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Save Bolin Creek: Jordan Lake rules could prohibit paving

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Editor's note: The Chapel Hill News has been following the debate over whether to pave a portion of the fuure Bolin Creek Greenway through Carrboro. Correspondent Tammy Grubb covered Monday night's Greenways Commission meeting and will have a report Sunday. Here is an excerpt.


Members of a local greenways group think Jordan Lake watershed rules may be a wrench in Carrboro’s plan for a paved Bolin Creek Greenway.

The rules require the town to protect the vegetation within 50 feet of the creek and to keep the 30-foot buffer closest to the creek as largely undisturbed forest. The remaining 20 feet can include managed vegetation.

Town environmental planner Randy Dodd said a significant amount of the greenway, anywhere from a third to a half, would lie within the state’s regulated buffer. The exact number will be clarified at future meetings, he added.

Members of Save Bolin Creek contend the buffer makes it impractical to build a paved greenway trail. The group, including Chairwoman Julie McClintock, and town staff traveled to Raleigh recently to ask division officials again how the rules apply.

“We were going over and seeking guidance,” McClintock said. “The state said that they will only allow paving within the 50 foot buffer only if there is a finding of no practical alternatives.”

Save Bolin Creek suggests the town instead use routes like Seawell School Road, where UNC is slated to build an off-road bike path and sidewalk as part of the Carolina North development and a future campus-to-campus connector.

Save Bolin Creek member Linda Haac and others also expressed frustration that town officials weren’t giving them equal time to explain their position. Haac had asked to be on Monday’s Greenways Commission agenda, but was denied because Chairman Robert Kirschner said they didn’t give the town clerk at least two weeks’ notice.

Instead, two groups that support paving and were already approved for the agenda spoke about the necessity of providing disabled residents with access to natural recreation areas for fun and fitness, stabilizing the watershed and giving local residents another link to a growing regional greenway to the east. Paving advocates say the corridor is already eroded and should be built up to protect it from further erosion and water pollution.


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Terri Until May, the


Until May, the Carrboro Greenways Commission lacked a process for the public to comment at all.  Save two open houses hosted by the Consultant last year, where numerous greenway options, both paved and unpaved were proposed, the Commission failed to take public comment until June of this year, long after they sent the Bolin Creek pavement recommendation forward to the Board of Aldermen.

Save Bolin Creek has advanced our concerns about pavement despite the lack of interest in an unpaved solution on the Commission.  When we learned that the State would not look favorably on an application that put pavement in the regulated buffer, we thought we needed to let the Commission know. We contacted and met with Chair Kirschner and Commissioner and Alderman Randee Haven O'Donnell who said they understood this was important information.  Chair Kirschner said he would recommend that the Commission hear from us for 10 minutes at Monday's meeting.  Consequently we came prepared to speak.  Exactly one hour before the meeting the Chair changed his mind for unknown reasons.  We were permitted to speak through Alderman Randee Haven O'Donnels' efforts but the Chair said we were allowed only one minute which seems on the face of it quite unreasonable.  The pro-paving presentations earlier in the evening took up nearly an hour.  The extended discussion you refer to was about whether or not the Commission would hear a full presentation from us the next meeting.  The Mayor said he did not want to hear from us at all.  It is very difficult for Commission members to function and reason toward a group recommendation when there is a natural deference to the Mayor's opinions.  

The obvious implication of this new information we learned from DENR is that when the Jordan Lake rules are applied, the amount of clearing for pavement would far exceed the amount we had originally thought, to a swath through the woods 50 - 60 feet wide.  This is not an exaggeration.  We learned from Bill Webster that the minimum distance cleared for the Morgan Creek Greenway is 25 feet.  If this distance is added to the currently cleared area in the easement you reach 50 feet of cleared area. The question is would the community support extensive grading and construction which would alter the landscape, threaten the wildlife community and deny human enjoyment of this resource.  Would you?

Revisionist history

With all due respect Julie, you are revising history. At one of the meetings I attended last fall, Save Bolin Creek showed up to present the results of the review done by their privately hired engineer. Then there was the meeting where one of the commission members who is an avid Save Bolin Creek member prevented the agenda from going forward in order to read what had already been printed in the newspaper. Then there was the June meeting where you were formally on the agenda to present your case against paving. And finally there was this week when you were once again given time on the agenda to present a brief synopsis of your meeting with DWQ. In other words, Save Bolin Creek (once presenting under the auspices of Friends of Bolin Creek) has been given priority treatment. And as you note, you have had the full support of BOA member O'Donnell in making your case. Personally, I appreciate the efforts of Mayor Chilton to bring some sense of order to the commission meetings.

But really all that is beside the point. Your presentation on Monday, according to what you said, affects sections 3 and 4 for which there is no funding (and which is outside the current purview of the commission). So unless your goal is to stop all progress on the greenway, there was no need for an immediate presentation. And the mayor never tried to deny you the right to speak. He simply said his preference would be to hear from experts from DWQ rather than having your group translate what you heard from them. His choice to take that stand lies directly at your feet. You've taken such a strong partisan position that anything you say has to be interpreted through a lens of bias.

You asked: "The question is would the community support extensive grading and construction which would alter the landscape, threaten the wildlife community and deny human enjoyment of this resource.  Would you?" If I thought that would be the outcome of building the greenway, I wouldn't support it. But I don't agree with your premise so it's moot. I believe Save Bolin Creek is totally misinterpreted the Jordan Lake rules, and I  believe you are distorting the science behind stormwater management in general.

The question for me is what outcome Save Bolin Creek wants to achieve. I've heard you claim that the greenway should be moved away from the creek. In other words, instead of building within the OWASA easement, you have advocated for removing trees, grading, etc. in areas where there may not be previously disturbed land. Really? Or is that just a distractive tactic? Or is the goal of Save Bolin Creek to stop the greenway altogether, even in those areas that are currently funded and slated for development?

If they run a paved walkway through this area

The world will come to an end in a hail of fire and brimstone.  Or at least the "riparian" experts would have you think so. 

So much talk about a doggone walkway- you would think we were talking about people dying!

When groups that are for the

When groups that are for the paving of the land next to the Creek want to present their opinion,  they are given ample time to make their presentation.  When Save Bolin Creek tries to present their opposition to Paving in a riparian zone,  they have been told that the topic is not part of the Greenway commissions agenda at the present time.  Why can one group present their opinion without interuption,  and the other group is denied the same right?  The Jordan Lake rules exist to protect the quality of our water supply.  The proposed Greenway will effect the water quality of Bolin Creek detrimentally.  This seems like rather important information to present to the Greenway Commission ,  as the present plan shows the Greenway cutting directly though this riparian zone.  1035 citizens have signed  a petition that states that they are against the Paving of the Bolin Creek Trail. Any ecological damage to the Creek is a concern to a large number of Carrboro residents,  and it should be a concern to members of the Greenway Commission.  

Incomplete story

Save Bolin Creek has presented, one way or another, at multiple greenway commission meetings. If they aren't given time on the agenda, they disrupt by speaking out during commission deliberations or the presentations of others. After sitting through 4 such meetings since spring, it looks to me like they are trying to prevent any portion of the greenway from being built. I'd love to hear them say that isn't so and to lend their support to the commission as they try to finalize their planning for the 3 sections of the greenway that are uncontested.

For those who are new to this issue, the proposed greenway has been divided into 5 sections. Three sections have plans approved and at least partial funding. They will be paved, making them accessible to all Carrboro residents and visitors. Work on one section is scheduled to begin next summer. The other two sections--the ones Save Bolin Creek is focusing on--are on private or state-owned property. What happens on those sections will be up to a private property owner (no interest in the greenway) and the university (which *may* choose to involve the town in their planning process). In the meantime, the greenway commission needs to be allowed to do their work.

What disruption?

Terri, I attended one of the meetings and didn't see the disruption you referred to.

Lucky you, Will

Several of us left early this week after one of the Save Bolin Creek's member was given 2-minutes for a short update and then told she would get more time at a future meeting. The 2-minutes turned into 20+ minutes and ensured the commission would not get to the business portion of their agenda. The tension created by the situation was totally unnecessary since her "crucial information" has no impact on the sections of the greenway that are funded.

As for greenway advocates being given time, we were on the agenda. The Save Bolin Creek group has been granted the opportunity to make several impromptu presentations along with a formal presentation at the June 2010 meeting. Any claims that they are not being allowed to speak is pure hogwash.

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About the blogger

Mark Schultz is the editor of The Chapel Hill News and The Durham News.