A few different interesting things from around the news today...

The Chapel Hill News says Eastern Federal Theaters, the owner of the vacant hole in the Elliot Road shopping center, is perfectly content to let it stay that way. Somehow they are blaming the Town for the fact that they had a dispute with the neighbors over who was responsible for the driveways. Since both sides were greedy bastards, they had to come back to the Town Council to resolve the matter last year. And what's the hold up now? Eastern Federal says they won't even start building unless the Town gives them a one-year extension on their permit. One of the things the town will usually look at in making that decision is whether they have actually been working on the project in earnest. Oops.

The Herald reports that the schools are considering starting later one day a month to give teachers more time to plan. Could they possibly think of a solution more disruptive to kids and working parents than this? What are they thinking?

The Daily Tarheel wonders when the heck is that little airport is going to close, anyway.

And the News of Orange reports that Hillsborough has a new police chief. I was impressed by their public process, but disappointed that the other finalist dropped out at the end.



Pertaining to the movie theatre site: In the past 15 years,
I can remember several sites that started and went on
hold for a period of time. Here is a list -- others can add
their own favorites:
The Fountains on West Rosemary
Hector's building after its fire in the 1990's
Wicked Burrito
Watts Motel on 15-501 south
Top of the Hill (for benzene reasons I believe)

Obviously if the federal tax laws make it profitable (or at
least not so unprofitable) for a chain to leave a commercial
site vacant, there is something wrong with the tax code.

I remember the council debate about Hectors in particular.
It sat for two years as a burned out building in a very prominent location, looked terrible, and its owners, the Paliouris brothers showed now interest in rebuilding, making enemies of other
downtown merchants with each passing day. And that's the
rub....the folks who live and conduct business nearby
get burned (pun intended). We asked our attorney what
were our options with Hectors. Could we repair it and
bill the owners? Raze it? All we could do was to require
that the owners build a fence around it so that it would
not be a hazard. This last scenario is exactly where
the theatres-in-question lie. As the owner of the Great
Harvest Bread Co. wrote recently, his customers are
shrinking because the theatres are operating, and because
the theatre site is such an eyesore.

I'm not sure if the town can pass an "egregious eyesore"
ordinance that would allow it to at least make the site
look better at the owner's expense, or perhaps levy fines
for each day that improvements are not done (wasn't this
the case in Hillsborough with the Colonial Inn?). If this
takes enabling legislation, go for it.

Every business person, whether a movie chain or
steakhouse chain or local restrateur and bar owner has
to appreciate that businesses lean on each other for
customers, that if one business becomes an eyesore
that the nearby ones suffer. Burned-out Hector's did
not exist in a vacuum.

Our Land Use Management Ordinance is based on the
concept that each commercial operator will act in his
own best (most profitable) interest. If he doesn't, the
ordinance doesn't seem to work.

This appears to be a miscellaneous section & since schools were mentioned...

I think that the school facilities should be the property of the taxpayers and run on behalf of all the taxpayers.

The buildings, grounds, & fields should be available to all citizens on an equal basis. They should be viewed as community buildings and facilities. Since the public education system is the biggest user, the needs of that organization could be taken into account and made a priority (within reason).

So, rather than the taxpayer funded school facilities being "owned" by the public school system, they should be "owned" by the public.

Well, the tone of Eastern Federal's communication was unfortunate, but I trust the Town Council won't rise to that bait and will instead provide some leadership from this point forward based on what kind of end result we want. That eyesore is not helping anyone.

It was somewhat odd to require EFT to widen a driveway on property they don't own without also requiring the other property owners to cooperate. Maybe the Town didn't have any jurisdiction to make the parties play nicely together. That said, there's enough confusion to go around on that one, so it seems best to let it rest and figure out how to move forward from here. It did cause some delay and we need to recognize that it wasn't all EFT's fault. I would think that EFT's efforts, though failed, to negotiate with the other property owners about the driveway represents at least some attempt to "work on the project." They say they are serious now about wanting to get this project going, why don't we call their hand and make them play or fold? If the only barrier they see to completing the project is a one year extension of the special use permit, then why not give it to them now subject to certain qualifications?

The Town Council can provide some leadership to the matter by clearly laying out what EFT needs to do to get the extension now, rather than 60 days before it expires. Perhaps EFT could put a nonrefundable deposit in escrow to show that it intends to build the project, perhaps it could contractually agree to a timeline and be fined if it's not met---something that proves EFT's intentions are serious and gets the project moving forward.

I don't think it needs to be verbal volleyball between us and EFT over what has already happened. We can talk all day about what "should" have happened, but "should" doesn't get very much done. Instead, let's offer a clear solution that challenges EFT to start TODAY on the project and assures them that we won't shut them down midstream if they do. They either take it or they don't, and if they don't then we don't need to waste any more time with them. The site's current state is not helpful to our town's aesthetics or economics.

Chapel Hill's entire approach to development is problematic. The town, the town council and neighborhood groups have attitudes that foster adversarial relationships with developers. And for most big owners like Wicked Burrito or EFT, it's cheaper to hold onto the land than deal with the town's requirements which delay projects and jack up the price. Right now, with the cost of raw construction materials skyrocketing, it is, in fact a better financial deal for EFT to hold off on building and try to wait out the price fluctuations.

I'm not a developer, or even a big fan of development, but the fact is, it's going to happen whether we like it or not. So I look at it like this: we can work with developers to get thoughtful, low-impact projects done quickly, not stymie the projects so much that it's a better business decision to postpone a project or let a building sit idle for years.

Hi Anita and others,
Your idea about a nonrefundable deposit is interesting. I heard somewhere, perhaps here, that the 15-501 project is going so slow because the company has another project in Charlotte with completion bonuses higher than our late penalties.
First, is that true?
Second, if so, can't we learn from this and impose positive and negative reinforcement when it comes to development.
Maybe it is not done now, but guess what, land is scarce in Chapel Hill and that lot is HUGE. We could get away with a lot here that would not fly elsewhere.
Just a thought.

Joe, don't forget to add the corner of Airport and Homestead to that list -- sat empty for 25 years! Hope that's not what Eastern Federal is going to give us.

Mr. Horton's response to EFT as published in the paper this week was disturbing. Clearly indicated an attitude that leaving that empty hole isn't a problem in the town's mind. Branch's and other local merchants in that area are hurting because of the hole, and it just isn't a good image for our town to have such a large gap in our limited retail space. If this town had any vision, it would nurture businesses an awful lot more than it does. Cooperative development, as opposed to being completely anti-development, surely would get us better results.

I think it would be jumping to conclusions to take EFT's position entirely at face value. The movie theatre business is hugely overbuilt (due to the efforts of EFT and a few others). With too many screens in the marketplace nationally, there has been a major pull-back on theatre construction (this is all per reporting on public radio's Marketplace).

Locally it seems like Chapel Hill has plenty of movie screens - particularly of the Hollywood blockbuster variety. Carrboro could use a theatre, but EFT and crew have ensured that multiplexes are the way of the future. And that would not fit in our downtown very well.

Mark--maybe Carrboro should try and find a place for the Carolina Theater. The newspaper reported last week that the owner of that space was going to take over the theater space and enlarge it for retail.

Why is it jumping to conclusions to accept what EFT is saying, but not jumping to conclusions to assume we know what EFT' is thinking? They have gone through the process and spent the necessary money to get approval to build a theatre and that is what they say they want to do. I'm suggesting that we find out now rather than later if they are really serious. If they don't respond to a reasonable solution and get started with the construction, then we can let the special use permit expire and perhaps encourage them to sell the property to someone who does want to do something with it. What do we as a town have to lose by coming up with a proposal that addresses their concern as long as it has the appropriate performance criteria built in so we see some real progress?

I am hoping you were sacastic when you wrote:

"The Herald reports that the schools are considering starting later one day a month to give teachers more time to plan. Could they possibly think of a solution more disruptive to kids and working parents than this? What are they thinking?"

But if not, I want to say:

You think the soution is disruptive to kids and parents? What? I suppose you would favor adding another 3 hours to a teachers 60 hour work week? (How do I know they work 60 hours a week? I was a teacher.)

And you know what? It is parents are constantly disrupting teachers. "Why didn't you give my child an A?" "Tommy will be out for this week to go to Florida. Can you give him a specilized lesson plan?" "Why aren't you teaching billy about creationism?"

And you think it is disruptive for the parent to have to bring their kids in late "ONE DAY A MONTH?" God I am sick of hearing people complain teachers should sacrifice more of their time when they get only get paid $15 an hour. ($40,000 yearly based on a 60 hour work week.)

The schools are not daycare. If both parent are working maybe it is them who shouId consider their life style. I can't believe you think it is unreasonable for parents to take three hours off of work once a month so the teachers can be better prepared to teach their children.


I don't think I suggested that I know what they are thinking. And indeed I profess I don't. But, I do know that their motivation is supposed to be to make money for their stock holders. Any benefit to our community will be purely incidental.

Terri, that is a great idea!

I heard the NPR report Mark C is referring to. It seems to me that Anita's suggestion of the escrow account would give the town a good idea of whether they are slowing down progress because of those market factors or because they are worried about losing their investment due to time limitations on the permit. In their defense, I don't think I would be willing to start a major project that I knew I couldn't finish in the time allotted. Without assurance of having that timeline extended, I would probably be doing the same thing they are doing. Sitting.

Do those of you who know more about this know how the town can get around their 60-day requirement for extending the permit? Can the council do what the manager can't?

Seems like it's a town policy and the Council has the power to set the town's policies, so I reckon they could change it - but they probably ought to change the policy for everyone or no one.

I see everyone ignored Mark's comments on who owns the school buildings. I'm a big supporter of public schools, and believe that those who choose not to send their kids to public school also choose not to utilize the resources of those schools.

The best use of the school buildings is year-round school. I realize this will never happen in this university town, but its a system that makes a great deal of sense for teachers, students and parents.

CFB, you sound really angry, possibly about a lot more than teacher planning.

I'm not suggesting they shouldn't plan or that teachers should give up more of their own time. My dad has been a school teacher for over 30 years, and I am very sympathetic to their challenges. But changing morning patterns occasionally is pretty disruptive, especially for a working parent with a tight schedule. Not everyone has the luxury of control over their own work schedules.

For example, why not take students on a field trip to give the teachers more time to work? There are other ways besides one sleep-in each month. (For that matter, I think all schools should start later and end at 5 instead of 3 anyway.)


I believe the current ownership arrangement of the "public" schools also prevents "public" school supporters from having equal access.

Would you advocate any tax breaks for those of us who choose to meet our children's needs in an alternative way?

Nope. The public schools are there for you. If you choose not to use them, oh well. Should we give tax breaks to those who don't have children? Or to seniors whose children are no longer using the schools? That doesn't make any sense. Our tax dollars go to fund a common good -- the public schools. So ultimately everyone in the community benefits from public schooling. You can certainly choose not to use the schools, but you should not get any sort of tax break.

But don't get me started on the disaster of school taxes being linked to property values.

I think the schools should be able to charge enough to cover their expenses, such as janitorial service and utilities--same as the town's do for their facilities. The school systems new plan seems a little steep to me. But heck, I thought they should let homeschoolers participate in sports and arts activities.

Yay, Terri! I would love to see a Bruce Stone (The Carolina Theatre. Whatever.) in Carrboro.

As for whether to keep or close the airport, I am neutral, both sides have logical arguments. Either way, how about UNC's emulating Duke in having an extensive natural woodland research area for sustainable/Green projects. Did you see all the good press Duke got in this morning's News and Observer for just such? Imagine how forward-thinking UNC would look if it/they dedicated the Horace Williams property to woodland use, with a few scattered non-invasive research huts, and maybe some overnight shelters for people who want to study night birds' songs. Why do I think that this will not happen?

I spoke with Stone. He says he does not anticipate any problem continuing the Carolina in its current location.

Joining in on the chorus of Amens to Terri's idea. Ellie K. tried to recruit a movie house 'back in the day', but lack of new space made it a difficult sell. So, even if Dan's right, and they're stable in the short term, as activity ramps up on this side of the pond, it might present some mid-or long-term opportunities. Sounds worth getting some discussion going between potential parties.



It gets a little tricky when folks let their attention slide and begin to confuse public schools with public education. The map begins to be mistaken for the territory and the primary goal of appreciating the differences among people and serving the diversity of various community needs gets lost in a game of exclusivity.

Individual children are also lost in bureaucratic decisions. While I believe strongly in public schools, I do not believe they serve the unique needs of all children. The goal of public schools is to educate children. Hopefully, no one in this community believes that educating children occurs only in an academic classroom on weekdays. If education is seen as a full range of life experiences, then excluding children who are not full-time registered students from using the facilities or participating in the programs is contradictory to the goal. The Chinese school is a perfect example. The school district should be embracing the Chinese school rather than throwing up new financial barriers.

Whoa, Alex.
Are you referring to "this side of the pond" to put Carrboro (Paris of the Piedmont) on a different continent from Chapel Hill's?
I'm not saying you shouldn't, I just want to know what size boat (river, lake or ocean) I'm going to need.

Charleen who used to be Whisnant now Swansea has been showing wonderful movies at the Carrboro Century Center for over a year. That is one setting ready and able for movies.

Bruce Stone is a teacher. Surely he has ideas about how to get a movie theatre in Carrboro. How about in Laura Van Sant (and other)'s project at 300 East Main, along with the redone Artcenter and the outdoor amphitheatre?

I'm willing to wait for the theatres and would be kind of excited with the whole development of such a facility. Hope it can all be worked out. This would be a good thing as South Point Theatres are such a draw, simply because of the facility itself.

"Life is too short," Carter Meiselman, chief executive officer of Eastern Federal, wrote. "If we can't build the theater, we are certain the site will only appreciate in value over time and we will simply hold on to the property in its current state indefinitely."

This is an intolerable attitude for a commercial property owner. I don't understand why the town just can't get control of all the commercial property and manage it with long term leases, or why there can't at least be laws against leaving such property unused, undermining other businesses and public safety. In any case, Eastern owns Timberlyne, the closest of the three multiplexes within five miles of where I live (hard to see why we need another, then again, in this town, there's such a glut of contemporary art centers, 'theatre' theatres, interesting moderately priced restaurants, etc etc that I guess the only thing to do is build another multiplex (being sarcastic here)). People should think about where their dollars are going when they patronize Timberlyne.

"don't understand why the town just can't get control of all the commercial property and manage it with long term leases"

Well, there's the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for starters...

Bill, I presume you're referring to this phrase: 'nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.' I have nothing against 'just compensation.'

Steve, why in the world would anyone undertake all the risk and expense of building a commercial property only to have the town then serve as the landlord and property manager?

Bill--There are a number of major capitalist cities--London, for the most part, and Singapore, for example, which don't have markets in land. If someone wants to do construction, you get a long term lease. You make plenty of money in the process. But you don't necessarilly have endless rights to do whatever you want, including sitting on your property doing nothing, and thereby undermining your business neighbors and public safety. Land, like airwaves, is obviously a very finite commodity. If Eastern is being jerks, the town of Chapel Hill can't just go out and get more land. So land has to be administered as a public trust, regardless of whether it is publicly or privately owned. Even in the US, there is the concept of eminent domain, used to reorganize space in ways that is more socially valuable, property claims notwithstanding (again, constitutional right to just compensation, agreed). I am not a town policy wonk or a lawyer, so I can't go into too much more detail. But what I was struck by in this case (unlike the Wicked Burrito) is that Eastern simultaneously wants to say 'we will have our way or else screw you' and 'please frequent our business at Timberlyne'. This is a contradiction which I think people should be aware of.

On the other hand, if the town is being a "jerk", developers may well do business else where. Chapel Hill wants to meddle in Eastern's plan, rightly I believe but I could be wrong. Eastern, rightly they believe, want's to avoid that grief.

IMHO they made a mistake demolishing the old building before they did thier planning. I was a nasty structure and perhaps not very profitiable but it was there. Their sloppy handling of the application fallowed by no visible construction plan is the reason they're so far behind schedule. If they were to apply for an extension that application ought to include a planned constuction time table. They have come up short on thier planning on that one too. Chapel Hill's tight zoning regulation is always an easy scape goat; but in this case I think the applicant's slipshod planning got them to the place they are.

I'll keep going to South Point when I want to see a movie... except for Star Wars III, I'm going to wait till it comes outh on IMAX and see it at Exploris.


You think Eastern made a "hasty" decisionto tear down their building? From where I'm sitting--it was a CALCULATED decision.

Which is worse (from the town's perspective)--an operating, albeit unattractive theater--or the wasteland that the site has become?

Which is worse from Eastern's perspective--an empty lot they get a business write-off for--or a less-than-profitable theater?

Think about it!


Clark, how do you deduce that "Chapel Hill wants to meddle in Eastern's plan?" The town simply wants Eastern Federal to build what they proposed and got approved years ago. By the way, the Town was very generous in even granting the permit for this theater which included a number of risky and unconventional aspects, such as increasing the number of seats and decreasing the parking.

The dispute was over who was responsible for one of about a half-dozen driveways into the entire shopping center. Like I said, both sides were being greedy bastards. All the Town wants is for the thing to be built and for public safety to be maintained or enhanced.

In context I said "meddle in Easterns plan, rightly I believe but I could be wrong". I don't think that was real critical of the town.

"For example, why not take students on a field trip to give the teachers more time to work?"

Ruby, what kind of idea is that? First of all, who will take the children on these field trips? Where will they go? Who will pay for them? Should the entire CHCCS go at the same time? If so, where will they get the buses and drivers? Etc. etc.

Re:" field trips": Why overcomplicate it? The kids can organize themselves; they can walk or bike to their "field trip" destination; they can pay for their lunches with money they earn on their paper routes. Maybe they will build a Habitat house. Seven year olds in other hemispheres herd goats and bake bread; why give up on U.S. kids?

Remember Henry Ford, who may have said; "Think you can; think you can't. Either way, you're right."

Can you imagine the school system allowing kids to organize their own field trip and walk or bike on their own? The school board can't even see their way clear to allow a high school student to be a voting meber of the school board. The message is clear.

Diana and Mark--The legal climate in the US is such that anything along the lines of 'you guys take care of yourselves' is virtually inconceivable. No point blaming that on the school board.

Clark--Eastern did not say--'we can't work with you, we will do business elsewhere', which is not in itself offensive. What they said is "If we can't build the theater, we are certain the site will only appreciate in value over time and we will simply hold on to the property in its current state indefinitely." Holding on to the property in its current state indefinitely should not be an option they can pursue. Some kind of law along the lines of 'either develop the property in a way the town thinks is appropriate and you think is profitable or sell it to someone else' has got to be possible. If people are allowed to sit on vacant property waiting for a windfall when they sell it years from now they will.

steve, but then you get into that 5th amendment thing that Bill mentioned. If Eastern thinks the land will be worth more in the future, I suspect they are right. Despite Chapel Hill's liberal leaning, we don't live in a socialist situation where property owners are obliged to provide for the welfare of thier neighbors. They do pay thier taxes. It's all well and good to say Eastern "ought" to sell Great Harvest bread; that Lone Star should open a childerns fun zone. To use the government to force them to do so is another story.

Time will tell on this but mark my words. The parking lots 3 and 5 plans will prove the towns inability to manage comercial property. Hell it took the city three months to fix the water fountian outside of consol chambers.

I wasn't blaming the school board. The system itself is designed (by necessity) to control large numbers of students and limit certain freedoms. The corporate run economy and the political leaders welcome such an approach.

This was a very confusing thread for me as the subjects (schools, EFT and the police chief selection) probably deserve a more logical dialogue than I (for one) can follow through the chopping of this discussion.

One comment I will make: I've known Chief Burkhead for close to 10 years. He is going to make an excellent Chief for Hillsborough. As far as people dropping out in the end, that is really not unusual. As finalist come to realize (likely on their own) that they are not the top candidate, they would much rather "remove" their name than be told they were not selected for the job. More than likely, Chief Burkhead was the best choice, whether this happened or not.

Cross-burnings in Durham last night. Anyone know of any immediate solidarity demos?

Good question, Jeff. here's what I heard:

Dear Friends and Allies:

Last night, Wednesday May 25, "Several motorists spotted a tall burning cross near Interstate 85 and Hillandale Road around 9:15 p.m. It was located near the back parking lot of St. Luke's Episcopal Church. At the same time, callers to 911 reported another cross burning near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and South Roxboro Street.

About an hour later, Durham firefighters responded to another burning cross on Dillard Street in downtown Durham, just across from the WTVD studios. Fliers purportedly from the KKK were left at that location. The United House of Prayer for All People is located nearby. The crosses were several feet tall. Officers took away the burned crosses for further investigation". (From ABC 11 Report)

The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham is calling for vigils at all three locations tonight, Thursday May 26, and believe strongly that a large community response to the cross burnings is important. The NC Peace & Justice Coalition encourages everyone in the area to join in a loud community response to these acts of violence, hatred, racism and intimidation.


DOWNTOWN VIGIL: 6:00 community dinner and discussion on the cross burnings and the communty's response, 7:30 pm Vigil: Meet for both at the Durham Main Library parking lot, at 300 N Rosboro, between Holloway and Liberty streets. The dinner will take place within walking distance of the library. The vigil will likely take place near the site of the cross burning, 2 blocks away at the United House of Prayer on Dillard and Holloway. If you can help bring a dish, banners, or candles please Contact Andrew Pearson, kangaroo@email.unc.edu 360 2028.

WEST DURHAM VIGIL: 8:00 pm At or near ST. Luke's Episcopal Church, (919) 286-2273, 1737 Hillandale Rd, Durham 27705, near I-85. The Church pastor and neighborhood and community groups are involved in the planning. Contact: John Schelp, bwatu@yahoo.com, Old West Durham Neighborhood Association,

SOUTH DURHAM VIGIL: 8:00 pm on the sidewalk on South Roxboro Street, near Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in front of the site of the cross burning. The plan at present is to have everyone gather on the sidewalk at the site of the burning on South Roxboro Street tonight at 8 pm and bring a candle "to shine some light in this moment of darkness." Churches and civic organizations are being contacted and fliers are being printed up. Contact Terry and Ann Lee Mosley, mosgen@earthlink.net, 489-8592.


something tells me that the cross burnings are a hoax--either not done by the Klan or done by teens to get people enraged. i think durham high schools had graduation last night so i imagine there was a lot of mischief afoot...

Doesn't matter one s**t who did it. 'Mischief'?---Get real.
It's the most egregious hate-related outrage in these parts in recent memory, and those responsible should bear the fullest wrath of justice. Period.


On a more positive note, Carrboro sponsored a program tonight around the film Mighty Times: The Children's March. "Mighty Times: The Children's March recounts the events of 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. Children of the city took to the streets and faced police dogs, fire hoses, and arrest for the sake of justice and Civil Rights. This march was one of the pivotal events of the era. The film was co-produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center and HBO and took home the 2004 Academy Award for Documentary Short Film."

Chuck Stone (UNC journalism), Reginald Hildebrand (UNC African and Afro-American Studies) & Tim Dyson (newly hired by Duke--Blood Done Sign My Name) engaged the audience in an outstanding public discussions on civil rights and media criticism. The two libraries (McDougle & Cybrary) and Parks and Rec are to be commended for this program. The film, which has some flaws, was excellent and will be available for checkout at the Cybrary within the next week or so.

On less positive note, have twice seen hateful racial slurs in chalk at Homestead Park. Most recent this past weekend.

"those responsible should bear the fullest wrath of justice. Period."

Burning a cross without the permission of the property owner is a misdemeanor in North Carolina.

Burning a cross for the purpose of ethnic intimidation is a Class 1 Felony in North Carolina.



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