UNC chemist Joe ... more
Orange County commissioners have approved a plan to raise impact fees in each of the next four years.
The fees are intended to raise money for schools needs and vary by home type and differ by school system. But some increases are dramatic. By 2012, a developer building a new single-family home in Carrboro or Chapel Hill will pay $11,423. That's up from $4,407 now.
In the county, the fee on a single-family home will increase from $3,000 now to $5,623 in four years.
Some builders say the impact fees, particularly in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, will act as a deterrent, and one commissioner, Pam Hemminger, wondered aloud Thursday night whether raising fees so much would actually reduce revenue if builders simply stopped doing business here.
"If we raise the rates and get zero income, that's not a good plan," she said.
Omar Zinn, a local builder, told commissioners Thursday night that home sales are down 30 percent or more and many of his colleagues in the business are hurting.
"I know it's been seven years since we've had an increase," Zinn said. "But to have it at this time - to say it's a bad decision is an understatement."
You can read the entire rundown of fee increases for all types of homes on pages 2 and 3 of the attached document.
Orange commissioners late last night selected two sites for a new transfer station, a decision made in part so the county will have some leverage while negotiating a future land purchase.
One site is the 143-acre Howell site off Orange Grove Road. The other is a much smaller piece of land owned by the Orange Water and Sewer Authority nearby. The county will now analyze both sites.
Read more here and in this weekend's Chapel Hill News.
Note: This blog has been corrected. Earlier info about the selection of a single site for the transfer station was incorrect.
In a letter to the Orange County Organizing Committee read at Sunday's delegates assembly in Chapel Hill, Mayor Kevin Foy said he supports the group's goals but is not ready to endorse all its strategies for achieving them. Look for a story on the assembly in Wednesday's Chapel Hill News.
December 7, 2008
Dear Members of the Orange County Organizing Committee:
I appreciate the invitation to share with you some of my thoughts about your agenda, and I regret not being able to join you today. However, I have had the opportunity to speak to Ivan Parra and other members of the Committee, and I have a great deal of respect for the careful and thoughtful way the Committee is moving forward to engage the community in specific issues.
You have asked for my public reaction to certain items on your collective agenda which I will offer in a few moments. However, as we know, dialogue is about enriching the basis for forming ideas, so I hope you understand that I don’t hold these answers out as my rigid positions. In fact, I would welcome continuing to discuss these and other matters that affect our community.
The specific questions you asked:
1. Do you support the feasibility study of establishing a “housing wage” ordinance for Town’s employees and sub contractors by directing the Town Manager to continue working with OCOC in studying the issue.
I support affordable housing in our community for everyone, not just for town employees, because I am concerned that Chapel Hill will become a homogeneous, elite enclave, which would destroy the character of our town. So I am glad to consider all ideas that lead us to diverse housing options and diverse affordability ranges.
2. Support the implementation of a comprehensive market study to determine the Town’s affordable rental and home ownership needs over the next ten years.
I’m not sure what this means, although I am aware that some of our housing has tended to be too narrow. For example, we apparently have built too many one-bedroom units and not enough three-bedroom units. I see this as part of the evolution of our housing initiative. The Land Trust has been a leader in building affordable housing, but leaders have to find their own paths because there is nobody to follow. That sometimes means that adjustments have to be made, based on experience. So if a market study is the best use of resources in helping to guide how affordable housing is built, then that is probably a wise thing to do.
3. Support for OCOC’s public request for the scheduling of a Public Hearing, during the first 90 days of 2009, to discuss a moratorium on re-development at Glen Lennox for the duration of the NCD Designation Process.
I am not convinced that the NCD process is going to be sufficient to resolve the issue of Glen Lennox redevelopment. So I would prefer to focus on what best serves the community. For example, if the NCD process ends and it is still possible to raze Glen Lennox and build all-new, three-story buildings I think that would be a tragedy. So in that case, I don’t think a moratorium would have served a useful purpose.
I think the best thing for Glen Lennox is exactly what OCOC is doing: focusing public attention and watching the NCD unfold. The result of that is that many people will be well-informed when and if another proposal comes forward for Glen Lennox.
As to Glen Lennox itself, though, this is my perspective: many times over the past several years when developers have come to my office with plans for a new project, I have told them to go drive around Glen Lennox and see a place that this community values. It has mixes of use, including office, retail, and residential; it is affordable; it is modest; it is convenient; it is walkable. So I find it difficult at this point to envision why we would want to tear it down.
Again, thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with you and the rest of our community.
Kevin C. Foy
The Friends of the Orange County Library has launched a buy a brick-type fundraiser for the new library building going up in downtown Hillsborough.
Only these bricks aren't for your office desk ... these bricks are made for walking (on). They'll form part of the walkway to the future building.
Individuals and groups can purchase the 4” x 8” brick pavers, which match the bricks being used for the building's exterior. They can be personalized with names of family members, a favorite author quote, or to commemorate a special occasion. Each paver can fit up to three lines with 14 letters, punctuation marks, or spaces per line, for a total of 42 characters.
Pavers cost $100 each and are tax deductible. Order forms are available at the library's circulation desk, 300
W. Tryon St., or by e-mailing FOCPL2009@yahoo.com.
The new Orange County Public Library, scheduled to open in the second half of 2009, will be nearly double the size of the existing library, which is housed with several other county departments in the Whitted Building, site of the former Hillsborough High School.
At the start of an information meeting tonight about Carolina North, The Chapel Hill Town Council and members of the UNC Board of Trustees heard from citizens firing a handful of questions their way.
Thus commenced a small bout of "what do we do with these questions," that concluded with a promise from town leaders that answers will be found and posted on the town's website.
A few folks had questions about an airport that may or may not be proposed, eventually, for the rural community of White Cross. Others had questions about transportation and housing issues at Carolina North, the huge new UNC campus planned for 25 percent of the nearly 1,000-acre Horace Williams tract just north of the main campus.
Once questions from the citizenry are answered, they will appear here.
Additionally, council member Jim Ward suggested that future meetings allow more than just 10 minutes before and after for public comment.
Of note: the folks out at White Cross are organizing swiftly to oppose any airport that might be eventually proposed for their community. They're nervous because their area was tabbed in a 2005 airport site study, and now there are new rumblings about a new Orange County airport.
They came with signs and bumper stickers reading "No Airport" and sent just a handful of delegates to speak. And Mayor Kevin Foy made clear at the start of this meeting that it was about Carolina North planning, not an airport.
"We're not talking about the airport this evening so what I would ask is that people who want to comment, comment directly about the Carolina North project. If you want to talk about the airport, I think that's a topic for a different meeting. If you do want to talk about that, I'm not going to entertain that this evening unless it's in the context of Carolina North."
Local criminal defense attorney Glenn Gerding had conceded the race to replace retiring District 15B Judge Pat Devine to Pittsboro family lawyer Page Vernon, who won 65 percent of the vote in the primary in May. Gerding won 21 percent in a non-partisan primary designed to narrow the field to two, rather than choosing a representative of a political party.
"Page essentially won the seat in the primary," said Gerding. "Her
percentage of the vote was decisive. ... I'm confident Page will do a great job as District Court Judge, and I look forward to working with her."
Gerding will not campaign, but his name will remain on the ballot, per election rules. If Judge Alonzo Coleman successfully defends his seat against local attorney Betsy Wolfenden, Gerding plans to seek appointment after Coleman is forced to retire next spring at age 72.
"I understand Glenn's decision to concede the race and I am honored to
receive his endorsement," said Vernon. "He's a well-respected lawyer, he ran a very
strong campaign, and he's certainly earned the respect and admiration
of many voters."
Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson is on record: He won't vote to put the county's solid waste transfer station on Eubanks. That's probably not going to happen anyway, given the strong community opposition, but Nelson has been consistent on the issue.
"It's long past time to take that site off the list," he writes on his blog "Leading from the Left." "The community has spoken with a loud voice, and the consensus is that the transfer station should be sited somewhere else. I believe that when we meet next, on October 21st, we will officially remove Eubanks Road from consideration."
On Wednesday, Durham defense attorney James D. "Butch" Williams reminded Orange-Chatham Superior Court Judge Carl Fox to include his middle initial in any documents related to his client Kenneth White, accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend.
"If anybody pulls the record up, some people might assume it's the real James Williams," said Butch Williams, referring to James E. Williams, the chief Public Defender for the Orange-Chatham judicial district.
"I'm afraid that some people might believe that you are the real James Williams, Mr. Williams," Fox responded.
In a recent court appearance, Fox chided James E. Williams for forgetting to wear his suit jacket into the courtroom. Decked out in a bowtie and navy suit with wide white pinstripes, Butch Williams had no such problem Wednesday. But he did get a talking-to for not having a business card with an e-mail address where the judge could send a draft of a court order.
Real or not real, the James Williamses have to stay on their toes when Fox is behind the bench.
We in Chapel Hill know except for summer break, the town long since being just a company town. Folks moving into $400,000 plus homes here work at Duke and RTP as well as Carolina. Occasional tensions between the university and community also shows the waning dominance of the university over everyday local affairs.
So today comes word from Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. In an e-mail to elected oficials, Nelson notes that even with the university here the college town is no longer immune to larger trends and he asks what local unemployment stats -- the highest in five years -- mean for the local economy?
"No alarm needed yet, and while we are the seventh lowest county in the state, I cannot remember a time where Orange county unemployment was so high (5.1 percent)," Nelson writes. "While not greatly concerned, I do think the unemployment number is worthy of note and worth some discussion.
"We have always thought Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough and Orange County to be well-insulated from economic contraction. Now, while things are going well, it is a good time to talk about and plan how we ight respond if things did tighten up considerably."
What do you think?