The Housing Gap at Carolina North

The Leadership Advisory Committee on Carolina North had an interesting discussion about housing as a part of Carolina North this afternoon.

Here are some prepared comments that I presented as a way of launching the discussion:

The housing problem at Carolina North is, in short, that the new workers at Carolina North will either live at Carolina North or they will live elsewhere and need to commute to the campus. There is not a great deal of vacant housing currently available within the Chapel Hill Transit service area (although there is some), so new employees will either have to occupy housing that is to be built in the Chapel Hill Transit service area, or they will have to live outside that service area and commute. Let's take a look at the scale of the problem:

The Ayers/Saint/Gross Development Plan commissioned by the University proposed to build the following:

Insititutional/Research space created: 6 Million sqft (per CN website)
Residential space created: 2 Million sqft (per CN website)
This should result in something like the following:
Carolina North created jobs: about 20,000 (1 per 300 sqft)
Carolina North created dwellings: at most 2,000
UNC employees housed there: at most 3,000 (likely too optimistic)
New UNC employees not housed at CN: at least 15,000 (conservatively)
New dwellings needed: at least 10,000 (very conservatively)

And these numbers do not take into account the number of additional households that will be attracted to the area by jobs indirectly created by Carolina North (for example, Kinko's will need many more employees).

Some people will undoubtedly argue that growth in residential areas of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will help to address this problem. Although there are relatively few undeveloped areas within the Urban Services Boundary (ie inside the Rural Buffer), there is a lot of development planned in the downtown areas of the towns. However, to understand how little that will do to address the problem, let's take a look at the proposed Greenbridge development in western downtown Chapel Hill. Greenbridge is planned to be a 109 unit condominium development. It would take 92 Greenbridges to address the housing gap in the ASG plan.

Obviously we are not going to build 92 Greenbridges, but to give a sense of just how improbable that would be, let's just take a look. The Greenbridge site is about 200x270 feet, so if each of the new Greenbridges were to be built along MLK boulevard between the entrance to Carolina North and I-40, then we would need to have 46 of them one right after another all the way from I-40 to Municipal Drive on one side and an additional 46 of them on the facing side. That is, the 92 of them would take up the entire distance on both sides. To accommodate 92 Greenbridges, you would have to cover an area of 92 sites x 200 feet x 270 feet = 4,968,000 sqft of land. This is roughly the same size as the all of downtown Chapel Hill from Columbia Street to the Carrboro Town line including both sides of Rosemary Street, both sides of Franklin Street and both sides of Cameron Avenue.

Alternatively, if the necessary growth were to happen in more of a mix of condominiums, townhouses and subdivisions, then the needed development would be about the size of the entire Town of Carrboro, something like a dozen Southern Villages, roughly half the size of the Orange County Rural Buffer. Another way to achieve this would be to quadruple the population of the Town of Hillsborough. Those are back of the envelope calculations, but they give you a sense of the scale of the problem.

And of course, even if the private market builds that much housing in the area, there is nothing to say that the average person at Carolina North could afford it. Currently downtown condominium space is selling at $200-$300 per square foot. New developments that are in the pipeline include proposals approaching $400 per square foot. That's $400,000 for a 1,000 square foot, 2 bedroom condominium. One would need to make $100,000 per year at the very least in order to buy a private market condominium in downtown Chapel Hill. I would guess that a very small percentage of UNC employees make that kind of money.

All of this points to the fact that, under the ASG plan there will have to be thousands and thousands of people commuting from outside the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area to Carolina North. Right now, if they are to commute from Chatham County, Alamance County or northern Orange County, there is no public transportation that would accommodate them (although there are park and ride lots just at the edge of the towns that could help). If these new employees live in Hillsborough, then they could hypothetically commute by the new (but still sparse) TTA bus route. If they live in Durham, then they might have some kind of access via TTA, although that service would need to be expanded dramatically.

But more realistically, most folks would drive most or all of the way. And that of course is entirely consistent with the 17,000 or so parking spaces that the ASG plan had proposed for Carolina North. Indeed, the ASG plan calls for essentially no public transportation at all (3000 employees residing + 17,000 driving = 20,000 employees).

In this respect, the ASG plan needs to be entirely discarded. The number one transportation solution needs to be housing; the number two solution needs to be bike/ped access; and the number three solution needs to be public transportation. Therefore, I would like to put forward four proposed housing principles:

Proposed Principles Related to Housing at Carolina North:

1. Carolina North should not exacerbate the crisis in housing affordability already existing in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area.

2. Therefore, housing built at Carolina North should be affordable to a range of incomes, with a housing-cost distribution that reflects the income distribution of University employees generally, in each phase of development at Carolina North.

3. Further, the number of dwelling units built at Carolina North should equal the number of new households that will be attracted to this area by the jobs created at Carolina North.

4. However, (non-undergraduate) housing created by the University of North Carolina in other parts of the Chapel Hill Transit service area should be counted toward the accomplishment of the above goal.

I am not proposing that UNC be held to a higher standard than other developers. I am proposing that a well-planned, carefully thought-out campus must include housing both as a way of protecting the environment and as a smart business decision. If we asked the Trustees of Stanford University what they would most like to go back 50 years and change about their planning, I believe they would say that they wish they had done more to plan for employee housing. And I imagine the story would be the same at Berkeley, Harvard, San Diego State, and dozens of other universities. But they can't go back in time. The good news for UNC is that we can; we can think about this problem now and we can make good decisions where others made poor ones. Because right here today we have the chance to look 50 years ahead and ask ourselves what are the wisest investments that Carolina can make. Shall we spend our limited resources on roads? Parking lots? Buses? Housing? Which one is the smartest investment when we look 50 years into the future?


Maria, excellent point on day cares and preschools! It is tough to find good facilities that are reasonably priced in this area. The goal should be that Carolina North residents and employees can have their childcare needs met on-site.

Regardless of who is going to be working at CN, UNC needs to make housing part of the picture just to address the current housing problems.
I remember reading back in the '90s about the housekeeping staff living out toward Silk Hope and driving in at 3 in the morning because they could no longer afford to live in town. With gas prices rising quicker than anyone's income, this is not sustainable for those families.

Nor is the situation with grad students, post docs and recently employed researchers and professors. While some folks may choose a rural setting because they like it, it's depressing to see UNC families live in residential neighborhoods on the edge of Durham because the identical neighborhoods in Chapel Hill became primarily student rentals in the 1990s. While I enjoy living in neighborhoods with students, the shortage of on campus student housing led to the shortage of affordable starter homes near enough to campus to utilize public transportation or cycling or walking. Add children and timely pick-ups from schools, afterschool programs or daycares and living beyond the bounds of downtown becomes an exercise in SOV use.

I have no doubt that UNC can construct condomimiums and houses more economically than private developers. They don't have the incredible upfront cost of purchasing the land. They don't have a need to make a profit above and beyond that. And as most folks I know don't have granite counters or garden baths, I believe they don't need to include those features.

However, building space that can be leased by day cares or preschools would be a wise move.

Many question marks. "Don't know" is a good place to start. The University has yet to announce what academic or businesslike purpose CN will serve. If businesslike, then there should be an extended-stay hotel in the picture.

My chief concern has to do with maintenance and housekeeping personnel who make up a significant percentage of the 20,000 workers predicted for CN.

Jack Evans responded yesterday at the LAC meeting on Carolina North with the following statement:

"Discussion Issues and Questions Related to
Housing at Carolina North
Prepared for the LAC discussion on November 2, 2006

We believe that housing at Carolina North is a critical aspect of attracting employees, both faculty and staff, to the University, and helping existing employees find housing closer to campus. However, we believe that many issues will require further discussion within the LAC in the process of formulating specific planning principles that will be used to guide planning related to housing.

We envision the housing at Carolina North as a mixed-income community. That is, the housing will be a mixture of market, work force, and affordable housing. We need clear understandings regarding the definitions of these three categories. And we do not yet have enough information to set percentages for these three categories, but we will commit to study the issues.

The housing planned for Carolina North must be financially feasible, financially sustainable, and market driven. Although the University will likely retain ownership of the land, we anticipate that a large portion of the housing will be privately developed, thus adding values to local tax rolls. On that premise, the housing must provide opportunities for a reasonable return to prospective developers.

While housing at Carolina North will not solve all of the housing problems of the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community, UNC-Chapel Hill has a commitment to finding the right mix of market, work force, and affordable housing that will avoid making those problems worse. In this regard the University will maintain the goal that each stage of development at Carolina North will contain some level of each of the three types of housing. It may be appropriate to think of the first stage (approximately 10 years) as a test market that will provide valuable information about housing and will inform planning for subsequent stages.

As discussed in the LAC meeting on October19, we do not anticipate undergraduate instruction at Carolina North. Consequently, we do not foresee the need to build undergraduate housing at Carolina North. We do, however, anticipate some level of housing at Carolina North for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. These groups of residents are likely to be married with children. Since housing at Carolina North is likely to be multi-family construction, this could also assist the University's efforts to attract the best graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. For this type of housing it is possible, though not necessarily certain, that the University would be the developer and operator of the housing.

The discussion of housing during the LAC meeting of October 19 explored linking overall employment at Carolina North and the planned supply of housing. We consider it to be difficult to define and implement a linkage of this sort in advance. A number of questions deserve consideration. For example, what restrictions should apply to housing at Carolina North?. Should CN housing be primarily or exclusively for employees of the University or UNC Health Care System, or should it serve a broader population? What issues related to social and cultural diversity in CN housing should we consider? If work force and affordable housing involve some form of subsidy or constrained appreciation in the form of price caps or restrictions on sale, what issues are raised if some of this housing is occupied by non-University employees?

To the extent that University employees occupy housing at Carolina North, use of SOVs would be favorably affected. Similarly, to the extent that University employees living anywhere make use of transit (whether within the service area of the Chapel Hill transit system or not) use of SOVs would be favorably affected.

One of the inputs that we need for this and subsequent discussions is information that incorporates our best estimates, stage by stage, of the level of employment to be anticipated at Carolina North. Although we will not be able to formulate these estimates with great precision, it is important to get the order of magnitude approximately correct so that our discussions about housing, transportation, and fiscal impact will be as realistic as we can be at this stage or our work.


In case folk sdidn't see it, the Chapel Hill News had an editorial yesterday titled "Housing would make for a healthier Carolina North"

I think it states the need pretty clearly;

Carolina North won't exist in a vacuum; it will exist within the wider community, and the many thousands of people who will work there will have to live, shop, play and get around in that community.

It's not enough just to build the best-equipped and most technologically advanced labs and other facilities. In order to make Carolina North as good as it can be, the kind of place where people are going to be eager to work, you have to offer them a good life outside the lab, too.

That means, among other things, that you need an efficient transportation system so that traffic isn't a nightmare every morning and every evening, and you need to ensure an adequate supply of affordable and convenient places for those thousands of new residents to live.

No-one is saying that everyone who works at CN should be confined there like lab rats. It just makes sense to make the place successful economically, phyisically, and emotionally (so people will want to work there) it needs to be a well-planned and well-rounded community.

I don't know where they should live Mark. But the way I see it, expecting them all to live on university property is as big of a problem as accepting that they will all live in north Chatham or Alamance or Durham. What I hope our elected officials will do is consider solving for pattern or "finding solutions that solve multiple problems, while minimizing the creation of new problems."

Terri, we are studying the fiscal equity issues in a study jointly sponsored by the area local governments and the towns, as I mentioned to you earlier.

Where do you think Carolina North workers should live? North Chatham?

As Fred points out, CN is primarily a workplace and the nature of the work has yet to be described. Lab research or think tank? Faculty status, or just passing through? The CN culture/village/community needs to take shape demographically before this housing discussion gets real.

Patrick, I am all for placing schools near students. I am also a big fan of walk zones. I agree that some busing will be saved, but want to point out that this will amount to a relatively small percentage of per pupil savings for the county in comparison to other educational spending. Just so you are aware, as we found out with twin creeks planning, the path to the school from the residential units has a number of safety constraints to truly qualify as a walk zone. So the planners need to be careful to follow the guidelines or they may inadvertantly create a busing zone.

I had also wondered about the personal home equity (savings) issues and agree with the conversation that there are some thorny aspects to get that right, particularly with the land ownership & the appreciation of the land value as an investment component.

Mark C., I am in favor of creating jobs in Chapel Hill and I am also in favor of creating housing that is close by. (I will be mourning the loss of the mountain biking trails, but I understand that the development is inevitable).

Mark P

Mark, you're laying out principles based on the expectation of 10,000 new housing units to be built on state land, land which by current law pays no taxes or revenues to the towns and yet benefits from municipal services. Is the plan to go on faith that "the university was committed to paying for the costs incurred by local government resulting from Carolina North?"

Since you are "proposing that a well-planned, carefully thought-out campus must include housing both as a way of protecting the environment and as a smart business decision" and you laid out the beginnings of a business case based on your estimated cost per square foot of housing in Chapel Hill, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask the towns to calculate the anticipated cost of municipal services per residence (based on current realities) so that citizens can start to understand how much the proposed UNC housing would have to cost in order to be feasible. As you note, "One would need to make $100,000 per year at the very least in order to buy a private market condominium in downtown Chapel Hill. I would guess that a very small percentage of UNC employees make that kind of money." Can the university build condos for less, is there a market for those residences among faculty/staff, and if so will the 'less' still pay the full cost of municpal services?

If the answer is no to any of those questions, do your principles still make sense?

Mark, what is the flow of those 20K new jobs? It seems to me that if they are not really sure what they are going to have at CN, it hard to specify a flow at this time. Have they discussed any timelines in say ten year blocks for the next 50 years?

I am not sure I follow you, Terri. You think housing at Carolina North would be bad and that it would be preferable for grad students, post docs etc. to live in housing created by the free market in other areas?

What do you mean that that "the towns are so fully represented"? The county commission, owasa, the school system, the chamber of commerce and numerous other organizations are there as well.

When you suggest that we conduct a study before laying out principles, do you mean that the taxpayers of the town ought to pay for studying every issue related to Carolina North before we discuss those issues with the University?

I really don't see where you are coming from with this, Terri. Having little or no housing at Carolina North seems like burying one's head in the sand.

Mark P, your questions about school funding and other services are essential. But let's also recognize that the impact of creating 20,000 new jobs in Chapel Hill will be great no matter how it is done. Having those 20,000 workers as residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro to some degree is neither a good idea nor a bad idea on its face. It is a question of how it is done, right?

All the discussions I've heard about Carolina Commons, the university's first proposed foray into faculty/staff housing, has been that only UNC employees will be eligible. I should have stated the assumption that CN would follow the same expectation.

As for the taxation issue, I reported what Orange County pays and asked the question "What will the cost of services be for CN residential?" You may be right that county figures don't apply to an urban area. But to my knowledge neither Chapel Hill or Carrboro have done the homework to make their own estimates. Since the towns are so fully represented on the LAC, I wish UNC would request that they each conduct such a study before laying out principles.

Has UNC said anything to indicate what you say below is true?

First, only UNC employees will be allowed to own the property

If so, I've completely missed it, my bad. If UNC has not said this, why put the discussion in that box to begin with? Also, I'm not sure if your comments about "pushing the university" are directed at me or others, but I'm not trying to say that my proposal is THE answer. I'm saying it's an idea that ought to be studied.

Mark, in the raw number of dollars for needs, no, I am not suggesting density lowers county needs. New population introduces new needs (and new revenues) and policymakers need to grapple with balancing them.

I am suggesting that compact development at CN will likely have a discernible per capita impact on providing public services when compared with that development coming online in a more dispersed manner in other locations in Orange (or Alamance) County. (I am also suggesting the $$$ per capita of public services are likely to be lower)

Let's use a school example. If I remember correctly, there's a school being located in one of the Orange County Economic Development Districts, yes? This school will have a walking student population of virtually zero, forcing an increase in busing costs to bring students to campus, including labor, fuel, insurance, etc. A school at CN that draws entirely from housing units witin CN may not need to be served by a single bus except for the odd field trip now and then.

My key point is that I believe that trying to estimate public service impacts per capita of a very urban setting (CN) by drawing on existing data from a predominantly rural county-- has the potential for missing efficiencies.

Terri suggests that homes that sell for less than $250k don't cover their services. Is that for the whole county or the non-CH/C area only? I'd be curious to see data for CHCCS and non-CHCCS areas for this calculation, and the per capita cost of providing a whole host of public services. Not having the data, I freely admit I may be completely wrong and we'll find that on a per capita basis, public services are much more expensive in the denser CHCCS area than outside. That said, my instinct tells me we should probably use CHCCS or CH/C non-rural buffer territory to try to forecast service impacts, and not the whole county.

Also, I would caution you against using the ability of Orange County taxes to pay Orange County public service costs. Consider the amount of miles and hours that would accumulate with 3 postal service trucks delivering mail in Orange County and compare that with delivery at Carolina North. Compact geography and density would deliver many economies of scale in public service provision.


If you are asserting that density significantly lowers county funding needs, then I disagree.

The postal service is a poor comparison as there are few county services that are delivered directly to each household.

I will use trash handling to illustrate my point. Trash pickup is not funded by Orange County taxes, but by city taxes. The condo taxes could pay Chapel Hill or Carrboro for trash pickup and Orange County for the landfilling of the trash. The landfilling impact is probably the same for a condo in CN vs. anywhere else in the county.

Also, half of the county service costs are for public schools in the county ad valorem and density of housing makes no significant difference here. Additionally, the CHCCS district tax would need to apply to CN residents.



Regardless of what arrangements are made, housing at UNC will entail market constraints. First, only UNC employees will be allowed to own the property, so the market for re-sales is automatically reduced. Second, appreciation will occur only for construction, not for land. I know that my LAND is what is appreciating...not my house. And as long as I live in the CHCCS district, my land will continue to appreciate which is why Chapel Hill has been forced to create NCDs.

Before everyone rushes to promote this idea, shouldn't we have a marketing study? Will PI's be interested in campus housing with these market constraints? Or will the 'mill town' only appeal to junior faculty and staff and grad students? That in itself will is the 3rd constraint.

No other developer would come to the table on these discussions without understanding the market forces. And I don't think it's good for anyone to be pushing the university to do so either. What if your predictions are wrong? Despite my skepticism, I will bend to the popular will IF and WHEN I see a good marketing study (and I mean one that has a sufficient sample size that is fully representative of the types of faculty and staff that will be attracted to the area by CN).

Terri, the approach I'm suggesting does not ask faculty and staff to set aside the wealth creation of homeownership. I'm suggesting that UNC and the towns work together to find ways (condominium-ization of parts of buildings at CN may be a primary strategy) to allow homeownership to be part of the living environment at CN. This requires nontraditional thinking on the part of all parties.

An outcome might include a scenario where UNC owns the land and has a 35% stake in the HOA of a building and condo owners, with 65% being individual condos, some at market rate and some more affordable through the OCHLT model. There would need to be some careful legal documentation set up so that residents of such buildings would not fear that UNC could quickly move to evict them and convert their condo to lab space, for example. I'm struggling to think of an externality the residents would pose on UNC, but I'm sure we'd want to look at those, too.

Also, I would caution you against using the ability of Orange County taxes to pay Orange County public service costs. Consider the amount of miles and hours that would accumulate with 3 postal service trucks delivering mail in Orange County and compare that with delivery at Carolina North. Compact geography and density would deliver many economies of scale in public service provision.

Terri, Roger Perry assured us at a recent LAC meeting that the university was committed to paying for the costs incurred by local government resulting from Carolina North. Obviously, the particulars are still to be worked out.


I will always remain skeptical of the 'company town' model for housing. I'm from Missouri....I'm going to need to see it in action before I can put aside my concerns.

Will faculty and staff really be willing to set aside the wealth generating expectation of real estate in exchange for the convenience of living close to work? Will the university be able to build housing that is affordable and able to generate sufficient revenues to pay for municipal services? The assumptions the Carrboro leadership are putting forward will look very different if the residential development does not pay sufficient taxes to cover the services. In Orange County, houses sold for less than $250,000 do not cover their own services. What will the cost of services be for CN residential?

If I understand what this item says, you expect the university to provide housing for all faculty and staff at CN as well as employees associated with new businesses that locate here as a result of CN. If that is what you mean, doesn't that put the university in direct competition with commercial real estate developers? Isn't that illegal?

Terri, you've asked some variants on this question before and here are some links to my previous answers:

In sum, if we consider the traditional "bundle of sticks" that come with real property ownership, I believe that the unbundling of some of those parts, even if it means amending some laws here and there, might be very useful to the university and the towns. UNC would be able to leverage the private sector to have capital to build some of the buildings at CN. The towns would have taxable real estate that would help solve the tax equity issue. Those living onsite would have an opportunity for homeownership.

Sure, an approach like this would be nontraditional, but this project isn't, either.

Of course, in reality, I think we'd like to see the LAC come to such agreement as it can about Carolina North - whether related to its "physical development" or not. But at present I am not optimistic that any kind of fiscal equity agreement will be reached at the LAC. On the other hand, there have been good disucssions and increasing agreement ona number of other issues.

Thanks for the correction Mark. But there seems to be some conflicting information:

Christian, I regret dignifying your original absurd assertion with a response. Now you have completely departed from both the topic at hand and reasonable logic. I won't participate in your game any further. (Although I do encourage people to read the very nice Indy article which honored Mark and Empowerment for their work 5 years ago and which contains no information damning of anyone.)

Fortunately for you, there is a place you can go where people will be glad to entertain any theories you have that try to make our community's progressive leaders look bad. Or may I suggest you start your own blog? It's very easy these days.


Mark brokered the sale of my former house (yes, that house) and the purchase of our current home. I don't remember the exact amount of his commission, but I do remember the amount of effort he put in to getting two families settled and adjusted was far beyond what we could ever have payed him.

You can't introduce old chestnuts like "ethics and the perception of impropriety" while blindly casting aside good judgment. Judgment tells me that you raise interesting issues that have no bearing in the current circumstances.

Terri, the Leadership Advisory Committee has not been charged with "devising a plan for fiscal equity." The LAC, at the Chancellor's request, is to "develop the guiding principles for the physical development of Carolina North."

See Chancellor Moeser's charge to the LAC on March 2, 2006:

The Chancellor has proposed that UNC and the local governments develop a Request for Proposals to send to independent consultants to analyze the fiscal euity issue. The details of that process have not yet been finalized.

I expect some discussion of fiscal equity issues on the LAC, but I don't think the matter will be resolved there.

Mark P, I think you are right. I believe NCSU makes certain payments in lieu of taxes to the City of Raleigh related to the Centennial Campus, for example, and there are definitely other Universities elsewhere in America that make payments in lieu (Univ of Wisconsin at Madison as we recently learned).

Also, it is possible that housing at Carolina North might be taxable even if the underlying land is owned by UNC, I believe, but I am no expert on that area of law.

In any case, not building a significant amount of housing at Carolina North means having those households locate outside the Chapel Hill/Carrboro area, and that will mean traffic, pollution and expense. The point is not the exact number of dwellings to be built at Carolina North; the point is that housing should be a central aspect of the plan.

"3. Further, the number of dwelling units built at Carolina North should equal the number of new households that will be attracted to this area by the jobs created at Carolina North."

Interesting that this principle is being proposed by elected officials who have set as a goal to increase commercial development dramatically in Carrboro.

Will other commercial projects in Carrboro be required to provide housing for the employment they generate? If not on site, perhaps through some payment in lieu?

If not, why is Carolina North being treated differently? Of course, there is a scale issue, but the principle should be the same, shouldn't it?

Carolina North will create jobs in a county where 40% of our residents have to commute out of county to work. Over time, the jobs created there (and in other commercial development, hopefully in Carrboro) will bring folks to our area who will live here, many in existing stock, replacing folks as part of the natural turnover.

As for the "inflation" factor mentioned by Dan, (I think he means appreciation factor), more demand will certainly mean higher prices. But, again, that will also be true when any new commercial business builds in our area, and, in the case of Carolina North, the impact of the larger numbers need to distributed over, I believe UNC estimates, up to fifty years. That's plenty of time to absorb the increase locally, particularly if Carrboro upzones the Northern Transition Area,to allow more dense development. It will also help that both Chapel Hill and Carrboro are working to intensively increase housing density downtown. It would even be better is Chapel Hill would actually walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk, and stop the pandering to wealthy neighborhoods, downzoning areas to huge lot sizes, and stopping progressive infill development.

We have many ways to help increase supply to counteract the present and future effects of demand. UNC should be lauded for its continuing plans to provide some housing at CN. But for us to legislate that every potential employee needs to be housed by his or her employer seems a extreme, and untenable, stance. It will certainly make it more costly and difficult for any commercial development to be successful. And, wherever one stands on how CN is ultimately developed, I'm sure there is one thing we can all agree on. CN needs to be successful. The last thing we need is another area of town that is struggling to survive.

Terri, I believe CN presents a distinctly different set of policing issues.

So it sounds like they are studying the issue of property taxes. Thanks for the info.

Perhaps the term "fiscal equity" was throwing me off. Unless UNC agrees that the buildings and immediate land be subjected to real valuations and tax rates that are the same as residential rates (or a small percentage less if UNC handles police and trash), then we have cause to be concerned.

Mark C., my question was based on my understanding that no UNC property is currently taxed. Are you aware of any precedent where UNC pays taxes on property that it owns? I wasn't trying to assume anything and was just asking a question about what I think is unprecedented taxation.

Terri, in my use of "pitch in", I was trying to say "basically do their part". Encarta says "help willingly: to help or cooperate, especially willingly". I appreciate your clarification and It is my understanding that UNC pays a substantial share.

Mark P

Mark P, that does get to some important fiscal equity issues, but I wouldn't immediately assume that all of that housing would be tax exempt. It really would depend on how it is done.

Mark Peters--Based on earlier discussions, it was my understanding that devising a plan for fiscal equity was one of the primary purposes of this advsory board. It's not clear to me how any planning or discussions for transportation or housing can go forward in the absence of some plan for funding the services those hypothetical new residents will expect and deserve. (And just to be clear UNC does more than 'pitch in' on the buses.)

Will--The university is already providing policing for close to 10,000 campus residents. What's the difference between what they do now and what would happen on CN?

The issue of property tax/payment in kind/fiscal equity is one that definitely has to be addressed, both for the residential component and the research park component. I believe UW-Madison pays property tax on the buildings, but not the land, in its research park. They don't have any housing out there.

Something Mark Peters sparked a question: Who will provide police service for Carolina North? On the face of it, having UNC provide forces to cover 10,000 residents doesn't seem right.

Ruby said "Community Realty (where Mark works) is a nonprofit whose profits go to support the affordable housing group Empowerment, Inc. I don't think he stands to gain financially at all, even if the nonprofit continues to be successful."

Ruby, the realtors make commissions just like any other real estate office. Community Realty IS NOT A NON-PROFIT COMPANY. It is only OWNED by a non-profit. [ See ] Every agent there makes a commission like any other company, smaller, but the still get more money the more houses they sell. Now do you see the problems of perception?

And it is naive to think politics is not about perception.

Oh, and look at this. Talk about perception issues. Seems like you have your own history with Mark Chilton and emPOWERment, Inc.


"I heard it used to be a crack house at one point," says activist Ruby S[e]inrich of her Northside Empowerment home, a cozy house that features a screened-in porch and an ample backyard. "I don't think there's a street in Northside that Empowerment doesn't have a house or two on."

Politics. Face it, it's just another game, you against them.

Dan, I guess that description was clear as mud. Right now there's a lot of interactions - transit, economic, social - along the east-west corridor of Franklin St. to Main. St. Carrboro. With Carolina North, we've added a third point to the mix. I imagine folks circulating from our downtowns out to CN and back, that traffic will concentrate between these the vertices, that development will intensify along the corridors connecting these vertices, that inside this triangle - housing which will be equidistant to all three points will be priced accordingly, etc.

If what I'm suggesting is true, the discussions leading up to the LAC and since don't seem to cover this new model of our communities. A model of this new mini-Triangle is missing.

Mark, I believe that the revenue to pay for civic services, including schools, is part of the financial equity discussions.

3. Further, the number of dwelling units built at Carolina North should equal the number of new households that will be attracted to this area by the jobs created at Carolina North.

If 10,000 employees and their families are housed on university property which is exempt from property tax, then how will we pay for the schooling of their children? What about other services?

There is currently some married housing on campus and we could ask the same thing about this housing, but this pales in comparison to item 3. The vast majority of housing traditionally operated by the university doesn't have K-12 children. UNC pitches in for the buses, some for the fire protection, and operates its own police dept.


I found Mark's proposal quite creative. One thing we need to talk more about is the impact on schools that 10K new occupied housing units would have. If 10K people commute everyday, that has an impact on roads and traffic, air quality, and so forth, but if 10K households live here, that has an impact too--on water supplies, utility needs, trash generation, schools, and commercial development, recreational services, libraries, probably lots of other stuff I am missing----to service the expectations of a larger resident population. My understanding is that residential real estate property taxes don't cover the full cost of the services those properties receive. The fiscal impact study will be significantly affected by the amount of housing included in the final plan. (another reason to take Cam's challenge and get this done!).

And as we look at the other aspects of "liveability" I want to be careful that we don't turn CN into a version of a gated community, where people never come out and none of us have a reason to go in. The interface of its residents with the rest of our community--our existing businesses and organizations--is very important. The residents of CN will create new business opportunities for people who already live in our community, and I want to be sure that CN has a positive impact on our economy in that fashion. I don't want to see UNC running restaurants, dry cleaners, and hair salons to the detriment of the private sector here. The ancillary benefits to our town include economic opportunities for people to open new businesses, including professional services, or to expand existing ones, and that's important.

Point of clarification: EmPOWERment, Inc. is the owner of Community Reality.

Christian, it's not a question of "perception" it's a question of fact, at least in this case. Community Realty (where Mark works) is a nonprofit whose profits go to support the affordable housing group Empowerment, Inc. I don't think he stands to gain financially at all, even if the nonprofit continues to be successful.

From the front page of the website for Community Realty, where Mark Chilton works:

Carrboro Realty is the nation's first and only non-profit owned real estate agency. That means when we buy or sell your home we donate 100% of the profits to local charitable organizations such as EmPOWERment, a non-profit that empowers people to control their own destinies through affordable housing, advocacy, community organizing and grassroots economic development.

Many of us OP do not follow our local liberal politicians blindly. Not by a long shot. But if you want to oppose a politicians position then get to know the person and the facts.


The articles I linked point out other places where mayors have had conflicts of interest arise over real estate issues. Remember, in the courts, even if a judge was fair in a ruling they can be overruled only because of a perceived conflict of interest. It is that perception that can cause problems down the line. Do you want your mayor wasting time fending off attacks related to this perception?

If you read one article I posted:
"Franklin Mayor Tom Miller is under attack again for a perceived conflict of interest between his role in the city and his job as a commercial real estate broker."

I am not saying that Mr. Chilton is doing anything improper, but in politics it is all about perception, right? That is my "real problem".

And, yes, it effects all of us. It will have a bad effect on renters and a positive effect on real estate companies. And it is silly to think renters and home owners have the power and influence and zoning control that the Mayor does.

Just because someone is liberal does not mean I follow them blindly.


In a word, no. Everyone know's Mark's work in local real estate. CN will cause growth and people will need to live somewhere. I don't see what Mark has to gain from this equation. It's like saying someone who owns a bike has no right to express their opinion on the free bike program.

Nice try.

Will, can you elaborate further on your last point?

Since all of us live in homes you could argue that we all have an interest in the price of real estate, Christian. (It effects renters, too.) Thousands of people (including myself) live within a mile radius fof CN, do we have a conflict of interest?

Those articles have nothing to do with Chilton or anyone in North Carolina. What is your real problem?

Does anyelse here see a conflict of interest developing here between Mr. Chilton being the Mayor and also being a broker for a local real estate company?

An article on the subject:

Some more:

Dan and Mark, during last year's campaign I spoke of CN shifting the center of gravity between Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Where we used to have a fairly direct orientation between the two communities, CN will add a third point of concentration. So far I haven't seen any of the LAC discuss this shift - the consequences and opportunities it holds for our "traditional" alignment.

In fact, I haven't really seen UNC propose a model of the new dynamic between community centers. The Carrboro proposal actually adds more "heft" to the CN development - creating maybe a bit more balance between the community centers (yes, I know Chapel Hill doesn't really have a "center" anymore ).

Do you think this new topology will be discussed within the LAC?

On the one hand you have the specter of thousands of employeees driving significant distances to Carolina North and going home to do the bulk of their shopping, dining, etc in another county. Meanwhile, you are adding CN employees to the competition for housing in our own market spurring further price inflation.

On the other, you place those employees close to there jobs and to the heart of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, eliminating trips, gaining local economic benefits, and cancelling out CN-generated housing competition.

Yes, our delegation sees significant benefits in the latter: environmentally, economically, and socially.

The point of principle #3 is not that every employee at Carolina North will live there. Of course, some will chose otherwise. Rather, it is that housing there must offset the burden otherwise placed on the community. Employees of main campus winding up living at CN would be helpful as well.

As the statement above makes clear, we are not asking UNC to deal with the indirect housing impacts of Carolina North, such as additional jobs a Kinko's etc. Note that principle #3 says "jobs created AT Carolina North," not jobs created BY Carolina North.

I suppose that Carolina North employees will live wherever suits them, within their budget. On our present course, it seems likely that places within their budgets willl likely be 25+ miles away. That is the problem.

"housing there must offset the burden otherwise placed on the community"

Is CN 100% burden or does the Carrboro group see ways in which the community will benefit?



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