OP Live Candidate Forum: Hillsborough Board of Commissioners

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Hi all - Thanks for having us, OP, and for moderating, Vanessa. I am, in fact, in my pjs. Haven't used this format before, so I hope you will all bear with me.  Jenn Weaver

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Hillsborough elections

Hillsborough elections haven’t been contested much lately. Do you think this is because people are happy with what the town is doing or are they just disengaged? If the latter, how can the town get more people involved in local government?

A little of both

I think we have several things going on here. First, I do think that many people feel disengageed. There is a sense that the Historic District gets a lot of the attention, and that our other neighborhoods don't always get the same hearing. I do not think that has been intentional, but many residents do express this. I think it's very important for us to make sure residents from all of our neighborhoods feel heard, because each neighborhoods has different needs and desires. I also think that people are generally satisfied with the job the Board has been doing in recent years. Not without complaint, but generally satisfied. They guided us through a tough economic time and HIllsborough emerged in many ways even better than we were pre-recession (though I would note not everyone is feeling like they have emerged from the recession). Finally, municipal elections just aren't terribly glamorous. We hold ours on off-year elections when there is often - like this year - bothing else on the ballot.  Jenn Weaver

Oh shoot - second part of the question!

How can we get more people involved? One of the ideas I've been kicking aorund that has gotten a good response form voters is that members of the town board might take turns, on a quearterly basis, hosting community meetings out in the neighborhoods. It would be good for commissioners to get a chance to go out in different parts of town, and give residents a chance to chat about their concerns on their own turf, in an informal setting. People are busy, and even in a small town, trucking over to the town barn for a meeting on a Monday night is not something many people are eager to add - especially if there is not something directly affecting them. That said, when there IS something that will directly affect any given neighborhood, people show up. That has been great to see during my tenure on park and Rec. Jenn Weaver Hillsborough

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Typing & editing

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Though I have to say that

Though I have to say that getting citizens engaged is one of the challenges of a long-standing democracy. We are so fortunate to live here, and are all so busy with our own lives, that it seems easy to *not* engage as long as things are going well. We have a higher percentage of participation in our small town, and that is a good place to start. But we should all try to do what we can to encourage more connection, more engagement, more community. It starts with each person. I think the three of us have stepped up to the plate, and I am encouraged by some citizens I've talked to while canvassing who also are considering doing at least a little more to participate. Baby steps are all we need to make real change possible.

Active listening

I have to say that running for office has been one of those ways in which I've had the chance to reach out. It's been a wonderful experience to walk through all of our neighborhoods and meet neighbors; I feel like though we all do have differences, there is much more that we share in common- and finding those common values and common priorities is a great place to get started. Rallying neighbors and residents together. It's also very important to ensure that the needs of all citizens have a place at the table. We are better off with a solution that takes into account as many voices as possible. 

It's a great town.

Vanessa,I believe that the fact that we've got three smart, engaged candidates who are passionate about our town says a lot about the kind of town we live in. We as candidates are not unique- I think we represent well the kind of community we have; one that is engaged and committed to doing what's needed to keep things moving forward for Hillsborough. It's great to me to see more than enough good candidates stepping up to service. 

reaching out

I really think reaching out is important. The mayor and the current board are all very approachable, and things are open, and minutes are posted in a timely manner, etc. Citizens have many ways to go TO the board, but I think having the energy go the other way, the Board reaching out TO the community, via methods such as my community meeting idea mentioned above, could really be helpful. One of the bitter truths about holding elected office is that it is rare that all parties will be pleased with board decisions, and sometimes that itself leads to people who got a less-than-desired outcome feeling they were not heard. But solid efforts at communication help alleviate that.  Jenn Weaver

Hillsborough Elections

With respect to citizen engagement, my experience has been that our Town has a high percentage of highly engaged citizens who very much care about Town decisions and who have been pleased withthe preponderance of decisions that our elected officials have made, myself included. Having said this, there are citizens who do feel left out - either because they felt they received poor follow-up from the Town or because they felt they weren't included in the decision process. I believe the more elected officials and staff reach out to the neighborhoods and Town, the more all focus on follow up, the more I believe more citizens will feel included.Kathleen Ferguson

I agree with you Kathleen.

I agree with you Kathleen. We are certainly not perfect, and we need to keep moving forward, focusing on continued improvement. The new Board members will come to their seats with fresh eyes and perspectives of what it means to be a citizen and a neighbor, and this is always good. We each as town citizens (not just the three of us) have a commitment to our community to plug in in whatever way works for us. We can all encourage one another to build community.

Hillsborough Elections

The issue of being heard is related to one reason why I chose to run in this election - For years, our Town Board membership has been disproportionately comprised  of Historic District residents. With Frances Dancy stepping down, no remaining Board members will be residents outside the central district. Materially and symbolically, we need more residents from our neighborhoods to be on the Town Board to help prevent groupthink and to demonstrate in action that we truly are an inclusive community (which we are).   Kathleen Ferguson

Managing Change/Retaining History and Character

Preservation of the physical structures, continuity of history as cultural conversation are key components of ensuring our history lives on.  Continuity of the look and feel of our Historic District is important. Just as continuity of our neighborhoods are important. However, homes will be updated, new businesses will come in and the nature of both will reflect current and future trends, as they should. Where citizen input is needed most as well as Town communication is where that change is abrupt.Kathleen Ferguson

Change continued

Over the years, the historic towns I've loved most were those whose central districts preserved the history (buildings/look/feel) while also embracing modernity (thinking places like Frankllin, Tenn). Older neighborhoods remain intact but infill and outside the historic center include both commercial development and newer neighborhoods to provide for employment/commercial needs of the town and residential options for newcomers.Kathleen Ferguson

I think this needs to happen

I think this needs to happen in a thoughtful, yet organic way. There can't be a planned modernity pushed down from town officials- but the town can recognize trends and embrace and encourage positive change. Hillsborough has done this successfully for centuries. We celebrate our past, but it does not hold us in one place. We both preserve history and create new history. There is a pride of place here that keeps us moving forward without losing the integrity of who we have historically been.

Maintaining yet moving forward

Continuing to embrace the character of Hillsborough is important to all of us. Whether people are living in an apartment in Patriots' Point,are families whose family worked in the mills here for generations, or people in the HD, people in every neighborhood say the small town character is important to them. The character is also important to the thriving of the town. No one is going to drive here from Greensboro to spend money here to visit a chain restaurant downtown. That said, there is a need to have business tax dollars constitute a stronger element of our tax base. The Churton Street Commercial Corridor provides a good vision for this. The train station, the area around the hospital, and eventual redevelopment of Daniel Boone Village provide terrific opportunities for us to make choices that do both - maintain character and modernize, so to speak. We can absolutely capitalize on River Walk and being the only municipality on Mountains to Sea Trail as part of our overall amenities that support that vision. I would like to see HIllsborough really think creatively and be visionaries for small town sustainability - thinking long term about how we can incorporate renewable energy efforts into our living and economy.   Jenn Weaver

Losing comments

Hey excuse the quick technical question, but I keep losing comments right before I'm about to post. (Perhaps when the page auto refreshes?) Any way to prevent this?

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Don't lose your comments!

Remember, you must respond using the reply button directly underneath the question or comment to which you are responding -- both to keep the conversation threaded and to avoid losing your words when the page refreshes.

We will continue to relocate comments if they end up in the wrong place but as Meighan pointed out you risk losing your comment if you write it in place instead of on the reply page.

vcshortley's picture

Strategic growth

Where do you think growth should happen in Hillsborough: around the edges of town, in the downtown core or Historic District, in West Hillsborough or somewhere else entirely?

Strategic Growth

I support the Strategic Growth Plan overall - Waterstone is ideal for commercial development and it makes sense to focus residential growth south of downtown given the bottleneck of downtown.  Development of the Highway 70 corridor also makes sense. We need the services businesses for that area of Town and like Waterstone, it respects existing East/West traffic patterns.  In speaking with citizens across Town, I anticipate that infill will be the most challenging in that as a town our Visioning process identified higher density residential growth and neighborhood commercial services as a desired thing --- but when the conversation turns to individual neighborhoods, NIMBY becomes very visible.  To this end, really listening for consenus, acknowledging citizen voices, and high levels of communication are essential before decisions are made.Kathleen Ferguson

Agreed, Kathleen. Listening

Agreed, Kathleen. Listening to the concerns of all our citizens is the most important thing we can do as we make decisions about our future. We certainly cannot please every citizen, but we will make our best, most collaborative decisions when the needs and concerns of everyone are heard and considered.

Smart Growth incorporates growth verywhere

There will naturally be some growth in each of the existing areas in order for us to attain the walkable, small-town character that we all love. This means there will be some higher density options and thoughtful infill incorporated into historic areas, like West Hillsborough (redevelopment of the mill) and the Historic district, as well as new mixed-use communities, like the Waterstone development, which include a variety of resedential options and commercial spaces. Additionally, redevelopment of areas of town, like business 70 corridor should also include thoughtful planning to promote our small town character and engourage prosperity for residents.

growth - where?

I think there is a natural inclination to floow the Churton Street Corridor. As I alluded to previously, the rail station, redevelopment of Daniel Boone, and the new hospital create a natural path. The hospital provides the opportunity for things with easy access off I-40,especially such that would augment and serve people working at and visiting the hostpital. And as mentioned before Daniel Boone and the train station present us with what will likely be a challenging, yet ultimately fruitful opportunity to create a multi-use development area that still keeps the character of town. I think we should also keep in mind the Cornelius St Corridor up by Hwy 70. It's an award-winning plan (to the credit of Kathleen and her cohort), and residents up that way strongly express the need for more development. I know the town is in general focused on developing south of town, and that is wise, given traffic concerns, but that needn't mean Fairview and Hillsborough Heights shouldn't have the benefit of some redevelopment up that way. Jenn Weaver

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S. Churton redevelopment

All that flows nicely into my next question. The town Planning Department is talking about ways to redevelop the S. Churton Street corridor to give people coming off of Interstate 40 a better first impression of town. Would you support such a proposal? Why or why not?

S Churton Street Redevelopment

Apologies for choppy responses - still getting used to how this works and keep typing into ether!It's an important conversation, because it not only sets the first impression and visual tone and experience of our Town, it also impacts viability of the land for commercial development. Careful balancing will be necessary so that one is not sacrificed on behalf of the other.  Kathleen Ferguson

S Churton Street Redevelopment Cont

The other consideration is that Orange County already has a repuation for being anti-business (although huge strides against this past have been taken and are in progress).  So how we engage in the redevelopment conversation is equally important from both resident and business perspectives.Kathleen Ferguson

As Hillsborough grows into a

As Hillsborough grows into a larger small town, and with the arrival of the hospital, there will be no way to avoid *some* kind of development in the S. Churton street area and around I-40 in general. If we can agree that this change is a possibility, we can get on to the larger question of what makes the most sense here. Again, inclusion of the voices of all our citizens is what we need. Cornwallis Hills, Beckett's Ridge and eventually Waterstone will be most impacted by these changes, and we should actively include them in the planning process, but we also should engage other citizens as well. We are a small enough town that all changes affect the whole. 

I am in favor of improving

I am in favor of improving the asthetic value of that area of Churton St. Though it may be a somewhat painful process, I think it would serve all parties well in the end. It is very important, though, that all the businesses down there feel they are being treated equally and with fairness through out that process.  (sorry so slow, I managed to lose a comment too) Jenn Weaver

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Long-range land-use planning

Hillsborough has a reputation for approving more new and big box development than Chapel Hill and Carrboro, like the Walmart and The Home Depot in Hampton Pointe. Would you suggest any changes in HIllsborough long-range land-use planning?

Land use

I support the 2013 Land Use Plan, which I know I great deal of sweat and possibly tears went into creating on the part of both the county and the town. Specific to the notion of big-box stores - when considering locating any development projects on that scale it is really important to weigh that against the need to maintain Hillsborough's character. We have all seen small towns across our state whose downtowns have flat-out died after big box stores have come on the scene. We have managed to avoid that, in no small part due to our residents' desire to shop locally when they can and support our local businesses.  Jenn Weaver

The town's 2013 land use

The town's 2013 land use plan was thoughtfull and carefully crafted with the intent of balancing the varied needs of our citizens. There should always be the possibility for review and revision when it comes to long-term planning, as needs and opportunities may change. However, I think that the intent of town and county leadership is to create a balanced and pragmatic solution to development that preserves our character, protects and promotes our current businesses, and provides future opportunity for our citizens. This means we need to look at both the positive and negative consequences of each decision we make, and try to find the middle path that provides the best solution for the most people. Regardless of what businesses come into town, the standard should be their alignment with our town's values and culture. 

Long-Range Land Use Planning

I support our Strategic Growth Plan and the consensus ideas that were derived from the Visioning sessions conducted by the Town's Plannind Department. The issue of big boxes point to other issues.  In speaking with citizens over the years, my experience is that we are split community, with a sizeable chunk of citizens wanting such stores coming to town, while an equally sizeable chunk of citizens favoring local alternatives and other types of businesses.  To this end, I would want to have data in hand before making a decision WRT to expected tax revenues, jobs (quality and quantity), market saturation, expected business longevity, and such.   Kathleen Ferguson

I can also say, having

I can also say, having worked with the Habitat community in Orange county for 4+ years, that principled decisions to keep out "big box stores" have created a high cost of living in our neighboring towns that disproportionately affects lowever socioeconomic comminuties. Though the decision was made with good intent, its negative consquences have not been adequately addressed. Is there a more clever solution? I think it's important as a town that we not just say "no." We need to figure out what to say "yes" to- what is the creative solution that meets the needs of all our citizens? How can we support our local businesses, maintain a reasonable cost of living and not overburden our citizens with taxes? I am interested in having these conversations- I want to help find workable solutions that benefit all.

Technical question

The land use question was posted 20 minutes ago and I'm only seeing my reply, and Meighan's. Am I missing something or do I just need to be patient :)?  Jenn Weaver Hillsborough

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Sometimes the site has a Drupal glitch where identical content gets double-posted. We're deleting those as they happen. 

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Let's change gears. The

Let's change gears. The county recently purchased the Eno River Parking Deck, which is free to park in. Even so, many people don't use it, saying it's too far from downtown destinations. How would you and the board go about changing attitudes about the deck?

Eno Deck

We definitely need to get folks using that deck. Once River Walk is
complete, it is highly likely the need for that deck will become more
obvious, as more people from both within and out of town use that deck as a home base for exploring River Walk. I discussed this with some of the downtown merchants a few weeks ago and they suggested that putting up some additional signage within the deck directing people to exit past the library would make that trek a bit closer instead of walking all the way around Weaver Street and the fire station - it does make a difference.Jenn Weaver

Having talked to many

Having talked to many citizens about this issue, I personally believe that a large chunk of the problem is awareness- I know are people who think it's too far, but my conversations with residents make me feel like there are many folks who still don't realize (or are just beginning to realize) that the deck is free. Better marketing of the message, better signage, and even clever signage could go a long way towards changing use. I find with most issues, presentation is key. How could we promote the parking deck's usage in a clever way? It's worth thinking about, as this provides access for residents and visitors to a key business district, which translates into revenue for our businesses and the town.

Parking Deck

It speaks to how small we are that the distance from the parking deck to Radius Pizza is a long way - although it certainly feels like miles if it's cold, rainy, or hot! It takes time to change habits, and like many things, a multi-prong approach likely will be most effective - Downtown Business Owners using it; locals using it.  Taking the carrot approach before the stick --- having the Town and Downtown Merchants providing incentives (maybe discounts to local stores for owners of cars selected at random which are parked in the deck).  Better signage likely would help (how many people drive past the Margaret Lane entrance thinking that it's closed off?).  Repetition of reminders in the paper and on our public access channel as well as reminders at each of the businesses. Kathleen Ferguson