Orange County government gets elbow room

Local governments are practically salivating at the prospect of several new buildings that Orange County is planning to build in Hillsborough.

"What makes this different is we have 93,000 square feet of space in our inventory that we literally didn't have this time last week," Pam Jones, the county's purchasing director, told the board.

On Nov. 2, the commissioners approved an agreement of intent to build a central library, office building and parking deck off West Margaret Lane, as well as leasing the top two floors of the nearby Gateway Center. After one year and one day, the county has the option to buy those floors.
- County eyes department moves

This move will cause a lot of shuffling of departments, but also promises to serve the community by creating a new meeting room that will hopefully have more modern technology (for recording and broadcasting meetings). This and other new resourcs will be an asset to the whole community.

The new office space will free up space at the Link Government Services Center on South Cameron Street for a permanent meeting room that could be used by the commissioners, the Hillsborough Town Board and the community.


Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said he learned last week from Hillsborough Town Manager Eric Peterson that the town had been considering building a meeting space at its new public works site on the north side of town. Building there would require cutting down mature hardwoods that the county has been encouraging the town to preserve on the property.

"We're willing to share a meeting room with the town of Hillsborough," Jacobs said, "and we would be able to save those trees."
- | County, city ponder benefits of sharing spaces

What do you think they should do with the new space?



I live in Hillsborough and this building is going to be great. I believe that there is a parking component to it. Unlike Chapel Hill, Hillsborough understands that like it or not, you need a car to get around here.

I also don't understand why the people in Carrboro are so upset by the library plans. This is great for Hillsborough and will do much to serve people who live out in the county who currently have limited access to library facilities. I think the people in Carrboro should trek it up to Chapel Hill and use their library or the resources already available to them.

The County has planned for expansion for over 16 years but they always look for current opportunities when pitch comes to putt. Another adjustment comes when the price tag is revealed.

The worse sticker shock adjustment the BOCC did was in the early 80's when they took an architect's advise and remodeled the Whitted Center.....big mistake.

I'm not so sure the current plans won't increase a traffic/parking nightmare in Hillsborough but the downtown merchants certainly will be happy.

Most irritating is the whine coming from Carrboro about the relocation and expansion of the County Library. They want a new "Southwest County Library" Carrboro! Hey folks, you're big bucks now, pay for your own library! We did it in Chapel Hill and you can do it too. Annual modest subsidy? That's fine, you can ask the County for that each year but the County doesn't need to build you a new library.

Town of Hillsborough ordinances have no requirements whatsoever for green building techniques. If any are incorporated into the plans, it is because Orange County government volunteered to do so. Otherwise it isn't reasonable to expect the developer would volunteer to implement such standards since profit is more than likely a primary concern.

If we are to use the recently approved Gateway Center plans (the building to house Weaver Street Market on the first floor) as an example, those plans incorporate no green building technology whatsoever. Developers typically only want to do what is bare minimum to get approval. In the case of the Gateway Center approval from earlier this year, the developer wanted to do *less than* what was bare minimum.

Implementing green building technology would be a great idea for these buildings considering their location relative to a major tributary to the Neuse River Basin (the Eno River).

Mark M,

And because the negotiation for the building is planned to continue for the next few months in closed sessions, we will have no opportunity to analyze their plans and provide public input.

I agree that the county should try to be a model for green building where it makes sense.


Hopefully the project will incorporate the latest green building technology and include some solar power components (for both clean energy use and as a statement). We should aim for it to be a model project that receives national attention.

Unfortunately, the county office building built in the late 80's is anti-passive solar and lets in vast quantities of heat in the summer thus increasing the cooling load.

The building should allow more room for BOCC work sessions, which are sometimes standing room only. All of the current BOCC meeting areas already have wireless internet access.

I would rather see money spent to podcast than to build in broadcasting equipment like Chapel Hill and Carrboro have (though it is wise to at least prepare the wiring and space for it). Many times that I would want to see the BOCC live, the CHCCS BOE pre-empts it on cable, like, interestingly, the night that this project was hurriedly approved.

I am puzzled that the opening post makes this facility sound like a gift from heaven that just magically appeared, completely ignoring the lack of proper public input on the project, as described by this editorial by the News of Orange

One would think the board had gotten it right and the move would be embraced by all. But the board botched a chance at building good will and support by foisting its plan on the public only one week before approving it.

One week to digest the impact of a $23 million dollar deal. One week to consider its effect on downtown traffic. One week to figure out Talk about a public relations blunder.

It's not so much about whether the plan will benefit Hillsborough and the county at large. It's that precious little time was afforded to citizens to think about it. Apparently the commissioners had been thinking about it for more than a year. Why, then, are the rest of us only allowed a week?

For a board that prides itself on its ability to gain citizen input and maintain a healthy level of citizen participation, the move seems out of character.


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