Ruby Sinreich's blog

Lights out

Duke Power mapIf you're reading this right now you're probably not in downtown Chapel Hill or Carrboro. Almost 6,000 homes and business are curently without power, all the way from UNC to Estes Drive Extension (lights out at Sewell School Road). I heard on WCHL that UNC Hospitals are currently operating on generators. 

Duke Power reports 5,782 customers without power at the moment (about 9 am) and their map shows that the problem is localized to the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area.  


Duke Power map  

What took the Commissioners so long to act on Rogers Road?

The news this week that the Orange County Board of County Commissioners has voted to charge a new tipping fee at the landfill to raise money for remediation in the Rogers Road neighborhood - a move that seemed somewhat ham-fisted to municipal governments (see below about that) - reminded me of a very interesting conversation I had last month. I attended oral history performances by a UNC class that conducted interviews with civil rights activists. Two students had worked closely with David Caldwell and Gertrude Nunn and learned about their neighborhood's 3-decade challenge of trying to get justice for living with the landfill that serves all of Orange County.

One grad student who is very familiar with local politics turned to me afterward and asked the same question that was in my mind: our County Commissioners have to be one of the most liberal boards in the state. How is it that the Rogers Road neighborhood has been stymied by them repeatedly, instead of being championed by the environmental and social justice advocates on the Board?

Robbing Peter to pay Paul?

So I was catching up on the Chapel Hill News yesterday and I noticed some eery similarity in two stories about new downtown developments in both Carrboro and Chapel Hill. In one article, questions are raised about how the developers of Greenbridge qualified for the gigantic loan that they are currently unable to repay. It should surprise no-one to learn that the 15% of the condos that were mandated to be affordable by the Town sold first.  It turns out that when the bank looked at pre-sales to determine demand, they counted the number, rather than the value, of the units. In fact, the News goes so far as to ask whether the affordable housing policy itself is somehow at fault for Greenbidge's current financial problems. I think that's a stretch, but it does make you think twice about the process by which banks decide to make commercial loans. (Housing bubble anyone?)

In another story, the News talks about the recently restarted mixed-use project at 300 East Main Street in Carrboro, which will bring 5 stories of retail, housing offices, a hotel, and parking to the current run-down strip mall that houses the ArtsCenter and the Cat's Cradle. (VisArt, RIP.)  One key element that helped Main Street Partners to secure their financing for this was the Town of Carrboro agreeing to lease a large number of parking spaces for the first few years after construction.

Do you have a stake in Chapel Hill's future?

If you've been following the creation of Chapel Hill's new Comprehensive Plan, then you know that the Town Council has selected a 15-member (plus 2 unnamed Council Members) "Initiating Committee" which is charged with developing the process through which the CP will be envisioned and created. The next step is to create a broad committee of what the Council calls "Stakeholders" who will serve as something like a huge focus group and light weight advisory committee throughout the CP process.

Below is the Town's announcement and URL for more CP information, including a well-hidden link to the application form to become a Stakeholder (also below under More info). I get the sense that no-one with a pulse and a Chapel Hill address will be turned away, but I'm not certain about that.

Return of the open thread

We haven't had one in a while. How are y'all?



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