The North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club issued its endorsements this morning in the Chapel Hill Town Council election. The endorsed candidates are:
- Donna Bell
- Michael Parker
- Lee Storrow
- Jim Ward
Here is the Sierra Club's press release:
The Orange-Chatham Sierra Club is proud to announce the endorsement of these candidates for the November 3, 2015 election for town council in Chapel Hill.
The NC Sierra Club supports candidates with demonstrated knowledge of local environmental issues who will provide strong leadership on matters including conservation, growth, and transportation.
This year’s election for Chapel Hill Town Council has focused on choices about growth and development. The Sierra Club recognized the environmental impacts of sprawl, and the benefits of smart growth, as far back as the mid-1990s. Bell, Parker, Storrow and Ward have voting records and stated priorities for smart growth, with moderate-density mixed use development that will support walkability and bike-ability, as well as transit improvements, both economically and in ridership. This path is important to Chapel Hill’s commitment to the rural buffer, to climate action, to cutting impervious surface, and to storm water management. It is also critical for maintaining a town budget that will support transit, green spaces, our beloved leafy, historic neighborhoods and the amenities that Chapel Hill residents desire.
In addition, these candidates’ decisions, and the Chapel Hill 2020 plan that is currently being implemented, are based both on experts’ opinions and unprecedented public outreach. Although not every new building will be to everyone’s liking (and, given fiscal and legal constraints in the process, some will not meet the highest environmental standards) through their decisions, the endorsed candidates have demonstrated their understanding of, and support for, the concept of “sustainable growth.” They have specifically noted their support for the Durham-Orange light rail project that is “overwhelmingly popular” with 69% of polled voters in Chapel Hill, and they have taken positions promoting the compact development that has been shown elsewhere to reduce pollution, protect natural resources and improve quality of life.
Smart growth is better for the planet. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change noted in their last mitigation report: “Infrastructure and urban form are strongly interlinked, and [will] lock-in patterns of land use, transport choice, housing, and behaviour. Effective mitigation strategies involve packages of mutually reinforcing policies, including co-locating high residential with high employment densities, achieving high diversity and integration of land uses, increasing accessibility and investing in public transport and other demand management measures.” Smart growth measures are also more economically viable for communities. SmartGrowth America’s report, “Building Better Budgets: a National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development,” notes that smart growth generally costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure, saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services, and generates ten times more tax revenue per acre than the conventional suburban-form development. This form of vibrant, walkable community is also more attractive to the young creative class and better supports small businesses on those walkable streets.
The incumbents, and Michael Parker in his work on the Planning Commission and other planning efforts, have shown by action and support that they understand the practical realities and benefits of smart growth for Chapel Hill, and want to continue this work. The endorsed candidates have demonstrated knowledge and leadership consistent with policies that encourage environmental protection of local natural resources, conservation, and sustainable growth. The Sierra Club believes that Chapel Hill’s environmental goals, and budget, will be best served with the endorsed candidates.