

Trish: If we use an engagement process, it’s likely that we’re going to need assistance due to being short-staffed and other commitments. It’s a budget question. Procurement takes a few months. Time of year matters. We would use targeted strategies to ensure inclusiveness and equity in the engagement process.

Posada: Do we know how much public input we’ve received already? We’ve gotten a lot of emails already.

TBB: Eliazar asked about public input since the 2009 plan was adopted. One thing to note: The issue of the greenway was raised during the Carrboro Connects meetings for the advisory boards, and participants were told it was not to be discussed in Carrboro Connects.

Council Member Slade: I reviewed the 2009 video. Significance of the plan is that it is a plan, and we had money from feds — remind folks of context for why we had alternatives. What question do we want community input on?
Council Member Romaine: Wanted to ask about process. Do we have to wait until budget season to identify consultant? Let’s say we want to do this over the next 5-6 months. Do we go through public engagement, and then depending on alignment that’s chosen, then look at what this means in terms of parts of the plan that needs to be updated?
Trish: Doesn’t need to be significantly long for consultants to get started once they’re on board.

TBB note: The DCHC on-call consultant pool is a way for the MPO to submit a scope of work to several firms at once to get a fast response. All cities and towns in DCHC are eligible to use this on-call. This should help Carrboro move faster than moving alone with a new procurement process.

Trish: Need to do due diligence.
Council Member Nowell: We want to adopt methods of public engagement. Can we articulate them before consultant is on board? What’s the cart and horse here?
White/McGuire: Gotta be clear about scope.
Mayor: What are our goals? That informs strategy.
Nowell: Replicating what Raleigh did to get representative data sample. Want to find a way to make sure renters are incorporated. School district impact. Multilingual. There’s talk of a town survey to establish knowledge base? Have we ever conducted a similar survey?
Trish: Not since I’ve been here.
Nowell: Such a survey if it fits within time frame. But we’ve never done a survey like this. Don’t want to add a second deliverable.
Council Member Haven-O’Donnell: Wants to underscore that 2009 conceptual plan doesn’t reflect any awareness of climate issues. (The 2009 memo addresses climate!)
The greenway meets climate goals
Talks about tree sequestration.
TBB: Carrboro just got data on the sequestration potential of our tree canopy. If she wants that analysis accounted for, we’d also need to look at the benefits of reducing auto use due to the greenway.
Mayor: We want to have a broad cross-section of community. Seems representative of whole community. Invites Cat Lazorko to podium. (Cat does comms for the town)
Cat: We have inclusive Carrboro community engagement plan, adopted in 2020. Gotta know what we’re asking the public to respond to.
Mayor: But we have the engagement plan?
Cat: Hell yes we do. (Paraphrased.)
Mayor: Need to know what we’re asking public. I’ve been around a long. Heard a lot for/against. Heard a lot about alignments. Wants to reach sample, but also is seeking to bring new input that we haven’t had. We know a ton about this already because we’ve been talking about this FOREVER (Sorry, that’s editorializing on our part.) Can we learn anything new?
Mayor shares some ideas: school events. Web-based input. Likes Raleigh lottery. We want multiple strategies to reach a shit ton of people. (Paraphrased. He’s much more polite.)
Foushee: Likes climate as pillar. Likes getting new info. Thinking about educating public – pros/cons. Wants to bring in other tools. Talk about material
TBB: We don’t ask the public what they think about various trail materials. We ask them about their goals (reduce erosion, provide for joggers) and let experts recommend materials and alignments that meet the goals.
Nowell: Let’s go broad: In 2009, staff memo talked about climate. Interested in school community. Commuters. Needs to find a way to think about commuters — potential to go from Lake Hogan Farms to University Mall.

TBB: Sammy’s first comment earlier is actually pretty interesting. They have to decide between one of the three alignments. The alternate alignments suck, one was rejected by UNC. If you HAVE to pick one, you’re going to pick the creek alignment

Nowell: Wants to ask how many VMTs could be reduced. Stream is degraded in current state — could stream be protected? That needs to come from staff, not public.
Mayor: Takes point that we’d want info that’s technical.

Randee: Wants to point out that neighborhood engagement (by neighborhood) is critical. Wants town to meet with each HOA. Wants that to take place first. Before engagement. (TBB: She’s saying that prior to talking to everybody, we need to talk with the wealthy homeowners who have tried to block the greenway for 14 years (and whose HOAs abut the creek lands.) The greenway benefits/impacts are broader than just the neighborhoods near 3 & 4.)

Asking if council is familiar with page 44 of conceptual master plan.
Mayor: Wants to be intentional about comms.
Susan: Likes Barbara’s statement to corral important info. Likes inclusive engagement. Wants to have multi-lingual. Different times of day. In 2009, had comment cards. Likes the Chapel Hill LUMO input setup. Likes the way Chapel Hill provides statements and videos explaining project. Likes how they ask for demographics. How do we prioritize Carrboro residents, if we hear from all over? How do we ensure the same people aren’t responding over and over and over again? (TBB: GOOD QUESTIONS!)
Eliazar: We are asking about alignments?
Mayor: Good question. Part is input. Part is alignments, that’s what Sammy raised. What Sammy said earlier, thought it was interesting that staff said goal was preparing 3 alternatives to public was to give alternatives and various schools of thought — not intended to be final standalone designs. Keep alignments in plan, do more public engagement.
Randee: Never discussed integrated network. (We’ve summarized the alternatives here. They’re not great!) She’s describing a series of delay tactics.
TBB: None of this has to do with public engagement.
Danny: Rails to trail rests on several things that are outside scope of control. Interested in hearing from staff. Relies on BOG closing coal plant and Northern Southern selling us railroad. Any possibility of that happening? Urgency needs to compel us. That railroad track isn’t going to close any time soon.
TBB: Railroad isn’t going to close any time soon.
Danny: HOAs need to have voices heard. O stands for owner. Need to be mindful of how we’re reaching out, need to offset that with other residents. This needs to be action-oriented. We need to leave meeting with staff having info to write RFP. Are we doing that.
Mayor: What about MPO? Can we do that? (To get consultants.)
Trish: Maybe.

TBB: There are two firms in the pool with over 60,000 employees. They have both engineers and communicators. Totally doable.

Mayor: Need more clarity around what, goals. What is the information that the council needs from public that allows us to move forward to make a decision? We need reflection in broad cross-section about alignments. Other stuff? Staff needs to know what we’re asking.
TBB: What projects will get this special treatment? We aren’t doing this for other greenways that are in progress….
Eliazar: Wants to work with folks directly, renters, community. Residents who would be directly impacted. Wants to hear if preferred option is still preferred. Wants to ask folks what they want to see. Would you use this? How would you use it?
Susan: To what extent would a greenway change behavior?
Mayor: Some of these prompts were mentioned before. It’s in Appendix A.
TBB: 2019 bike plan asked “what would make you bike more” and greenways were a big one. We can look at who uses it in Chapel Hill.

Barbara: Appreciates reminder that we have the 2009 master plan. (It’s here.)

Randee: Before we can ask folks anything, we need to do education. We need to teach everyone what a riparian buffer is first. Bedrock. Stormwater. Gotta teach people Earth Science first. (Paraphrasing.) We need to teach everyone a bunch of stuff first. Randee is now giving a sermon about national politics. We have to look each other in the eyes. We’re all polarized. (This is, again, a stall tactic.)

TBB: The Bolin Creek Greenway discussion celebrated its bar mitzvah last year.
Randee: Education.
Mayor: Ok. Let’s talk about next steps. Gotta lot of input. Here are some things I’ve heard:
That’s a big issue. Whether we have consultants. Let’s scope this out. We’re not asking for tech specs. We’re asking for priorities. We don’t need to go beyond that.
Trish: We’re not talking about all of the topology here.
Mayor: What’s changed since this plan was adopted that would inform the public about possibilities?
Trish: (missed the first part) We have lots of ways to procure services.
White: Do we need educational meetings?
Barbara: Depends on timing.
Damon: Probably not separate. We do that in presenting to community.
Eliazar: Happy to educate as we ask for input. We’re not college professors. Don’t need everyone to get to a certain level of understanding before providing input. (TBB: We agree.) Lot of community members want to know about transportation, walk, what are priorities. We don’t need subject matter expertise from community members for them to provide input.
Danny: Agree with Eliazar. We frame issues within engagement. Who is being educated? Where? Need to be responsible, transparent. When we consider workshops, that’s raising parallel issues to this very discussion. Doesn’t move us forward.

Randee: Doesn’t know how to respond. Science. Water quality. (TBB: Hasn’t changed in Chapel Hill since their greenway was built.) We’re talking about forest, acres, erosion, flooding. She ends by saying “Drink in that science”

TBB: There used to be a mill down there. Industrial revolution’ was not on our bingo card. There were few trees in Bolin Creek Forest 100 years ago. (It was farmland.) And it’s a sewer easement.
Sammy: It’s about informed consent. Need to give everyone info.
Damon: Town has a website and we can put info there. https://www.carrboronc.gov/2762/Bolin-Creek-Greenway
Susan: 2009 report showed how workshop participants learned about it – showed word of mouth. All of us will be educating on this.
Eliazar: Not against providing info. Against the idea that people need to have certain level of education before people can provide input. Saying we need to educate folks before they have a valid opinion is wrong. (TBB: This is powerful.)
Damon: Just want to remind everyone of goals. Need to get report from manager on scope of work.
Danny: My concern is presenting science as monolithic. There’s a frame of offsets/balances and transparency. Are there changes from 14 years ago when Randee voted to adopt this plan?
Barbara: Climate action is a pillar. Need to provide information for folks.
Randee: Giving folks info makes them feel like they can make comments that are informed.

TBB:I mean, is Bolin Creek in CH some form of climate arson or wtf are we talking about. We have a greenway there and it’s fine.

Randee: Wants to slow it down. Why are we rushing?

(TBB: It’s been 14 years.The whole network of greenways is planned around creeks which is very common because that’s where sewer easements are)

Damon: We’ve heard from staff that we expect engagement to take several months. Public engagement will take time. It’s not rushing. This is a plan that’s been 14 years in the making. The idea that we’re rushing – no one is rushing here. Let’s get to engaging the public. On funding question, no expectation when plan was adopted taht all resources were known or secured, so we wouldn’t expect that here either? Part of the reason for having the plan is that it gives staff the signal that this is a priority.
Manager White: Can get scope of work in a month.
Damon: Thanks to everyone who spent Valentine’s Day with us. Motion to adjourn.

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