No Weaver Street for Hillsborough?

The Hillsborough Board of Adjustment rejected a very good site plan for Weaver Street Market in downtown Hillsborough last night, voting 3-2 in favor. A 4-1 vote was required in order to pass the plan. Paul Newton and Al Hartkopf cast the two votes against Weaver Street. It is not at all clear why they voted as they did. It doesn't make sense. I think there will be a lot of people in Hillsborough who will want to know why, and who will want to know how to correct this mistake.


I would think that people in Chapel Hill and Carrboro could understand concerns about increased downtown traffic.

Paul Newton is a frequent OP poster; maybe he can provide more information about what influenced his decision before people leap to the conclusion that there is a hidden agenda.

Two board members voted against the changes, saying they thought the market would bring too much additional traffic to Churton Street.

The Gateway Center is approved to be built on the west side of Churton Street, next to Exchange Park Lane.

"I believe this is a way-too-intensive use for the busiest portion of the busiest street in Hillsborough," said Al Hartkopf, who cast a dissenting vote.

Jan 12, 2006 N&O: No Weaver St in Hillsborough

Too much additional traffic to Churton St? I thought we wanted activities in our downtowns.

Of course, if this development was somehow going to produce gridlock, there probably would have been a traffic study showing as much. Neither the Herald-Sun nor N&O article cite any such studies.

If there's no secret substory here and this development went down because of general opinions from two board members that there would be "too much traffic," the process of considering traffic impacts on the Hillsborough BOA can be called unimaginative at best. What's "too much?" What's the road capacity? How many cars will WSM attract? How many walkers? How many bikers? How is this different from a restaurant/retail establishment that would otherwise go in its place?

If one did a trip generation study at WSM in Carrboro, or even in Southern Village, the percentage of those arriving by bus, bike, and foot would likely be much higher than standard trip generation rates provided by the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE) Trip Generation manual, which generally produces rates by studying suburban locations in Florida. Why? WSM has taken pains to locate in walkable community centers. While not directly in the heart of Downtown Hillsborough, this store is certainly close enough to attract significant pedestrian traffic.

If these BOA members are just assuming that everyone arriving at WSM will come by car, perhaps based on their own experiences in grocery shopping, then they are doing Hillsborough a disservice.

For more detailed critiques of Trip Generation procedures promulgated by ITE, visit this link (PDF):


Citizens should flood the BOA with requests asking for evidence of "too much traffic." This is a bad decision for Hillsborough.

This seems illogical in many ways.

What kind of economic activity do they want downtown?

It seems like a great opportunity for all the Hillsborough downtown businesses, something they would find a way to make work.Something doesn't make sense about this.

I thought the explanation for this decision (in the paper) was idiotic. There must be some other agenda hidden behind all this.

I'm with Mark and James on this one. The explanation given really didn't make alot of sense to me. Based on the hugely positive impact Weaver Street Market has had on Carrboro, especially their employment practices and wage scale, I would have thought that they were a perfect fit for Hillsborough. Something about this really doesn't add up.

Allan, I'm not aware of any serious observer of Chapel Hill and Carrboro who thinks "too much traffic" is a major concern with regard to downtown.

What's more, downtown retail resources like a grocery store could actually enable the kind of walkability many of us have been advocating for downtowns. This is why we've been encouraging Chapel Hill elected officials to make a downtown grocery store a top priority.

If I recall in December the traffic issue as well as others were raised with the deverloper and Weaver Street. From news reports it would appear that the traffic issue was not addressed. Nothing like having the questions to the test a month before and then complaim you are not ready for the test.

Almost every business deverlopment generates questions about traffic flow and impact and there are "experts" from both sides who try to answer this question. If the traffic info is there then lets see it and prove these two gentlemen wrong. If it was Kroger or Harris Teeter wanting to build would you be standing up for them???

Traffic issues have been a problem in Hillsborough for years. The big rigs are band from downtown unless they are making a stop in the area. As for the bypass it has yet to be built.

I guess those folks up in Northern Orange & Hillsborough are just a bunch of ideological no-growthers. Man, my taxes keep going up and those people up there are splitting hairs and waiting for some kind of utopian businesses...

I actually live in Hillsborough and the downtown traffic is a concern for me.

I frequently go well out of my way to avoid the traffic problems caused by Hwy 86 through downtown.

Until a downtown bypass is completed for those people heading through town on 86, any development that might bring more cars downtown and created more parking problems should avoided.

Maybe the two who voted against this project want a comprehensive plan for downtown. If you haven't been to downtown Hillsborough lately, the traffic truly is a nightmare and the town doesn't have many sidewalks. I hope the town board will be thoughtful in how they proceed, not burning their economic development bridges but also not allowing uncontrolled growth.

Back during the election, I can't even begin to tell you how many people told me they never went downtown because it was too crowded. Maybe it's just me, but perhaps having a crowded, busy, heavily trafficked downtown is a good thing? Though, I'm probably out on a limb again. I don't think commercial business is the kind of traffic any downtown ought to be discouraging.


If a Kroger or HT could do a smallish store with public space designed to foster community and walkable access for people who already live and work downtown, you bet I'd support them. Sadly, however, these retailers both have a big-is-better mentality that creates a host of unintended and negative consequences. It's really too bad they don't have enlightened leadership that would develop a "boutique" option for infill applications.

Intuitively, the traffic issue for a WSM at that location in Hillsborough seems real to me, but it's hard not to want to read more into this since Hartkopf and Newton don't really seem like 'co-op' y guys... I'll give them the benefit of the doubt... What was wrong with using the old Southern States site?

BTW, WSM, if you're tired of looking for a place to site in Hillsborough, why don't you come on up to north Carrboro... Winmore???

Speaking of pedestrians and transit (and off topic), I'm becoming increasingly unnerved by the hoards of bus riders standing in the middle of MLK Jr. Blvd. trying to cross lanes of heavy, fast traffic. Is it time for more pedestrian street-crossing amenities in north CH?

Hillsborough just lost a golden chance to bring into a key downtown location one of the Triangle's most admired enterprises. In a region increasingly marred by urban sprawl, where we are forced to patronize faceless big-box chain stores, Weaver Street Market offers a precious alternative—a friendly, socially responsible, local, walkable place to shop and socialize. The cooperative's Carrboro store is one of the hubs of that community, serving a function much like the fabled "general store" of yesterday. A store in Gateway Center would have been a tremendous gain for Hillsborough, the capstone of the recent resurgence of downtown and a highly visible affirmation of our commitment to economic development.

But instead of welcoming this opportunity, our neuroses about traffic congestion have scuttled it, and may well lead to Weaver Street abandoning its plans altogether for a Hillsborough store. To some, Churton Street is not the heart and soul of an venerable town, but just another passageway for the almighty automobile. The great humanist Lewis Mumford once pleaded, "Forget the damned motor car and build cities for lovers and friends." Our forebears created in Hillsborough a superlative example of American urbanism, designed for people not machines. We do just the opposite. Our servant has truly become our master.

Hillsborough ain't Carrboro. This is an apples and oranges discussion.

As one of those people who daily worries about becoming a pancake on MLK, I heartily agree Mary.

BTW, here's something on Paul Newton's ideas for downtown Hillsborough:

I agree that Airport road/MLK is a race track. I always look about 3x before proceeding thru a light, whether on motorcycle or car. There are a lot of speeders and red light runners on that road. I wish there was a way to get it back to 35 MPH.....

Well, I grew up out in the county, and I'll admit that downtown is one of the only north-south arteries through the the county.

But at the same time, it's a business that wants to move in. They want to come provide services and goods to consumers and they want to pay taxes. What's more, they're bending over backward to try to please Hillsborough. I'm really surprised to hear that a fellow sitting member of the county GOP's executive committee and a former member would block a business enterprise like that. Seems counterintuitive.

I'll reserve judgment till I hear from Paul or Al, but I just wonder why the two of them (they're a political bloc, which makes sense given how close together they live) didn't ask WSM to come up with answers to their concerns.

I hope WSM doesn't give up and decide to stay away. We like you. Really. You have "living wage" stuff for the lefties, and you're a business that provides needed services and an example of entrepreneurship for us on the right.

I think Hillsborough should adopt downtown Durham as a model. Afetr about 6pm you can sleep in the middle of some of the streets.

When I moved to North Carolina 8 years ago, I settled in Cary, which was close to my job in RTP. After about a year, I discovered the charming town of Hillsborough, which was still within driving distance of RTP. The compact historical town had a some nice restaurants and shops. I decided to move here after finding a small house in the historic district so I could be within walking distance to these attractions.

After living in subdivisions my whole life, I started to enjoy the benefits of living in a community where people milled about on foot. You bump into a lot of people in the shops, people who gradually become your friends. You learn new things in your discussions and become involved with the workings of the town. This environment contrasts with the communities I grew up in because there was no incentive to get out of your car and interact with your neighbors in those cold subdivisions, which didn't have any meeting places within walking distance.

Although Hillsborough had many amenities, the one thing it missed was a small grocery store. When I heard Weaver Street Market was coming to town, I thought, now we are cooking! Not only does the market sell good quality food, but the site plan for the new market in Hillsborough included a lawn, which would further encourage community-building. This would be a golden opportunity to bring in a company that is not only valuable to the community, but that values the community itself; for example, it donates one-third of it's pre-tax profits to community organizations.

Voting down the building plan for the market is a missed opportunity. I hope town members contact their elected and appointed officials to find out what can be done to restore the possibility of bringing this good corporate citizen into our town so that our community can be enhanced.

Wait a minute, I seem to remember the potential traffic generating implications of many Chapel Hill/Carrboro developments being a major factor under discussion during the approval process. Why is Hillsborough all of a sudden some kind of backwards thinking community for asking exactly those same questions? We've had developments/imrpovements in Southern Orange that have either been denied b/c of traffic implications or have been substantially modified.

I was at an Orange County EDC meeting last night and several Hillsborough/Orange county folks said that they don't think WSM is off the table at all. They just think that somebody--WSM, town, someone---will have to do more traffic impact study and see if there are ways to improve traffic flow through there.

There is tremendous public support for WSM in Hillsborough and I cannot imagine any person who is serious about promoting smart economic development wanting to close them out--they are the ideal kind of commercial entity for any community. I don't think the newspaper necessarily has the entire story in its initial reports. Don't tar and feather those folks just yet until we know more about their reasons for making this decision. It appears they are at some level asking many of the same questions we do in our own community about the potential impact of such a development on the surrounding environs.

Before we fully canonize WSM, let's remember a couple of things. They're far from poor, yet they charge more for identical items found at Harris Teeter. Examples include my Kashi cinammon cereal $3.99 at WSM, $3.49 at HT; gallons of organic milk are also usually cheaper at HT, by similar double-digit percentages.

I remember Duncan Murrell once stating here on OP that WSM strong-armed their wine suppliers to force Cliff's to raise its wine prices to match those at WSM.

I love shopping and eating at WSM. I go there multiple times a week. But I sure wish I didn't have to drag the two little kids over to HT as well in order to save several dollars with each modest grocery outing.

Look at the demographics at WSM. Then compare those with Food Lion. WSM in Hillsboro will intensify gentrification there. It's not a worker's paradise.

(By the way, I've long thought a local blog dedicated to consumer price comparisons would be fantastic and possibly even helpful in lowering some prices. Of course, there'd be potential liability for price typos and errors.)

Jeff, those items probably cost WSM more too. They don't have the volume purchasing power of a Harris Teeter.

The cost of items sold is just one factor of many to consider about what makes a WSM or something else desirable. A healthy business economy has vendors providing a variety of goods for sale at multiple price points. Poor people need a place to shop, but so do those who choose to spend more to get either better quality, better service, or unique goods. There's nothing wrong with a business catering to higher income people or to people of a lower income who choose to spend more of their resources on food (or anything else) than you or I might.

Weaver Street Market invests back into its community, it provides important community space on the wonderful lawn, it works hard to pay as well as it can for the positions it has. WSM buys from local vendors, and it provides a lot of people in this community with a sense of place. Also, if you have a problem with something that goes on at Weaver Street, you can talk to a local person who has the authority to solve the problem right then and there.

Hillsborough has many traditional grocery stores, selling goods at competitive prices. What I see here is the opportunity to serve a segment of the market that currently doesn't have a place to spend its dollars in Hillsborough, and to do it with a local business whose track record we already know--generally incredibly positive.

Clarification for Anita . . .

Traffic considerations are indeed major points of contention for most developments in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. In fact, I've rarely seen a proposed development debated without a family from the affected area showing up with kids in tow to point out the safety risks and traffic burden.

But I don't think I've ever seen that sort of thing happen with a downtown development, certainly not in Chapel Hill.

The situation is different in Hillsborough, of course, because the main street downtown is also a major north-south connector.

Let's be honest...if WSM was concerned about traffic issues the Carrboro store is in the worst traffic location humanly imaginable...actually that whole Rosemary/Franklin St - Main/Weaver St. location is terrible, to say the least. I can only wonder what city planners were thinking when they designed that intersection...or maybe I should wonder what they were smoking.

johnk..."I agree that Airport road/MLK is a race track. I always look about 3x before proceeding thru a light, whether on motorcycle or car. There are a lot of speeders and red light runners on that road. I wish there was a way to get it back to 35 MPH…"

This is a problem all over the city and it comes down to one thing..."How many of you can honestly say you've either received or seen someone receiving a ticket?" I've spoken to CHPD officers have have been told that if they right too many tickets they are risking their jobs. I walk to work everyday and crossing Franklin St (at a light even) is taking my life into my hands. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen someone blow through the traffic lights I could retire and move to New Zealand. I've said it bofore and I'll say it again, the Chapel Hill police chief needs to be investigated and replaced.

A great deal of study and funding have gone into improving the transit flow in downtown Carrboro in advance of the ArtCenter redevelopment. The CH Town Council is now considering how to restructure Rosemary Street as part of the redevelopment along that road. So while downtown traffic may not have been a consideration in the past, Hillsborough is clearly following the south Orange lead by considering it now.

Hi folks,

Here's another northern Orange County person who is bummed that WSM was not given an opportunity to address concerns further. From what I read in the papers, they did address quite a few of the concerns raised in the weeks between meetings. Admittedly, we have some traffic issues in Hillsborough, but we're watching other businesses go up in other busy areas (Oakdale Village on the corner of 86 and Oakdale Road and the developer doesn't even know who his tenants will be!) so it's hard to understand the rationale for disallowing this business from going up.

The property that WSM owns is located on Margaret Lane and is no better suited to handle increased traffic of any sort. It has no sidewalks and when cars are lined up on both sides of the street, there's enough room for only one vehicle to pass through at the time.

I am also saddened with this setback as I deal with food intolerances and shop at WSM and Whole Foods to find alternatives to wheat, dairy and eggs. I can't get those kinds of foods at traditional grocery stores and certainly not at Super Walmart. And while I live on the southern side of Hillsborough, and can make Carrboro in about 25 minutes, what about those Orange residents with special diets north of Hillsborough who must either drive 40 minutes to the south or take their money (and tax dollars) across the county border to Durham?

I know there are ordinances and I'm sure there are issues that I am unaware of, but I agree with whoever above said that this is a loss for our community. I just hope the WSM folks are flexible enough and will look for another opportunity to open a branch up here. As others, I just hope that I can take the reasoning of the BOA members at face value.

Libbie Hough

The traffic implications of the Gateway center have been part of the discussion around its approval from the get go. With Churton Street being the only real corridor through that area, Hillsborough has to think about its downtown traffic in a way that just hasn't been part of our discussions about our Southern Orange downtowns.

My understanding is that there was a lot of back and forth about the traffic impact of this center that happened during the initial approval process and when it was presumed a bank would occupy the space that WSM now wants. So the concern about traffic hasn't just popped up out of nowhere.

I believe there was some proposed redesign of the project flow that happened to accommodate WSM, which again made the group look at the traffic situation and how the changes in both the proposed tenant and the redesign affected traffic from the original proposal.

I'm not sure that we've had any comparable development or redevelopment in Chapel Hill or Carrboro's downtowns until recently that actually added substantial square footage to the property inventory. Terri correctly points out that developments that are actually increasing the footprint size of both our downtowns are now generating conversations about traffic.

Many reliable sources in Hillsborough say that they don't think the intent was to "kill" WSM but but that it just needs more work to fit into what has been a challenging project from the get go. I hope they are right! Certainly citizen input will influence the powers that be.

In talking with other reliable sources in Hillsborough, I learned today that a transportation expert with UNC's Highway Safety Research says that Weaver Street Market on Churton in Hillsborough would reduce motor traffic because potentially hundreds of people living within 1/4-1/2 mile of the market would choose to walk or bike to the market, reducing car trips through town on Churton to the grocery stores that we currently have.

As for the discussion at the BOA meeting when the Weaver Street plan was rejected – I understand that there was no discussion of the traffic issue, just an assertion that there would be too much traffic generated. I understand that there was no effort by the dissenting voters to work out a solution with Weaver Street.

All of this, combined with my experience of Paul Newton as a pro-growth, pro-business planning board member, who is willing to work very hard to bring giant developments to Hillsborough–he was a driving force behind Hampton Point, which may soon be bringing us a 24 hour Huddle House–leaves me wondering why Paul and Al voted as they did. It just does not make any sense to me at all. It does not make sense to many people–Hillsborough has been working for a long time to bring Weaver Street here, and now people are angry. And they should be.

Maybe they were hoping for a Food lion, you know, something that the proletariat can afford?


You touch on an important issue and it's similar to the issues discussed around the Wal-Mart siting? And that is what is the real cost of these big corporate businesses? Important issues here are the quality of food in regard to personal health, the importance of a food store that buys and sells local produce, the worth of a community center where people can meet and connect, the local nature of ownership, and the esthetic qualities associated with the building design and appearance - just to name a few. These are all issues that affect the "proletariat" - personal health, strength of local economy, community connections, and pleasing surroundings.

If Hillsborough leadership can't find a way to make this happen, then I think they should consider temporarily moving the Town Hall down to the Daniel Boone strip where they can enjoy the type of development they apparently appreciate.

Mark, Weaver Street Market feels a liitle strange to alot of folks, and all these folks don't necessarily like big, anonymous stores-- some of them like hanging out in little country stores. We've had this debate before about whether or not WSM is the 'people's store' and in my mind, it's not. Truth is, I've got a membership, but I can't grocery shop there... I've never had the inclination to figure out the food choices... and yes, I care about food quality and health, but not to the degree I would imagine an average WSM shopper does... I think WSM caters to those who prioritize personal health beyond the norm... I'll admit it, I've never felt completely comfortable at WSM... I feel more comfortable at gas stations (also, an important place where people meet and connect... energy issues aside...)

Mark, all that is fine and good, if you can afford it. To imply that large chain food stores do not sell healthy foods is incorrect. And, as I have said before, Hillsborough is not Carrboro.


I'm not "implying" that large scale chains don't sell healthy foods, I'm flat out saying that a huge amount of food that is sold in chains is toxic.


I believe that Paul Newton and Al Hartkopf have posted on this site before so...Paul and Al, if you are reading this, please post your reasons for voting against WSM so we all can stop speculating.


Mark- that is interesting! Can you site some specific examples of food that is toxic????

Laurad- you will have to look for a response from Mr. Newton on another site, he does not post on this one apparently but has posted on others regarding this matter.

The other site John is referring to is Squeeze the Pulp. The thread to which Paul Newton responded can be found at:


Why don't you call the FDA and report them??

The agribusiness companies run the FDA.

Oh, okay.

On squeeze the pulp, Paul made mention of the 4 factors that the BOA must weigh when approving a project. It would be nice to know what those are as the papers and quotes used only referred to traffic considerations. And, if I erred in my earlier post in implying that I could in no way trust BOA members' reasoning, I apologize. Chalk it up to deep disappointment. I know that there are many sides to every issue and what on the surface may seem completely doable, may not be. Again, I hope that WSM and the town can work something out. It would be a win-win for everyone.

While Paul writes that he based his vote on performance standards and findings of fact, my understanding, from people who attended the meeting, is that he and Al did not actually offer any evidence at the BOA meeting to support their position that the plans did not meet public safety standards. Often, when the Board of Adjustment does not have any evidence to support its position (as, for example, when it would not allow Adam & Eve into town many years ago), their ruling will be overturned on appeal to the Superior Court.

For those who might fear that WSM might be too coopy for Hillsborough, I think WSM in Hillsborough can take on the flavor of it's location. For example, WSM's Southern Village location has a different feel than Carrboro. We are just talking about an empty building and a lawn until we fill it. They are not going to bus in hippies from Carrboro or upscale folks from Southern Village. The store will reflect the nature of the town.

As for the cost of shopping at WSM, a person might pay more up front for healthy food, but an argument can be made that these costs are made up on the back end through fewer illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Folks might might be willing to pay more for radicchio lettuce if they thought it might help them in the long run.

As for the traffic concerns for Hillsborough, can anyone share what they are, other then a general feel that it's too busy? Is it the amount of time spent in traffic? It takes me on average about 8 minutes to travel from Union Street to I-40, and that doesn't vary too much at peak traffic hours, maybe by +/- a couple minutes. If people feel that they sit in traffic too long, what do they feel is reasonable? What are the other metrics? Car-trips-per-day? Pedestrian fatalities? But this may be irrelevant since, per an earlier post, a UNC expert stated that this development would lower congestion.

Quick reference here on food toxicity.

Interesting reading perhaps, but hardly scientific or factual. Some of the links (two out of the three I tried) were dead ends.

Getting advice about the effects of antibiotics on farm animals and thus humans from a website that sells antibiotic-free meat is hardly unbiased. And even they really do not say it is bad for you- no studies cited etc just conjecture and opinion.

Not exactly compelling scientific evidence to support your claim. Sorry.

John, Try the USDA website for factual information (and some other bias no doubt). Also, acrylamides are a hot issue right now... and the going theory is that polyacrylamides are completely safe to use in everything... and we are using them in everything... including waters and soils... I hope the experts are right... I thought it was interesting that herbal teas were not listed by sssalas...

It is hard to get the truth, isn't it? As you say, even the FDA could be subject to bias. Any study is going to be hard pressed to eliminate all bias. But FDA is worlds away from that sssalas site. You don't look for info about the dangers of, say, skiing on a ski resort's website, do you??

Mary-are herbal teas toxic? Water can kill you in too-large...quantities.

One of my "fake eco-healthy" faves is bottled water- they can put anything in there they want. Me, I drink good old OWASA tap water- they check their product regularly- I find them much more trustworthy.

John - good call on OWASA tapwater vs. bottled water.

As far as toxic food problems, I realize this is verging on off-topic (although I think it is totally a local concern and vitally important to our regional future from growing to selling to what's served in schools - or hospitals mind-blowingly -to burdens on social support systems, etc.)

So just one purportedly scientific report here:



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