Half page ads in September?

At this time a couple years ago there had already been two forums and an endorsement released in the Chapel Hill Town Council race. It's been comparatively quiet this year, although the forum season is about to heat up.

One candidate who to date was pretty much a mystery fired an opening salvo against the Town Council today. Matt Czajkowski had a half page ad in the Chapel Hill News on Sunday which criticized the Council for:

-Lacking a 'true voice' for fiscal responsibility

-Lot 5

-Its unfriendly reputation toward commerical enterprise that 'keeps businesses from even trying to open here.'

-A Franklin Street that is 'nowhere close to what it 'should and can be'

His ad was long on complaints and short on solutions. There was no statement about what his plans would be to deal with any of these problems or what relevant experience he had for fixing them. I would have liked to go to his website to find out but he doesn't seem to have one.

A half page ad almost two months before the election is pretty much unprecedented in Chapel Hill politics and may be an indication that Mr. Czajkowski could be spending an inordinate amount of money for a Town Council race.

Of course considering that he has never voted in a Town Council election before or appeared in the minutes of a Council meeting that may be what he has to do to run a viable campaign.

Anyway, this at least shows he'll be running a serious campaign. What else is going on out there?

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Total votes: 120

Comments

By building advanced technology infrastructure, like fiber, the Town could greatly improve its reputation of being business friendly. I know technology firms that might consider not buying that building in Cary if they could get REAL high speed Internet access in Chapel Hill.

Imagine if Chapel Hill became the first community in the Triangle to have such a service. Publicly owned fiber *can* be profitable and significantly contribute to holding property taxes at their present levels. With new sources of real INCOME like this the Town could do a lot.

What is Mr. Czajkowski position on increasing technology infrastructure for local business and citizens?

(We know how you feel WillR. Thanks for caring so much about it dude.)

Considering the power of incumbency and the miserable fiscal outlook, the ad was probably not such a bad way to start.

Not sure what the cost of such an effort this year would be but it shouldn't of been too much to get the ball rolling.

I guess, Tom, it worries you that it will make it might "wake up" the electorate and not make this year's election such a "snooze"?

Matt kind of softened the critique of Lot #5 (which you didn't quote as extensively as the rest). He said

Do you want to be forced to finance at leat $8.5 million is an ill-advised downtown project that was originally estimated to cost taxpayers $500,000?

which doesn't mention the $2 MILLION in TIME and FEEs already spent on the project, the $500K allocated during the final Spring session to BUY AFFORDABLE HOUSING PARKING and the obvious low-balling of the hazardous waste removal costs.

Oh, and there's the value of the land making the current taxpayer commitment (sans the very probably increase in cost of borrowing bond funds, costs due to disruption of Downtown services, costs not lodged against the Lot $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$5 project for current/future street improvements, etc.) somewhere North of $20 million.

Hey, maybe I'll add that in my own half-page ad?

Full advertisement text:

It's time Chapel Hill taxpayers had a choice

Do you feel as though there is a true voice on the Town Council for fiscal responsibility?

Do you want to be forced to finance at least $8.5 million in an ill-advised Downtown project that was originally estimated to cost taxpayers $500,000?

Does it offend you that Chapel Hill's reputation for being unfriendly to commercial enterprise keeps business from even trying to open here?

Are you mystified that after years of debate and discussion, Franklin Street is still nowhere close to what it should and can be?

You can have a choice.

Vote in November.

Matt Czajkowski for Town Council

Czajkowski, I learned, sounds like Tchaikovsky.

Is Chapel Hill really unfriendly to commercial enterprises? This has been a chorus that we've heard for years, repeated so often it has become conventional wisdom for some.

The confusing part is that there are so many communities which make little or no demands on business and thus Chapel Hill - to them - seems like a tough place to go.

Most candidates and CoC leaders who make this charge, don't address the bigger issue of how a "business-friendly" approach might alter the character of the town.

Tricky issues with no silver bullet in sight I know, but I've heard this anti-business rhetoric for so long now without much nuance from those who wield it as a seemingly incontrovertible truth.

I am constantly amazed by people who think if they just step into office and be "business friendly", businesses will leap to locate here or will stop leaving.

The Town Council and the BOA have little influence over the property owners in this area who think commercial enterprises are their cash cows to be milked. I cannot tell you how many successful businesses, some small but some national - like Sephorra, have left Chapel Hill and Carrboro over rent and moved on to Raleigh or Wilmington or Durham where there are just many consumers and the rents are lower.

Mark and Maria, there are some structural issues, beyond the demands for greater accountability and sensitivity , that make developing a business in Chapel Hill more difficult.

Of course, some of the shift is due to changes in the macro-economic outlook but we still could improve by reducing these impediments, reforming some of our tax structure (privilege tax repeal for instance) and identifying targeted areas for growth (like jobs).

Two years ago I made a big deal about getting an economic officer for our Town - something the other candidates also took on. We have the officer, now we need to get working.

One last thing on the business development aspect, Matt, I believe, is talking about perception not necessarily reality.

Kind of like the "perception" folks get when Cam proposes INCREASING the cost of parking downtown before making any of the low or no cost improvements the Downtown Parking Task Force suggested.

I'm with you on the "privilege" tax - it's just a silly, time-wasting thing that just makes you feel that yet another entity is taking a bite out of you.

On perceptions - candidates should not take advantage of flawed perceptions, rather they should show leadership and advance the debate beyond perceptions. The Chapel Hill anti-business perception is old & tired - unless somebody can give us a good analysis of what is gained and what is lost with a different set of policies. This is where it gets tricky and we are then faced with the reality that phrases like "anti-business" and "pro-business" are basically meaningless when faced with the complexities of meeting the various needs and goals of the town.

Michael, I struggled to get not just affordable housing but affordable commercial space as park of the Lot #5/Wallace Deck project (along with arts space, etc.).

Nada. Of course that was before it blew up into the boondoggle it is today. So, my wife, a Chapel Hill artist, is part of a Hillsborough gallery co-op, Kidzu/Lincoln Arts Center are trundling around town looking for arts space and local businesses are relegated to C-class commercial properties or moving to Durham.

I'll be bringing up (again) the strong cottage industry that we have IN SPITE OF Chapel Hill's cruddy public policy. I know a few professionals who would like to host a modest (4-5 client) business out of their homes. One has gone as far as getting her neighbors to sign-off on having a counseling practice. The Town's response - no deal - inadequate parking (that doesn't stop us from approving some other rah-rah growth projects).

Mark, well-understood on the tired phraseology. When you begin to sound the "anti-business" bell you had better be ready to move beyond to the details.

As BrianR notes, I've been hammering away at one aspect that would help us attract high-wage jobs with little environmental impact. Not only that, the new municipal networking infrastructure will level the playing field so that those cottage industries (and we have quite a few operating under the radar) can become job producing, locally economic stimulating concerns.

Last example on how the way we do business impacts the perception of how we do business. There was a couple that presented their grievance at the last Council meeting of the Spring (here's the video)
It appears that they've had the run-around on some zoning issue having to do with their personal property.

What struck me is: one, they had been through the process 5 times over almost as many years, and, two, they just wanted an answer. Not necessarily a YES or a NO - but for gosh sakes - some answer with finality so they could move on to the next step.

It appears the Town wasn't able to provide that finality. This isn't the only time I've heard such a story - and it adds to the poor perception - and fuels the "anti-business" rhetoric.

BTW, where were all the OP'rs at the TOC opening?

"Does it offend you that Chapel Hill's reputation for being unfriendly to commercial enterprise keeps business from even trying to open here?"

I run a small business from an office in Durham in RTP, but live in Chapel Hill. The reason I'm there and not in Chapel Hill is the price for commercial office space is higher in Chapel Hill, but that has nothing to do with the town council, its strictly supply and demand. What in the world could the town council possibly do to reduce rents? The high rents are caused by supply and demand, which in turn is affected by the proximity of the university and the scarcity of land.

At least for my technology business, there's nothing a town council could possibly do that would effect me, so I have no idea what the heck he's talking about.

"Are you mystified that after years of debate and discussion, Franklin Street is still nowhere close to what it should and can be?"

Maybe he's talking about getting the police to round up panhandlers?

So much for solidarity among people whose last names begin with Cz.

"There was a couple that presented their grievance at the last Council meeting of the Spring (here's the video) It appears that they've had the run-around on some zoning issue having to do with their personal property."

There's 15 items on the agenda, and I couldn't tell which one you were talking about, but zoning is a complicated issue.

"I know a few professionals who would like to host a modest (4-5 client) business out of their homes."

For every person who wants to run a business out of their house there's a few neighbors who wouldn't appreciate having the extra traffic, noise, hazardous materials, etc, in a residential area. That's why we, the community, sets aside some areas are for business and other areas are for homes.

Now if you're just talking about a self-employed individual, as far as I know there's no permission needed for that-- there's a huge number of people working out of their homes in Chapel Hill.

Self-employed, 4-5 individuals visiting her home once a week (4-5 visits total per week) with all her current neighbors signed off on it. One of her problems is that adequate commercial space at a price point to support a handful of clients doesn't exist.

Matt sent in a request on the numbers (which I'll post on my site) but the Annual Report pretty much captures our current debt issue:

2007-2008 Budget
The Council established a budget in June 2007 for 2007-08 that provides for no tax increase for
the second year in a row at 52.2 cents per $100 assessed value. The final budget totals about $87
million ($52.5 million for the General Fund, $14.7 million for the Transportation Fund, and the
remainder for various other funds). This represents a $6.5 million increase over last year's
budget.
A budget goal this year was to absorb the costs of positions added last year (21 positions,
primarily in public safety) while also paying the costs of voter-approved debts to build new
facilities and to fund their operating costs. The debt payment on the $25 million loan toward
construction of the Town Operations Center will increase about $390,000 in the coming year,
and for general-obligation bonds it has already issued by about $460,000. Additionally, less
revenue is coming to the town. While property tax revenues are growing, the sales tax revenues
are declining. The Town expects to receive about $400,000 less in sales tax revenues next year.

Less money, more obligations both which were anticipated yet not really dealt with....

WillR,

I know where several of the OP'rs were during the ceremonies for the TOC. We were at the Special Transit Advisory Commission meeting working on developing a Regional Transit Vision Plan for the area. Sorry to have missed the dedication.

Neat, how did the STAC go? Is bus rapid transit making a resurgence on the regional scene?

WillR,

We haven't gotten to the point of the "how" yet - we're still working on the "where". But I think given the size of the group and the diversity of the membership we're all happy with the way things are starting to come together.

Then again some of us didn't go to either meeting, we still have to work for a living! It's really frustrating when the public's business is done in the middle of the day when so many of us are at work.

Regarding Mr. Czajkowski's ad, it saves me a lot of time not having research candidates I don't know, just to find out all the reasons I don't agree with them. He's gone and laid it all out for me. How convenient!

True that Ruby. I have not been able to go to a single one of the Carolina North meetings because I don't get home from work until 6:30-7. Really wish they would offer a true evening session.

"Self-employed, 4-5 individuals visiting her home once a week (4-5 visits total per week) with all her current neighbors signed off on it."

Is your point that you want the default zoning rules for residential neighborhoods to be changed to allow small businesses up to a certain size? Or is your point the zoning laws should be changed so that businesses should be allowed if all property owners within a certain range sign off on it? Or is your point there is already a law and procedure in place to handling this type of zoning variance and the town council is not handling the requests properly?

I'm not opposed to that type of zoning variance, but it begs lots of questions like:

* What about people who purchase property after the business is established? Do they get a say, or once a business is established its there forever?

* How big a range of neighbors do you need to get permission from?

* What happens if the business changes its business model? Do they have to re-ask their neighbors, or are they there forever?

"One of her problems is that adequate commercial space at a price point to support a handful of clients doesn't exist."

At one point the lot 5 proposal included a section for live/work space, where a small business owner could purchase one unit, which included commercial space on the ground floor and living space on the second floor, but I think that was cut out at some point along the line.

I've seen one commercial proposal for providing inexpensive small office space:

http://www.carrborocoworking.com/

Good questions Michael. You seem to accept that the zoning could be managed under some kind of conditions.

I know the examples I'm using represent just a fraction of what kind of businesses would like to operate in Chapel Hill. I'm suggesting, though, we should see if there's a way not to penalize even this narrow segment WITHOUT damaging the charm, etc. of a neighborhood. Maybe it can't be done but I'd like to know we at least explored the possibility.

Strangely enough, we can build looming, brightly lit buildings right in a neighborhood's backyard but we can't seem to accommodate, say a therapist, that wants to service a few of their old clients in a quiet, at home, setting.

"Maybe it can't be done but I'd like to know we at least explored the possibility."

I'm not sure exactly what you're proposing, but I'm sure the town council and planning board would be happy to hear any proposals you would like to make regarding changing zoning laws. As a community, it takes a while to have zoning laws changed, as there's lots of citizens who want to have input before the community, through our local government, decide to change the rules.

Ads like Czajkowski's do make it easier to sort through candidates, although the words "business friendly"aren't exactly a new code for the orientation of someone's platform.

It does seem, though, that there's a difference between calling for fiscal responsibility and asking us if we're "offended" by businesses that have allegedly declined to consider opening here -- ostensibly because they are subject to standards and regulations they dislike (despite the economic demographics Chapel Hill offers). The odd word choice carries a contentious tone that could indeed make the campaign livelier if less clear on the actual issues (unlike most other campaigns.... [insert irony icon here]).

Next question: What actually does offend Chapel Hill voters?

Will, the practise you describe - 4 or 5 folks a week parking at a house - sounds a lot like the home office psychotherapy or massage therapy practises that many people operate in this area - in particular after they have children and scale back their practises - and an office becomes financially prohibitive but also unnecessary. So forbidding that is not only not business friendly, in my opinion it's not family friendly either.

Maria, sounds like we have mutual acquaintances ;-) I'm 45. Seems like folks my age are shifting both the way they work and the way they raise/interact with their families.

I looked up the zoning laws pertaining to home businesses, and the regulations seem reasonable to me. Its a good balance between protecting people's home values and the character of neighborhoods while at the same time giving people leeway to run home businesses.

So how can Chapel Hill be unfriendly to home businesses, when as far as I can tell all you need to do is fill out a form that never even goes before the town council?

For this idea to be even remotely true you'd either have to make the case that the current zoning laws regarding home businesses were unfair, or that the city wasn't applying the laws as written or that the city was applying them unfairly. Furthermore, to make the case that the entire town was unfriendly to home businesses, and not just in one particular case, you'd have to show a wide-spread pattern, so far the sake of argument lets narrow that the three.

So, whom-ever would like to make the case, please go ahead.

Here's the existing ordinance so save you some time:

Home Occupation of the Land Use Management Ordinance

a) Home occupations shall have a limit of one full-time equivalent employee who is not a member of the family residing in the home with the home occupation; “Full-time equivalent employee” refers to one or
more employees who work a total of no more than 40 combined hours on-site per week;

b) The use of the dwelling unit or accessory buildings for the home occupation shall be clearly incidental and subordinate to the use of the property for residential purposes, and not more than thirty-five
percent (35%) nor more than 750 square feet of the floor area of the dwelling unit and any accessory buildings combined shall be used in the conduct of the home occupation; provided, that the floor area defined as used in the home occupation is the area dedicated to or primarily used for the home occupation, and does not include areas incidentally used for the home occupation

c) No external evidence of the conduct of the home occupation, including commercial signs, shall be visible;

d) Traffic and Parking Regulations

(1) The home occupation shall not generate traffic volumes or parking area needs greater than would normally be expected in the residential neighborhood;

(2) In addition, normally there shall be no more than 3 vehicles parked at a given time on- or off-street for non-residential purposes including but not limited to parking by non-resident employees, customers, delivery services, etc.; but excluding drop-offs and pick-ups. Home occupations for arts education or similar educational purposes are exempt from any parking restrictions.

(3) There shall be no regular pick-up and delivery by vehicles other than those of a size normally used for household deliveries.
e) No equipment or process shall be employed that will cause noise, vibration, odor, glare, or electrical or communication interference detectable to the normal senses off the lot; in the case of detached
dwelling units, or outside the dwelling unit, in the case of attached dwelling units;

f) The on-premises sale and delivery of goods which are not the products of the home occupation are prohibited, except that the sale of goods which are incidental to a service of the home occupation is
permitted;

For the whole document just Google "chapel hill home occupations permit".

I think Will was just saying that there was no customer satisfaction. I dunno the details of the case he's talking about, but I think the point is just that the Council is supposed to help citizens make their lives better. I can see how the people involved would have come away from their proposal thinking the Council valued the town ordinances more than the people they are designed to look after.

Will, I'm 38 (for another 6 days). I know far more people who would like to change how they work and how they interact/raise their families than are able to actually do so. I grew up with a tradition of family run businesses and in a town that was dominated by them - both as storefronts and in people's homes, so I find the current system where the kids go to one building for the day and the parents go to another a little baffling. Is this really what we all wanted?

But my knowledge of health-oriented home businesses comes from 5 years being the admin of a local holistic health practise. We referred often to people who worked out of home offices.

Also there are many models for office coops in Carrboro. There's one that's been around forever in different incarnations over Phydeux on the corner of Weaver and Greensboro. And the Wellness Alliance on Weaver also became a coop about 7 years ago.

Chris, you're correct. The permitting process, it appears, can be somewhat off-putting.

These folks went to the Town to make sure they were dotting their i's/crossing their t's and walked away feeling, irrespective of what Michael quoted (which I'm familiar with and should've posted before - thanks for posting the details) that they were not allowed to maintain a small consultancy or practice in their home. One person told me that Inspections wanted to review their floor plans - maybe because of the #2 - which they felt intimidated by.

Instead of googling “chapel hill home occupations permit”, how about

"chapel hill" nc starting running home business

Wouldn't it be nice if the Town's website popped to the top with a page, maybe even interactive (!!!), explaining the specifics and walking folks through the process.

Of course, the same self-service idea could be applied to other areas (tracking the permitting process online, for instance).

On top of this is the issue of a privilege tax.

Carrboro Board of Aldermen Candidates' Forum
Monday, September 17, 7-9 p.m.
Carrboro Town Hall

The forum, organized by the Orange Chatham Sierra Club Group, will focus on local environmental issues. The forum will be broadcast on public access television.

When/where are the other candidate forums this year?

Is "driving privileges in Anderson Park" an environmental issue? :)

Maria, 38 is not so bad. I'm almost 46 (though sometimes feel much, much older when my knee starts to get sore).

Still the youngest person running for Council ;-)

"I can see how the people involved would have come away from their proposal thinking the Council valued the town ordinances more than the people they are designed to look after."

I don't understand the specifics of the one case that was mentioned here, probably because few specifics were given, because you just fill out a form, and if you meet the requirements for a home business you get a license. The town council doesn't personally review each and every license application in Chapel Hill!

My guess is someone didn't meet the requirements, and was petitioning the council to make an exception, but that's just a guess since this single complaint, such as it is, is on the level of rumor until the facts are known.

Reacting to the statement in a general way I want the town staff and town council to implement the laws as written, evenly and fairly to everyone. If there's a law that's not working, then the community needs to decide to change it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but no one is even pushing to change the statue for home based businesses.

There are two forums scheduled in October on back-to-back evenings. The Chapel Hill town candidates forum is Oct. 9 at Hargraves center and the Carrboro candidates forum is Oct. 10 at town hall. Both are sponsored by the Chamber and WCHL and CAN.

Kevin Schwartz
Gov't Relations Chairman
Ch-Carr Chamber of Commerce

I still think that one "fiscal responsibility" issue that we deserve an answer is the public art at the new Operations Center. We were told that it was to honor the employees, but from all of the media reports and the editorial in today's CHH, the employees do not seemed that impressed with the $420,000 spent to honor them. Go and see it for yourself and draw your own conclusions. And yes, I realize that some of the funds were Federal dollars, but where does that money come from?

Candidates for office who think the process and the amount spent on this project is a model of good government and fiscal responsibility, then we need new definitions. If they want to defend this, then they should do so boldly and without qualification.

And those who criticized me when I wrote a column back in February, including that "art loving" lady who called my house that Sunday screaming and hollering and using the English language in such a very artful way, I hope you will be able to see that criticism of the process is not criticism of public art.

Fred, we're overplaying the consumption-side - purchasing art in this case - while we're letting the production-side - supporting the production of citizen art - die.

If I'm elected, I'll be seeking reform of the Arts Commission to bring some balance back into our commitment to the arts.

An example. My wife, an artist, joined a Hillsborough co-op gallery which couldn't locate in Chapel Hill due to high costs.

As you probably know, I have asked, prior to it exploding into the boondoggle it has become, that we allocate space at the Lot #5 project for production and display of art. Instead we're getting a "signature" fountain (budgeted $400K+) - which - 18 months after I first asked - I'm still not sure the kids will be able to stick their feet in.

We're out of balance on our priorities - not just arts spending.

For instance, we're spending $300,000 on Town Hall ($135K to replace the doors, $164k in capital improvements [paint/carpet]) but only $225K on human services grants.

Maybe the Town Hall needs a spiffing up but isn't that equation inverted?

I was at the TOC opening sat on the bench. Is was nicely cool on a warm day but what struck me was that it was very poorly positioned. A nice shady spot where folks would naturally gather makes better sense - but then again - as the HeraldSun points out, public access seemed to be lost in the mix.

The other work was interesting but one local noted that it too was poorly positioned and not aligned very well with the site, the buildings or the environment.

Again, somewhere along the line we have lost balance in the process. Maybe it's just dealing with the occasional windfalls from the %1 allocation we have trouble dealing with but with 54 East, Hillsborough 425, the Walgreens occupation, Greenbridge, etc. there's going to be quite a bit of %1 floating through over the next couple years. If we have trouble, we need to deal with it now.

 

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