Forum Open Thread: Chapel Hill Town Council

Nine candidates, four seats. Welcome to the open thread for tonight's live Chapel Hill Town Council candidate forum.

We hope you'll use this space to post your thoughts and reactions. You can reach the editors during the forum via Twitter, Facebook, or the contact page.




Welcome to the third and final OP candidate forum of the season. Kirk and the editors (minus Erin) are gathering at OP forum headquarters in Carrboro for some pre-forum carbo-loading (thanks, Amante!).As of this morning, all nine candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council have registered on OP. We're looking forward to an interesting, dynamic discussion.Please join in.

1)what will you do to create & increase affordable & modestly priced RENTAL housing for the work-force & retired work-force who have too much income for federal housing assistance and yet are not wealthy & do not have enough to buy housing with the community land trust nor able to retire to Carol Woods or The Cedars and need decent, safe RENTAL housing in safe friendly neighborhoods with trees & gardens and NOT stuck in "boxes" of high-rise housing along 15-501 & NC 54 corridors, so that the teachers, social workers, town personnel, hospital support personnel, secretaries, UNC support staff, police & fire dept personnel, day care providers & other service delivery folks & retired work force can afford to live here? 2) Also what will you do to work with UNC to increase safe affordable housing for undergrad students so that they don't end up in neighborhoods where their life-style & habits might not blend well with working folks & families & retired folks?

Jim Ward  Work with Home Trust, Empowerment, and others.  Consider working across jurisdictional lines with Carrboro and/or the county.  The inclusionary zoning recently passed will help. While UNC and UNC Hospitals currently see this as an important issue, they need to be a bigger part of the solution as their contribution needs to be in proportion to the number of their employees needing affordable housing.  People prefer different kinds of housing.  There is a growing interest in higher density housing which can be just as warm and pleasant to live in as traditional neighborhood housing.Work with UNC dean of students and others to strengthen their resources to educate students living in Chapel Hill neighborhoods.  Students can be wonderful neighbors with a little education, good communication, and enforcement. Also work with UNC and UNC Hospitals to identify property such as Carolina North where additional undergraduate housing can be constructed.

I read the questions and will provide my response in between the ongoing forum questions...Question #1:what will you do to create & increase affordable & modestly priced RENTAL housing for the work-force & retired work-force who have too much income for federal housing assistance and yet are not wealthy & do not have enough to buy housing with the community land trust nor able to retire to Carol Woods or The Cedars and need decent, safe RENTAL housing in safe friendly neighborhoods with trees & gardens and NOT stuck in "boxes" of high-rise housing along 15-501 & NC 54 corridors, so that the teachers, social workers, town personnel, hospital support personnel, secretaries, UNC support staff, police & fire dept personnel, day care providers & other service delivery folks & retired work force can afford to live here? Response to Question#1: This will be difficult to address the issue of modestly priced rentals because of market conditions; however, I believe there may be some partnership with property owners to sustain mid-priced housing that afford qualities as we look for neighborhoods in an area that's safe and offers available Town services.While the Town has some initiatives for affordable housing to its employees, with some efforts, I believe more can be done to make affordable housing initiatives for the local workforce. I don't have an immediate answer as I am undergoing further research in this area. 2) Also what will you do to work with UNC to increase safe affordable housing for undergrad students so that they don't end up in neighborhoods where their life-style & habits might not blend well with working folks & families & retired folks? Response to Question#2: Already into the election season, there's been discussing about the need for better communication and correspondence with UNC-Chapel Hill. This would be an area to encourage such communications. Beyond off-campus student housing (undergraduate and graduate) there's needs to discuss affordable housing intiatives for those univeristy employees who reside outside the town of Chapel Hill. I would look into additional initiative for the workforce serving the Town's interest as well.

Like Damon said, I'm not at forum HQ tonight, but I'll be following both the open thread and the forum thread from home. For transparency's sake, I'm glad to do it; however, I'm a little jealous about the pizza. :)

Perhaps they are inspired by the Chapel Hill 2020 Visioning process, but I'm hearing lots of conversation about managing our growth in the new economy.  Folks are concerned about their taxes, but also appreciate the quality of the services the town provides.  I'm hearing that they do not want to sacrifice our community's leadership as an environmental & sustainability leader. Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

I love our downtown and I'm there frequently.  Had dinner at Crooks last week and stopped by the Crunkleton.   Really like the Hell transformation into the Underground.  Easy parking in the new lots behind the Lantern, but actually parked right in front of the Crunk when I stopped by there. Saw Horrible Bosses at the Varisity the weekend before with a great crowd.  I'll be heading to Salon 135 for a haircut later this week.  Alan has some great new staff working there.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

One thing I don't think gets enough discussion in our town is our downtown churches.  I was last downtown this morning - worshipping then eating at Ye Ole with family and friends.  I think I heard several churches are letting the OccupyCHC folks use restroom facilities -- downtown churches are great resources we need to give more voice to in our downtown efforts.

Don't forget about us Jews James. We love our OccupyCHC folks also. Jews have been fighting for freedon and rights of all citizens for a long time. 


CH Kehillah has certainly demonstrated strong partnership as a downtown religious organization over the years, through Justice United and otherwise.  Sorry for the use of a term which I didn't intend to exclude anyone.  My point was more about how downtown businesses get a voice, UNC gets a voice, residents get a voice, but we don't have an effective process to hear from the religous community (ie, I'm not a downtown resident, but I shop there, park there, etc - every week) when talking about downtown.

I got your point. I am just having so much fun sitting at my computer with a glass of wine watching this all unfold.

Hoping the candidates respond to this question in a way that recognizes the changes that have already taken place over the last two years.  Including improved ZCP process, expedited review for downtown projects, the great new software recently deployed in the the Planning Department that makes the process much more streamlined and transparent, the experiments of combining presentations to boards and commissions, etc.  I've been concerned in previous forums that candidates aren't aware of the changes that have already taken place, or are in process already.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

I want to restate my support for having voted for including affordable housing IN Greenbridge.  When I first ran for Council in 2001, I said I would not support gated communities in Chapel Hill.  Of course there isn't room for traditional Governor's Club gated development, instead they take the form of high rises.  To not support inclusionary affordable housing in these kinds of developments is to accept gated communities in our downtown.   Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

Thanks for commenting along the way.....Always an informed opinion.

Shucks Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

This isn't a question about being FOR them or AGAINST Food Trucks.  There are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.  We're doing that.  Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

Kirk's follow-up comment applies to your response, too:

I covered the discussion in Carrboro. It was pretty open, but the whole process didn't take more than a couple months or so.

So, did Carrboro not address the concerns, or are the concerns different for Chapel Hill?

I think it is much better to make sure that the ordinance is right the first time around. Staff is doing a bang up job researching other towns, towns our size, and what the  overall effects to local bricks and mortar are. We are almost there. 


so I don't know whether they did or not.  But I do know that many restaurants in Chapel Hill have made significant investments in our town and have some concerns.  We need to fashion an ordinance that responds to those concerns. I think we will create one that allows for reasonable Food Truck opportunities and addresses the concerns of our existing businesses.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

Interesting comments regarding the very good question about the development review process. I'd have been interested to see what the candidates think of the Code Studios draft report of the problems with the Town's zoning codes, as it got some media attention a couple of months ago.

I'm pretty disappointed that almost none of them directly answered the question which asked them to talk about specific projects and how they went through the process.  And Greenbridge shouldn't even count. It makes me wonder how familiar they are with the actual process, or if they just like to dump on it.

I just like to dump on it ;-) Come on Ruby its the 10k lb gorilla of bad.


That's my point. It's such an obvious target. (Although I a lot of people including me don't agree with your opinion of it.) Show us that you are familiar with what is going through the development review process by mentioning and analyzing anything else.

This has always been the case. We've always heard moaning & groaning about how "you can't do business in Chapel Hill", the "process is broken", and other inanities but I've yet to see project examples broken down so we can understand what went right & wrong. Generally speaking, from my experience with the County (which obviously is not identical), I've noticed that smaller projects seem to get dragged out longer than necessary due to unyielding process timelines that require the projects being sent back to Boards and back to the elected officials and back again (each turn-around taking more time than it should). The bigger projects need serious scrutiny because of their impacts. No doubt there are ways to streamline the process. It would be interesting to hear what some of them are.

it's that it's difficult to do business, and this is doubly so for a smaller contractor, businessperson, church, or other nonprofit. I had a self-employed, licensed electrician out to my house two weeks ago. The conversation got around to Chapel Hill and out of the blue he confessed that he just doesn't take work downtown anymore because he can't park his truck close to the job and he needs to be able to access his truck. It's good that the town is looking to streamline the permitting process. Not every project should be approved. High building standards, clear communication and feedback from neighbors should be preserved. I think most building expectations should be stated up front, as in codified. Then they should be applied consistently. Review board members sometimes make stipulations outside of their purview. I hear the town is starting to provide training to review board participants. That will help.As for specificity, other threads on this site have provided numerous examples. Years ago I was involved in a nonprofit project. When it came time to build a fence around the property, certain board members in the organization were told privately by town representatives that if the fence was built along the property line abutting the property of a then sitting council person, the project would not get a CO. While there is no record of the conversation, the fence permit should still be archived. It documents the final, unusual, and more expensive fencing line. This involved a council person who did a lot of very, very fine work for the town. This is a criticism of a system, not of an individual. I applaud the town's basic stance and good intentions. I think the town should continue to look at new projects carefully.  Finally and more importantly, when permitting is inconsistent, unpredictable and therefore expensive, it becomes more difficult: 1) to create affordable housing, be it through home ownership or rentals, and 2) for smaller (local) folks to participate. 

The report was commissioned so that the town will be able to move quickly once we've finished the 2020 process.  With a new comprehensive plan in place and this study already completed, we'll be able to tackle changes to the LUMO to address the issues identified by Code Studios and align it with the new Comp plan.  This was by design.  Not sure that all the candidates are aware of this. Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

The articles I've read have made the point that the report wasn't meant to be acted on immediately and that any changes would await the 2020 process, but to the extent council candidates base much of their platform on problems with the development process, I'd have been intersted to hear what they thought of the critiques and the suggested solutions. At the very least, I know the current councilmembers are aware of the study because I originally retrieved it from the Council email archive.

it would be interesting to know if candidates are generally supportive.  Obviously a lot of fact finding needs to occur, more public comment, but I don't see the harm in a candidate saying generally they think it could work, or not.   Do they espouse the Chamber's perspective?  or not?   The Chamber did not support the food truck idea downtown, did not support new and additional business as a result. Uncharacteristic position of the Chamber. Maybe the Chamber should argue no more banks in Chapel Hill, we already have enough.  No more locally owned hardware stores.  No more this or that, we have enough.   Obviously the chamber is heavily influenced by downtown restauranteurs, who are unjustly worried about their businesses having too much competition.

My kids would like to see less construction and maybe hovering cars. 

Heh. My kids would like to see more construction. The cranes at 140 West are a big hit.

yeah, it's all about age.....Mine is starting to drive and big things just scare the crap out of him.

My conversations with those Occupying Peace and Justice Plaza have been great.  They know that it is our intent to protect them and their right to demonstrate.  We will protect them during Halloween and I've reminded them that they must be subject to the same Halloween rules.  Worst case scenerio -- others vandalize their encampment take their stuff and put others at risk.  I spoke to one occupier last week and learned that they are working well with law enforcement.  They were surprised how easy it was to work with the town.  Made me happy.  They are free to call me anytime to assist with communication with town staff.Follow me on Twitter @MayorMarkK or on Facebook or

This is great. I am very happy that the Mayor is open to the OCCUPY as well as the Chief of Police. Chapel Hill can really shine here and show the rest of the country how this can reamin a peaceful protest.

Maybe the Council should consider supporting the Occupiers by passing a supporting resolution that calls on our state and federal legislators to rein in corporate welfare and wars so that our tax money can be brought back home where it is desperately needed to meet real human needs.

Jon DeHart just said in the forum that single-family homes are "the basis of stable neighborhoods." Astounding. 

I live in a townhouse community where we (gasp!) share walls with our neighbors. Many of us are homeowners, and our neighborhood is quite stable. I think it's a fantastic place to raise my family.I'm really sad to hear someone who serves the whole town, as Jon does on the Transportation Board, make such a closed-minded statement.

I wasn't very impressed by most of the responses from the candidates about the Chapel Hill 2020 process. Given it's critical importance to our future, I would hope that they have spent a lot of time thinking about that and would have something specific to say about what needs to come out of that process to ensure a healthy future for our community.

When did the sculpture in front of the post office change?  Just noticed it on the way back to our car after lunch this afternoon.

...reading through the comments in the aftermath of the Council Candidate Forum and appreciate the feedback as I review the comments. Thanks, OP!

I hope that folks will take a close look at the STAR program that one candidate proposed in the OP forum. As I understand it, this would defer property tax increases for elders who own homes  in Chapel Hill until such time as the property sold or was inherited (I assume, but don't know). I know that Louisiana has a Homestead Exemption which years ago created a threshhold - all homes that are appraised at less than a certain dollar amount are exempt from property taxes. Don't know if it would work here given current government funding challenges.   I hope this STAR idea will receive of a second (or third) look regardless of who wins the election. BTW, kudos to OP for an informative, well run debate. I assume that the candidates have to post answers to their questions before they have a chance to read what other candidates wrote. That adds a nice element. To me, what people don't say or what people don't see as a problem, is just as interesting as what they do say and see. 

Hi Barbara,I think it's a good idea, but it's actually nothing new.  Our staff and a dedicated group of volunteers working on developing an action plan for the Pine Knolls and Northside neighborhoods identified this as a potential strategy for helping keep the elderly in their homes.  The Draft Northside / Pine Knolls Community plan starts on page five of this document. Staff estimates that it would cost us about $1,500 per household, and in their estimation would require us to find a lending institution or nonprofit with the financial capacity to support it.In addition to tax deferral, the report also suggested the following, all of which I think would be helpful steps to keep threatened neighborhoods affordable:

  • Dedicating general funds for an Affordable Housing program 
  • Developing Middle‐Income/Workforce Housing Second Mortgage Assistance
  • Issuing a General Obligation Bond for Affordable Housing
  • Funding the rehabilitation of existing housing
  • Allowing duplexes for 100% affordable housing projects
  • Purchasing properties for affordable housing providers
  • Creatinging a Right of First Refusal Program
  • Creating a Rental Subsidy Program

When we get elected, you and I can co-sponsor it .  I know we would work well together serving the Town of Chapel Hill .There are many seniors whose tax bills are a burden that will not allow them to age in palce .

already thinking about this. Kudos to John D. for bringing it up during the OP forum. Sometimes there is not a lot of upside for a candidate to be specific while on the campaign trail. I think Ruby alluded to this fact this regarding the Chapel Hill 2020 question.  I appreciate both John and Jason chiming in on this particular item. 


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