What to do about Halloween

Garden gnome and friends, photo by forty42two Every year the Town of Chapel Hill gears up for the enormous crowds that come to Franklin Street on Halloween, whether we want them to or not. I've been participating in this ritual on and off since I was an undergrad at UNC (in other words, a long time) and I think it has value for the community. While some individuals will always take it too far, most people are engaging in a healthy type of creative expression that is rare for adults.

I think the Town has done a good job of prohibiting alcohol and trying to control traffic. I also applaud the police department for understanding that this is event is a force of nature that can be controlled (somewhat) but not stopped. I'd like to suggest that we charge admission to the area. I think this would help keep the worst elements out of the mix and help pay for the enormous cost of hosting a Halloween party for revellers from across central North Carolina.

Will the County Comprehensive Plan successfully promote sustainability?

This Monday the County Commissioners are holding what may be the final Public Hearing on the proposed Comprehensive Plan Update. The hearing begins at 7:30 pm and will be held in the downstairs courtroom at the County Courthouse in Hillsborough. At their regular meeting on October 7, the Commissioners are expected to vote whether or not to adopt the Plan.

Submitting written comments in advance of the August 25 Public Hearing and/or presenting your comments on the 25th might be your final chance to provide input on this important subject.

I encourage OP readers to review at least the first two chapters (links below) of the proposed Comprehensive Plan and judge for yourself if the chapters clearly articulate how sustainability can be achieved in Orange County over the next twenty years.

The first chapter states that “we need to act in a manner that will achieve a quality of life that is sustainable into the future”. In the second chapter one reads that “growth and development within the county should occur in a pattern, location, and density that is sustainable over the long-term”. Since this Plan is intended to be in force until 2030 it’s critical that it provides ample guidance on how “sustainability” and “sustainable growth and development” can be achieved.

In the section entitled “Toward a Sustainable Future”, the first chapter lists many “key ideas … that relate directly to the goal of achieving a sustainable future.” Ideas are presented for all seven of the Plan’s elements: Economic Development, Housing, Land Use, Natural & Cultural Systems, Services & Facilities, Parks & Recreation, and Transportation. As noted in the section’s conclusion, “these initiatives reinforce each other. Taken together, “they form a platform of sustainable practices upon which current and future generations of Orange County residents can build productive lives.”

The second chapter presents eight planning principles endorsed by the County Commissioners in 2004. As an affordable housing advocate, I am bothered that none of the principles directly concerns “social equity”, which is typically one of the three fundamental dimensions of sustainability (the other two being environmental protection and economic vitality). The second principle concerns sustainable growth and development. Principles One and Seven address public- and private-sector economic issues, respectively. The remaining five principles concern preservation and conservation.

Do these chapters clearly articulate how sustainability can be achieved? I encourage you to make your comments known to the County Commissioners as soon as possible because County staff is recommending that the Public Hearing be closed after Monday’s night meeting and the matter immediately be referred to the Planning Board (in order for their recommendations to be ready for the Commissioners’ anticipated October 7 vote). Written comments can be emailed to the County’s Comprehensive Planning supervisor at CompPlanUpdate@co.orange.nc.us. For more information consider reviewing the August 25 Public Hearing Agenda, as well as the Agenda Item Abstracts for both the May 19 and August 25 Public Hearings. (warning: abstracts are large .pdf files). The abstracts are particularly useful because they contain all the written comments presented by members of the public going back to January 2008. For the truly ambitious reader, links to all nine chapters of the Comprehensive Plan can be found by clicking here.

Date: 

Monday, August 25, 2008 - 3:30pm

Location: 

Battle Courtroom, Orange County Courthouse

What's a sharrow?

Just got the following announcement from the Town of Chapel Hill:

[sharrow]The Town of Chapel Hill is installing a pilot sharrow project today (Tuesday, Aug. 19) through the week on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Estes Drive to North Street.   

The  sharrow, or shared-use pavement markings, is an experimental road treatment being evaluated as an  accommodation for bicyclists under certain roadway conditions.  A sharrow is a road marking to identify the shared use of a travel lane by bicyclists and passing motorists, indicating the legal and appropriate bicyclist line of travel; it cues motorists to pass bicyclists with sufficient clearance.

Didn't find the Town's press release very explanatory, so I looked it up and found the photo above.

Chapel Hill Culture War?

A long time ago, I asked y'all how long you had lived here in Orange County. Almost half (49%) have been here for 5 to 20 years, and another 34% have lived here for more than 20 years. In the paper I recently saw some grumbling that the newer residents of Chapel Hill don't share the values of those of us who lived here in the "halcyon days" of outspoken progressive activism.  I don't think this is necessarily true.

OP editor away from her desk

Your humble editor (that's me) is spending time with her family for a week and will not be here to babysit the site regularly until next Wednesday.  This means that anonymous comments will not be approved promptly (if at all) but also that if you write a nice blog entry you have a good chance of it being promoted to the front page.

As we used to say, please play nice.  ;-)

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