OP Live Candidate Forum: Chapel Hill Town Council

Candidates: Remember, you must respond using the reply button directly underneath the question or comment to which you are responding -- both to keep the conversation threaded and to avoid losing your words when the page refreshes.


I am online...

Welcome to the Orange Politics online candidate forum. Tonight we’ll be talking with the nine candidates who are running for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council.We learned a little from our first two forums and we’re going to try and be a little more predictable this time, but not too predictable.I’ll be posing new questions every ten to fifteen minutes. At 9 p.m., I’ll prompt the candidates for a closing remark and we’ll close the forum at 9:15.Here we go . . .

If you’ve been paying attention to these forums, you know I usually start off by asking candidates what they are hearing from voters. So let us know that and also let us know what interesting things you’ve heard from each other during the campaign.

When I have been speaking to voters, the predominant topic has been high property taxes. Many people worry that they will not be able to keep their homes with the current rate of taxation.I have also heard many people say that they worry that the town will grow too fast and that they will lose the things they love about our town.

I've heard a few candidates at other forums espouse the viewpoint that residential property taxes are the top concern they've heard from residents.  That's not what I've been hearing, at least, certainly not the only thing.  Yes, taxes are important, and we should do what we can to ensure that our budget is lean and well prioritized.  But the economic problems our community faces are much broader.  This new fiscal year that we are entering contains cuts that citizens are feeling, and are concerned about.  Whether it's the cutting the hours at the community center pool, or something more direct like the loss of transit service they had depended on to get around town, people are worried.  I think residents have concerns that as the council prepares to make the tough choices we must make in the coming budget year, that will maintain the quality of service and regard for those in need that are part of the reason they chose to make Chapel Hill their home.

I would also add that many residents recognize that Chapel Hill is going through a period of change, in a way that is testing the waters and causing many to questions whether we are still a large town, or becoming a small city. Regardless of where they would like to see us fall on that spectrum, I think the thing they have in common is that they all want to know that they have been heard and that their opinions have been considered. That's part of the reason why I'm so excited about the 2020 comprehensive plan process, because there are many conversations that will help guide those decisions that we've needed to have for years.I am running for town council because I believe I am in a unique position moving forward into the comprehensive plan process.  As an activist and leader in many local community groups, I know how important it is that we listen when citizens speak, and as a long-time advisory board member on the planning board, and before that the transportation board, I'm ready to hit the ground running on day one.

First off, thanks for holding this innovative online forum.

My team and I have knocked on over 1,000 doors in Chapel Hill so far. We’ve asked people what their concerns are.
Most in line with my three primary issues – Housing affordability,
sustainability both economic and environmental, and transparency in our local

Most of the focus would be on housing affordability. For a
lot of residents, they link affordability (the median home price in Chapel Hill is now approximately $390,000, beyond what an
average middle-class family, or aging couple, can afford) with rising property
taxes, which worries them about the ability to grow old in our town. 

Just got back from a meet and greet in Ridgefild (Thanks Jen and Ben) and once again I heard stories of how Chapel Hill was a community that people have chosen as their home, even when they have had other options. The biggest concern I have heard is about how Chapel Hill will grow and  develop.  They are concerned about creating sustainable communities that exist within the means of our resources, maintaining diverstity by being welcoming and affordable, and how tall is too tall.

I consistently hear that citizens are concerned with property taxes and understand that Chapel Hill needs to increase it's commercial tax base.  I am hearing the same from the candidates -- which is a change from the past.

The other two issues that I have heard from, far and above any others, have been focused on our property taxes and a desire for more economic tax base in Chapel Hill. Many residents desire to keep more of their shopping and purchases in town, and I can’t tell you how many working mothers who describe constantly shopping in Durham for the things they need to keep their family running.Our community has also spoken up on strong support for the environment in Chapel Hill and our public transit program. Even residents who acknowledge not riding the bus support it. Finally, I’ve had more residents than I expected very concerned about charging for library cards to orange county residents, and they oppose charging orange county residents at a rate of 4 to 1, based on my informal sample size of folks who happen to be home and bring the issues up with me.


  • Cost of living in Chapel Hill is too high.
  • There is a disproportionate tax burden on residential property owners. 
  • The developmental process is too long, resulting in high costs. 


  • Good school district
  • Fare free transit is appreciated


My sincere appreciation to Orangepolitics.org and to moderator Kirk Ross for this evening's Chapel Hill Town Council forumHere's what I've heard from citizens during my outings: the need for a visible and attentive voice to represent the interests of Chapel Hill residents. The juxtaposition of economic activities and development with social services provided by the Town.Carl SchulerOnline:  http:/www.carlschulerforcouncil2011.infoE-mail: mail@carlschuler.info

Both from citizens and candidates.  The consensus is that our taxes are too high or that we don't want them to go any higher. I think that as this year goes on and we continue our 2020 process we will be connecting the fees we pay for services (ie taxes) that we as a community want to support.  Hopefully some of those citizens who told me that they would welcome additional taxes to support our community will be a part of those conversations. 

I started knocking on doors on July 2nd, the day after I declared. As I talked to citizens in Chapel Hill, I’ve asked them what their most important issue was, and what they wanted to see improved in our community. Many citizens at first seemed surprised, and didn’t know what to say. Some simply felt like they lived in a great community, and wanted it to stay that way.I’ve heard a long list of things from citizens, from issues they cared about, to things they wanted to see changed. The number one local issue, BY FAR, has been our public schools. People want to see great schools in Chapel Hill. I’ve often engaged in a dialogue with these residents about our partnership with the school board, and why it’s important that we as a community support the sales tax on the ballot in November.

Jim WardI'm hearing from folks who are worried about cost of living (taxes) in CH/Orange Co.  Folks want the commercial tax base to grow, but concerned about what might pop up near their house...  Still hearing from some that CH needs to stop growing more dense even though they know suburban sprawl is awful - my/our job to help us all find the best answer/solution.  Those already involved in Comp Plan 2020 are hoping some of the answers will bubble up during this process over the next 6-8 months - me too.  Regardless, new comp plan will help us come together on many issues, so there'll be fewer surprises.

When was the last time you were downtown? What did you do?What do you think about the place?

I had dinner at Panera last night.

I was downtown Thursday morning. It was a delayed opening for the schools. I took my kids to Sutton's, and we had breakfast. We go to Sutton's about every other week. Downtown is great, but I do think there are a lot of missed opportunities to help our local merchants.

Orange politics held a meet and greet at the West End Wine Bar.  I walked from my house to pickup Olivia from her day care, we went to the Wine Bar (where she waited kind of patiently for her dear friend Izzy to arrive), and then caught dinner at Med Deli before heading home.  I spend a lot of my evenings downtown.  It is the part of Chapel Hill I love the most.

Aside from the OrangePolitics Happy Hour yesterday, and a few trips to my post office box, I think the last time was Tuesday. I went to go grab a burrito for dinner at Cosmic Cantina after the Carol Woods forum with my wife, parked for free since it was after six, and then made my way to my planning board meeting a couple of blocks down at town hall.I love our downtown. I lived for several years within walking distance in the Northside neighborhood, and I have to admit I'm a little sad that we moved further out so that a daily walk downtown isn't a possibility. I am excited about the changes that are taking place, though I think we need to be deliberate about protecting the character and affordability of downtown's closest neighborhood. We also need to work hard in our economic development efforts to bring the kinds of businesses to Franklin Street that will allow the many new residents coming to our downtown the ability to meet as many of their needs as possibly within walking distance of their homes. And we need to continue to support the efforts of the Downtown Partnership and the Chapel Hill / Orange County Visitors Bureau to bring more people downtown and help make their time there as pleasant as possible.

I was downtown on Thursday visiting a citizen who lives downtown.  They told me that earlier that week they had gone to pick up something at Frank,  The stairs up to the sidewalk were blocked by four individauls who were sitting on them,  They made no effort to move -- so this person just turned around and went home!

citizens felt they could not access downtown.  I hope no one was threatening to them and that they do not let this experience keep them from enjoying what is great about downtown.  As others have said, there are things to be improved, but we still have a wonderful treasure in our downtown.  We will continue to try to put more welcoming eyes on the street in residences and with Chapel Hill uniforms.

I was downtown on Friday.

I am also proud of one of our downtown merchants (Sugarland) supporting early voting on Thursday.  I did not make for my cupcake.

I was downtown yesterday for coffee. I love downtown and  said at the last forum that downtown was what sold me on Chapel Hill. I am always amazed when I go down there( which is almost every day) at how vibrant the streets are. How we maintain a modern and traditional feel.  Our downtown is a treasure that should be protected and promoted, which is why I donated 25k in development to the Downtown Partnership to build the "explore Downtown Chapel Hill" app.  This is not to say that there are not problems downtown.

I love downtown. We have amazing restaurants for a community of our size that are recognized throughout the region. When I sit on the roof at WineBar or have drinks at Lantern I sometimes I feel like I’m in a community that is significantly larger, yet we still provide a open and welcoming front porch to our small town. I heard during the first comprehensive plan meeting that we are a “small town that lives big” and I think that’s no truer than on downtown Franklin Street. To think that our university and community were able to attract the Russian Ballet is amazing!At the same time we have challenges. Residents are tired of empty storefronts and they feel like parking is inaccessible downtown. The downtown partnership has done amazing work to increase our parking in downtown, and we must also continue to work with churches and businesses to address our liability concerns. As a councilmember, I want to be strong advocate for the work of the Partnership to End Chronic Homelessness, which is working to find real solutions to our homelessness challenges.

Friday evening- as I attended the OP function. Earlier in the week, I'm in downtown b/c of proximity to my work at UNC-and utilize the convenience of  eateries, banking, and the post office-from time to time.

We ate at the Mediterrian Deli before I left town. We enjoyed the meal as usual. It's presence is an asset to our town.My family was also at Ye Old Waffle House on Franklin Street recently for breakfast while I was out of town... 

I'll be at East End co-hosting trivia tonight after the forum at 10:30!

It's an area that's changing and is on track for improvements. It has opportunity beyond late night carousing. Retail and dining-including  food/beverage/restaurants is an important aspect.

Jim WardThis past Friday night was the most recent time I enjoyed downtown.  In general I find myself downtown once or twice a week enjoying restaurants, bar scene, movies, or UNC events.Improved pedestrian environment  (crosswalks, sidewalk connections).  Landscape and lighting have been improved, but need additional attention.  General wayfinding signs and public parking signage much better for newcomers.  Visitors' Bureau has forged effective partnerships with UNC Athletics and local hoteliers and restaurants, increasing spending by visitors....  Addition of Kidzu on top of Wallace Deck will be tremendous asset.  New parking pay stations are an improvement to previous, with multiple pay options - include tokens avail from retailers. Lighting needs to be increased on w-end in particular.  Parking spaces have increased overall, plus valet service and recent contracts with private lot owners has increased parking options. Absentee landowners make it very hard to address high rental, which keeps more local businesses from being part of fabric.

Please remember to hit reply to my questions and not scroll down to the comment box. You folks are making Ruby work too hard.

We're all working...it's what we have in common!

Here's one from an OP reader:In your opinion, what does the Chapel Hill development review process do well? Provide one example of a successful project. Now list one example of a project where the review process, in your opinion, did not work as well. What should we change about the process?

We need to find ways to streamline the economic development process. Council has been making a good faith effort to do this over the last two years, and should be applauded for their efforts. Now is time to reflect on what worked as part of their changes, and what has not. Having multiple boards review projects in one night could be an exciting way to improve the process, but we need to make sure that when shifting dates and times, all citizens are still able to fully participate.  

I've said this before, but I think one project that made it clear to me that we need to change our process was Greenbridge. Whether or not you ultimately believe that buildings of that height are reasonable for downtown, and whether you think that expensive condominiums are a viable investment that will work for our downtown, it was clear to me from the response by residents that we need to work on being more proactive with our communications as a town. Simply being transparent is not enough - we need to actively work to make sure that neighbors and concerned citizens are updated regularly and in a format that works best for them.  Fortunately, I think we've made some great first steps in that direction, with the hiring of a community participation coordinator, the updates to the way current developments are being shared on planning department's website, and others. But we still need to work hard to make sure that citizens are able to have their opinion heard at the right time in the development review process. Ultimately, I think Greenbridge will prove to be a valuable asset to our downtown, but that doesn't mean we can't learn lessons from the process.

I think the process works okay. I am happy with most of the projects that have been approved in recent years. Maybe not 100% happy, but that's what consensus-building does - it leaves us with projects that hopefully everyone can live with. There is definitely room for tweaking the process, but not our standards. I had a good experience participating in the joint development review experiment this summer as a member of the planning board, and though I think we need to make some changes to it, I'm committed to making it work. As much as some may like to rag on our neighbors-to-the-left, I actually think Carrboro's join review process may be a good place for us to look at ways that we can make our own process more streamlined. I was also happy to support as a member of the planning board the changes in the SUP threshold limit to allow projects making renovations within an existing building shell to bypass the SUP process under certain conditions.

Chapel Hill has shown a commitment to creating affordable housing as we contine to grow as a town.  A good example of this is Greenbridge, which created fourteen additional affordable housing units in central downtown on current transit routes.  But I also believe with a large development like that, which brought many skilled workers and materials into the area, could have also helped maintain some of the existing affordable housing in the surrounding area by partnering with existing home owners and affordable housing organizations.

I’m supportive of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, and I think the affordable units in Greenbridge are an example of a success. Requiring new developments to devote 15% of their units to affordable units is one way to insure we have affordable housing in Chapel Hill. I think Southern Village as a whole is a GREAT example of the outcomes of our development process. The development provided density, and a community that was a transit hub and provided basic amenities for citizens in close proximity. When I worked in Southern Village at Ipas, I could rise the bus easily to work, and get my groceries and bank all in one place.

I have said many times that I believe the process is completely broken. While it was built with good intentions, its design and thinking are too small for town our size. It is too onerous for our businesses, and one only has to look at Greenbridge to see that the process does not work.We are putting in many new luxury condos downtown. I am pretty sure the professors at UNC as well as the workforce will not be able to buy these. I am also horrified that we are not addressing infrastructure with all this building. How are all these new residents getting to and from work? I  We need sanity. We need to define how our town will look 20 years from now and zone appropriately. We need to define building policies that address all our needs including environmental protection and growth. Having clearly defined rules will allow developers to more easily meet our requirements, and more importantly, allow the council to lead. The current process turns the council into a group of managers not leaders. We need leaders, who know how to set the path and stay the path. Leaders that trust their team enough to let them do their jobs. This is how successful organizations run. Imagine what we as leaders could have done for the last 4 years if we had back the time wasted reviewing development plans.

There is very little data on approved projects, because there have been very few projects approved. The one I am most familiar with is Orange United Methodist Church, on MLK, which tried to add a sanctuary to its campus. It took the church over three years to get the project approved. It cost the church the ability to raise some of its financing and was a painful and arduous process. It shouldn't have been that big of a deal since it was an expansion of an existing non commerical, non residential facility with adequate buffers around it.I am excited about the new 2020 Comprehensive Plan. I have attended two of three sessions. I look forward to listening to citizens about how they would like to improve our process.

The advisory boards provide a valuable insight to the process from the citizens perspective.  An example of a successful project is Southern Village.How about two?  Ayden Court and Charterwood are examples of project developers following all the established guidelines and protocals but were denied approval by the Council.  It's worth noting that in the former case, the applicant invested almost $900,000 in two attempts while in the latter case, the applicant spent almost $1,000,000 with the approval of all the advisory boards, commissions and the Town's Planning Deptarment...

Charterwood is still under review before Council. They have not yet taken a final vote.

One large area of town that is major need of improvement is the area around Ephesus Church Road and Fordham Boulevard. I’m excited about that small area plan, and our chance to improve those shopping centers, but we have all at one point or another been caught in traffic at some of those intersections. The way roads intersect is a logistical nightmare, and an example of poor long term planning. We need to look at these types of developments as a collective whole in how they impact the community, and not just as individual pieces.

As land becomes scarce, we’ve seen the  continuing trend with condominium, denser housing developments and multi-use developments. An aspect done well is the community comment process. As the Town gains further experience with muti-use developments, better questions and in turn, better planning take hold. Steamlining the SUP process-while a generalized process, is something that i would work towards

By far the greatest success we have had with major developments in the last four years is Carolina North.  The reason is we had a deadline and were able to have an ongoing dialogue with the developer (UNC).  As I have said before, the SUP process is broken. It makes no sense to encourage a developer to submit two SUPs for the same project -- spend hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and then have it disapproved.  That would not happen if we have the courage to embrace a vision for the town and zone accordingly. Then develepors and neighbors will know what we, as a town, expect for a specific property

Jim WardExisting process provides thorough public review from multiple perspectives.  SUP provides leverage to Council that is useful in getting important additions (energy efficiency, afford. units, connected sidewalks, etc.)  There are elements, such as above, within all past projects.  On the otherhand, many if not all suffered from a complex, too often invisible process, which wasted time (=$).  We are already making changes, and others are on the way:  project status visible on the web, point person for each project to carry project thru, applicant can give project presentation to all advisory bds at one time.  Advisory boards are getting add'l training to help them focus on their area of interest, and learning the importance of having quorum...

Why is this food truck thing turning into such an ordeal?

Chapel Hill is very public and transparent about their process to create ordinance.  While in other places this conversation might have happened, only to be revealed once it is done, Chapel Hill goes through the work of creating community ordinances out in the open.  It is a process and most processes can feel like an ordeal while you are waiting for the outcome.

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

Much like when thinking about how to do our comprehensive plan process, Chapel Hill has to find a solution that works with our town's needs.  I love Carrboro, but they are not the same as Chapel Hill.  I did not follow the conversation in Carrboro, but I am sure they discussed all the issues they needed to around existing businesses, zoning, and the desire of the larger community and came to a decision as quickly as they could. In that way, Chape Hill and Carrboro are exactly alike.


I'm pro food truck. Food trucks help create a vibrant exciting downtown. We have great examples of entrepreneurs starting a food truck that one day becomes a brick and mortar restaurant. (Only Burger in Durham) Chapel Hill needs to jump on the food truck bandwagon, we’ve arrived at the party late compared to our neighbors. That being said, we need to make sure that we are finding ways to work with traditional businesses in downtown, for example in other communities businesses make a profit by leasing their parking lot to food trucks in evening hours. Food trucks are a different business model compared to traditional restaurants.

Well, it shouldn't; however, locations, taxes derived from sales, and sanitation ratings need addressed.  Otherwise, let the consumer decide where to spend their dining-food dollars

Jim WardIt's a such an ordeal because the 85 or so restaurants that call CH home are very important, existing business to take care of, listen to...  I think there is a way for both to exist, but it will take some time to figure that out.  First priority for me - make sure food trucks operating in CH contribute sales tax revenue to our community, secondly, the cost of enforcement needs to be understood by us, and enough if not all needs to be recouped via fee..., third, impacts on existing businesses needs to be understood and minor, fourth, need to be sure that the County has capacity to do timely health inspections...Maybe food trucks don't start operating d'town until 9pm or so.  We need specific feedback from existing businesses. Bottom line, I enjoy those in C'boro, and look forward to day when option exists in CH.

Why is this food truck thing turning into such an ordeal?

To be honest, Kirk? I don't know.I voted for the changes to the ordinance when the planning board reviewed them a month ago, and suggested changes to make the ordinance more lenient. As someone who has worked in marketing for a locally owned food business (including a restaurant) for a number of years, I have to say that competition from food trucks is simply not a concern I have. They are a different clientele, for the most part, and what little competition they do offer to brick-and-mortar businesses I believe is more than offset by the vibrancy they help bring to our community. As was noted here on OP a few weeks ago, Chapel Hill is losing its edge - Durham is kicking our, umm, expletive, in many ways. If we want to attract and/or keep the kind of high-paying new-economy jobs to Chapel Hill that we all seem to want, we need to have an exciting and diverse downtown that appeals to the creative class.But sure, there are things we need to regulate in order to be sure that food trucks are clean, safe, paying their fair share of taxes, and not interfering with existing businesses. I just happen to believe it won't be that hard to do so.

It is challenging because we deeply appreciate the commitment of our downtown restaurant owners and we want to be careful about not taking revenue away from them.  I congratulate the staff for fostering an open dialogue with both food truck owners and our local restaurant owners and it sounds like we are close to finding a solution that works for all.

Politics. The businesses downtown do not want to compete against the food trucks and they put pressure on the town. I undersand their side and back them completely. But the reality is that there is a place for food trucks in our community. I believe in a fair market that is open to all. We can find a way to embrace these businesses and enjoy the tax revenues.

Balancing various interests is not as simple as it may appear.  For example, we need to protect the interests and customer base of the brick and mortar restaurants that have served our community for many years when considering food truck vendors' new role in town.  It is possible to strike that balance where both economic interests are protected and thereby offering diverse food and price ranges for our citizens.There are times when we want a quick bite to eat and run while other times we prefer a dining setting.These issues require careful thought and planning.

I don't know why it's a big deal, but I know it is complicated. At heart, it's about people's livelihoods. When the issue is about how people support their families, the stakes are high.I also know that it is not an issue that has been mentioned to me by any of the people I have met during this campaign. 

The process for Chapel Hill 2020 — the town’s new comprehensive plan — is moving ahead. What’s important to you about the plan? What should it include?

Citizen participation recorded and integrated into a cohesive guide for the town and community to use as we make decisions for the future.

For a long time, I’ve been focused on how to involve as many people as possible in the process. I served on the Initiating Committee, and currently serve on the Outreach Committee. I’ve invited peers, friends, and colleagues to be a part of the process, and have particularly focused on engaging young people. I’m proud to have invited and brought new voices and faces into the Outreach Committee, that’s the only way that we are really going to reach the thousands of Chapel Hillians that we want involved. Once this campaign is over, I’ll be out at grocery stores and knocking on doors to invite folks to participate. (I just have to knock on doors for myself right now!) 

I was glad to have been a part of the initiating committee that helped design the process for moving forward with designing the new plan, because it let me focus on the one overarching goal I have for the plan - including as many diverse viewpoints as we can. I don't want to see just another land use and transportation plan that outlines modest growth projects and how we might deal with them. I want to see a document that to its core is a community vision for what we want to be.I went to a training seminar for progressive activists a number of years ago put on by Wellstone Action. One of the speakers gave us an exercise for us to remember when we became frustrated or cynical about the work we were doing. He said, "close your eyes, and go to your progressive happy place." That's the way I imagine our comprehensive plan - not just thinking about iterative change, but challenging ourselves to do more, by starting with our vision for what we truly want and then asking ourselves how, not if, we can get there.I think the plan needs to incorporate sustainability at every turn. We may be writing a plan for ten years out, because that's the scope of what a comprehensive plan typically looks at. But we need to be asking ourselves what changes we can make in the next ten years to make sure that Chapel Hill will be a vibrant and livable place in 100 years. I believe I will see peak oil in my lifetime, and we should plan for it. I believe we have a responsibility to our children and our children's children to re-imagine Chapel Hill as a compact, transit-oriented, walkable, livable, diverse, economically vibrant and socially just community.

I have participated at 2 of the 3 events and love what I see. The town is coming out to define who we are going to be and that is what is most important about the process. However, I worry that we are only getting participation from a small part of the population. I say this because I see so many familiar faces. I think we could do more to include our not so affluent neighborhoods by hosting events in their area.By reaching out to ensure we are getting their input as well. We have invited everyone, but the reality is that we can do more to get a better representation of our population involved. 

The process should clearly state Chapel Hill's values as a community, translate those values into vision and goals, and then move those goals into a working, action-oriented document. The process should emphasize the participation from all residents in Chapel Hill, not just those who have historically participated. The process should pay special attention to incorporating ideas from citizens who have differing views and not only those who agree with the majority. The document itself should be used to plan and manage growth in Chapel Hill and be used objectively, fairly and consistently each time development is considered

People are giving comments about how to improve the process as it goes along.  Citizens are already having a tangible impact on how we do what we do as a town.

It's been great to see some of the criticism of the process so far as well as the praise. I think our leadership has been open to new ideas, and has acnowledged that not everything has been perfect so far. While the clickers were cool, I think the vision statements we were given were too vague to gain real information from them.

is that it remains a flexible process that can do the work it is setup to do while being responsive to the needs of those who are participating and the goal of a effective outcome.


The reason the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force failed is that while it focused on values, the Task Force never faced the difficult questions of priorites and tradeoffs. We must do this in the 2020 process or it will fail.  We also must look at how well (or not) the prior comprehensive plan has worked -- particularly in regard to mixed use.

Citizen's comments. This is what's important. I attended the final hour of the 2020 Community Open House yesterday at University Mall and found the written comments helpful to understanding residents' concerns with planning for the next~10years. At the end of the process, the report to the Town and Council will include opinions from the majority that will be incorporated in the growth and development of the town. It will also provide  an outline of services its citizens expect.

My statement at the initial 2020 Vision meeting:Chapel Hill should be:  

  • "A college town where the university and the local residents enhance each others quality of life.  
  • A community that brings out the best of everyone through cooperation, communication and ecnomic opportunity where theories of diversity meets the reality of human existance"

This means having truly inclusive proportional representation of Chapel Hill citizens. Also, include predictable development strategies:

  • Uniformed developement plan
  • Follow the consultant's recommended LUMO report
  • Follow the established guidelines
  • Minimize the need for Special Use Permit by allowing the staff to approve projects of certain parameter and cost (a la Asheville), thereby depoliticizing the entire process.


Jim WardMost important is public involvement, public education, public input and ownership, so at end of process the greater community will feel it 'owns' this document.  But it's got to be more than counting heads and feeling good that X people attended meeting. We need to talk and listen to each other, we need to flesh-out the importance of comunity spirit, natural area protection, valuing all people, great public schools, local jobs and affordable housing, our history,... and see how we create opportunities for all to grow and prosper.I think the process and final document needs to be visually rich, because, for most of us it's easier to look at something and say if we like it or not, than it is to describe the same thing in words.  This process has a timeline that is too short for some, but I think it is adequate or better if Town Staff and all continue working hard on it.  This type of conversation is never really over, and the final product needs to be able to incorporate new ideas and thinking, but it's important to me that we stay on this timeline (finish by June 2012) and move on to the next important task at hand.

I knew I shouldn't have put the word process in that question.Tell us what you think is important to include in the actual plan — the product.

The brainstorming and chronicling of ideas leading to the final report.

Jim Ward

We need to identify some places we want to see new development in our community, especially in downtown,

We need to clearly define the plan. We need to set REAL reachable goals. I have been part of many programs like this for corporate America and the one lesson I have learned is that goals must be clearly defined and obtainable. Saying we want to promote the arts for example is not enough. We need to define what that means in detail(i.e. we are going to build a new arts center by 2015, etc). Even this is not detailed enough. This is so important because it let's our leaders define the path we need to take and then monitor our progress. This gives us all the tools we need to succeed.

I answered this a little bit above. I want to see a plan that addresses tomorrow's questions, and not just today's. How will Chapel Hill's transportation infrastructure serve us when gas is $10 a gallon? What is the true carrying capacity of Chapel Hill, and how does that interact with the carrying capacity of our county and our region? How will we know when we are built out? What areas of town will we need to change to adapt to a new reality, and what will be the challenges to making those changes? How will we make sure to reach every citizen when the traditional media is gone? What capital infrastructure do we need to build in the next ten years to prepare for the next fifty?

Jim WardThe most important guidance the comp plan can produce is help identifying where density makes sense, and how much over the next 5-10 years.

We'll know 2020 is a successful product if:* It lays out clearly what we value as a community* Clearly prioritizes how public resources will be spent on projects that improve the quality of life for all the people of Chapel Hill.* It is clear to people who want to invest in Chapel Hill, that our town has a predictable and practical development process.

for lack of interest.  I have been so overwhelmed and awed by the public participation in this process up until this point.  The energy at U Mall yesterday with 2020 open house and the opening of the library's temporary locationwas palpable.  People were making comments on the draft visions and themes, as well as signing up for theme groups. In the end, Chapel Hill should have a  collaborative vision statement with defined strategic options to make that vision into reality. The town and the community should have a tangible and useable document to steer us towards our future.

How should the town respond to the Occupy Chapel Hill (and Carrboro) occupation at Peace & Justice Plaza? How long should they be able to stay there?

The town should embrace  and encourage the occupiers. They should be allowed to stay as long as it remains peaceful and everyone plays nice. The freedoms that allow us these types of demonstrations are what so many Americans fought and died for. We must embrace this whether we agree with the movement or not. 

How should we respond? By joining them! Maybe not physically (unless you're up to such things), but the questions being posed by the Occupy movement are going to require a fundamental shift in the way we view government and its role in ensuring the economic vitality of our entire population, not just protecting wealth where it exists now.In a more tangible sense, the Occupy protestors are residents who deserve our protection just as anyone else, and we need to make sure they receive it. As someone who cut his teeth in political organizing at Peace and Justice Plaza before it held that name, in the lead up to the Iraq war, I believe deeply in the importance of protecting first amendment freedoms. Of course, we as a town must ensure safety and order, and deal with any problems as they occur, but so far I have seen nothing but a peaceful discussion and demonstration against a disgusting and very real economic injustice in this country.

However long they wish if they are not disruptive.  This protest is tame compared with the Vietnam era.

that our history of supporting protest and fighting for free speech continues.  The names that lie under the feet of those protesters are the predecessors of those protesters.  Chapel Hill and Carrboro should do what they can to support their right to speak the best we can.

Citizens have the right to protest.However, the protesters should follow the law and get the appropriate permits.These permits usually have time limits.After the permit expires, they either renew it or vacate the premises. 

The occupy movement has tapped into an important part of the liberal psyche, both in the Chapel Hill and the US. I received a call today from a resident in Chapel Hill who had received one of my fliers and wanted to hear my views on the movement. Ruth Zalph and I took left over desserts after the Orange County Dem Party Breakfast to the protesters. A movement that can united a citizen in a retirement home and a recent grad from UNC should be supported! The town has a right to insure that all public space is accessible to protesters, and as long as the movement does not become violent, I support their presence.

People have a right to peacefully assemble for redress of grievances. As long as their conduct remains peaceful, legal and sanitary, they can stay there as long as they want to, in my opinion. 

By allowing for the peaceful assembly. It is also my hope for those participating in Occupy Chapel Hill do so within the context of the law. I'm in agreement with general discussion on how to provide some protection from  Halloween revelers-who will provide a boost with economic activity downtown-compared to the usual Monday evening.As to the lenght of stay, I beleive this issue will sort by itself.  I'm hoping for some unified goals from Occupy Chapel Hill. Seems to me that voting is the best means for orderly change.

Jim WardBoth personally and more publically, I will be listening to what they are thinking, what concerns them most locally, and also regionally and beyond.They are welcome to stay occupy Peace and Justice Plaza for as long as they want, as long as they obey basic rules, such as keeping access the Post Office/Court House, as long as sidewalk acess is maintained, and as long as site can be kept clean.  I welcome them.

We could hold a whole forum on affordable housing and housing diversity in Chapel Hill. Many OP readers are interested in your views.In the interest of time, please tell us what guides your thinking on affordable housing and what ideas you have for improving the stock of housing for people who make too much to qualify for current programs, but still can’t afford to live here.

It is getting too expensive for many families to live in Chapel Hill. The Chamber of Commerce report confirms that – the median price for a home is $390,000, more than what can be afforded by a Chapel Hill police officer or firefighter. To address this problem, I think we need to balance affordable housing stock with the payments in lieu that are part of our town’s affordable housing program. So, instead of offering affordable condominiums in mixed-used projects, it makes more sense to up-fit existing homes in Chapel Hill. That way, not only will more families be able live in town, they will be in single-family homes, which is the basis of stable neighborhoods. A program that put emphasis on up-fitting homes would align with the work of organizations like Habitat for Humanity to increase the stock of affordable houses for families. I would like for us to listen to local experts like Delores Bailey of Empowerment and Robert Dowling of the Community Home Trust to see what their current needs are. These needs change and one size does not fit all.

I think sometimes payments in lieu would be ok, especially if they provide substantially move affordable housing than the required 15%. But I don't want to see Chapel Hill become some kind of gated community, I think affordable housing as part of new projects is needed to insure we stay diverse.

One major force on the housing market that is rarely discussed is the impact that UNC students have on the housing market in UNC. Every spring, students decide to move off campus and rush to sign leases in Chapel Hill. Rarely do they have support or knowledge to understand their rights as tenants, and often pay incredibly high prices for housing, especially because multiple students are on each lease. At UNC’s peer institutions, they are multiple professionals on staff who are focused on off campus residential education. In these communities, there work with students helps educate them about negotiation of lower leases. (They also help educate students about how to be better neighbors. This helps take pressure off the market that also increases the house of homes and rentals for long term residents. As a council member, I want to help lead a community conversation around off campus housing for our students in Chapel Hill.

Everyone makes choices and those choices effect their lives. Chapel Hill is an amazing community that people aspire to be part of. This is a good thing. People choose their jobs , they choose to go to grad school or to even not to go to college. Going to grad school may mean you cannot buy a house in Chapel Hill for a few years more and that is OK. 20 years ago I was musician who made minimum wage moving furniture. When I started a family, I chose to go back to school. I chose to take the job that paid more than the job that was more fulfilling. Because it made me more able to provide a better place for my family to grow. I do what it takes to live in this community. I have worked 3 jobs at a time to help my family in the past. These are choices, and they are about personal responsibility. Everyone is welcome here, you just have to work to get here sometimes. And that is OK.I will also say that we NEED to do more for those senior citizens that are being taxed out of their homes who are not yet eligible for the existing assistance.  

At The Community Forum two weeks ago, I introduced the STAR program, which would make sure our senior citizens are not priced out of their homes. Seniors Tax Relief, or STAR program would freeze senior's tax bills at a current rate as long as they live in their home. Any tax increases after that point would be deferred until their home is sold or they move out of Chapel Hill. At that point, the deferred tax increases would be paid to the town. It’s a win-win -- The senior gets to live out their golden years in a wonderful community, and the town eventually gets the revenue. Such a program would further differentiate Chapel Hill as a progressive community offering innovative, inclusive programs that help people live the best possible quality of life. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and the idea will have to be diligently examined before implementing the program. The idea is sure to benefit from insight and feedback from all the people in Chapel Hill working on housing issues. The UNC School of Government could also provide expert analysis.


  • Approve development applications instead of turning them down
  • Allow different priced housing within developments 
  • Allow payment in lieu to Home Trust
  • Provide more housing options, such as familiy oriented housing (such as duplexes and apartments) over condos
  • Build along the transit corridors to reduce reliance on automobiles
  • Simplify the application process that ultmiately results in lower housing costs 


By far the largest number of people who commute into Chapel Hill every day work at UNC.  A significant portion of them cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill.  We need to work with the University to provide substantially more work force housing at Carolina North than is currently in the plan.  

As someone who makes too much to benefit from the affordable housing program as currently administered by Community Home Trust, but too little to qualify for a traditional mortgage for market rate housing in Chapel Hill, I think a lot about this issue in a very personal way. But it's not just me. There are many, many people on the "other side" of the divide, who earn too little to qualify for a loan on a CHT home, even working full time. I hate the term "workforce housing" as applied to housing issues, because the truth is you can work full time 40 hours a week and not make nearly enough to fit into what we typically call "workforce."  Section 8, town's public housing program, and transitional housing operated by local nonprofits are an important part of the equation, but we need to broaden our thinking.I think we need to place more focus on rental affordability.  While it seldom seeks to be acknowledged, rental properties outnumber owner-occupied housing in Chapel Hill (and even more so in Carrboro).  And renters encompass more than just students! We need to find ways to ensure that our rental market is well-regulated.  I have heard plenty of horror stories from renters in terms of unsafe and unsanitary living conditions, unfair charges, and undisclosed restrictions that severely limited tenants use of their properties. We can't let the only affordable rentals in town be those places that are too run down for suitable habitation.  But I've also known some great landlords in town, and we need to do what we can to ensure that these folks are rewarded and that become the model for everyone.

I am in favor of expanding initiatives with affordable housing. In addition to supply, I think we should look into the entire cost of homeownership. We also need to address the affordability for non-traditional family units-such as individuals and those choosing to live within the same household. I believe there's room to address affordable rentals too-if homeownership is not a goal. This would involve the introduction of financial incentives to property owners. Rent will increase if for no other reason than homeowners who lost their homes to financial circumstances. The inflow and transition from homeowners to renter will lessen the supply of rentals.   I don't forget that a number of town and university employees live outside the Town of Chapel Hill.  Council should continue its work  with  groups that support affordable housing initiatives.

Jim WardI have come to see affordable housing as a critical ingredient to any real community.  Everyone can be a part of a community if they actually live in it, rather than just work there, or just sleep there, or play there.  Or teachers are more accessible if they don't need to commute an hour at the end of the day, the folks who drive the buses can reliably be here after a snow, keeping the transit system working if they live nearby...We've made significant progress over the last four years (~200 units), but the need is so much greater.  On the hopeful side, we have great partners already in place, such as Habitat, Home Trust, Empowerment, UNC and UNC Hospitals, and the next focus needs to be how to work together (as one) to leverage our assets and overcome our limitations.  That being said, UNC and UNC Hospitals need to step up to the plate in equal measure to the number of employees in need of affordable/work force housing, and the Town does too!  Our local business have a role to play too.  My comment is not meant to point a finger at anyone, but to highlight the fact that the Town can't do this alone.Lastly, UNC at Chapel Hill needs to provide student housing, probably at Carolina North, probably in partnership with private developer, as this can reduce the rental prices in existing neighborhoods.   All of the above is a lot easier said than done, so be part of the solution.

Our staff completed an affordable housing study which worked to contextualize those things we currently do in support of affordable housing such as the inclusionary zoning ordinance, public housing and our transitional housing program as well as  identifying issues such as a need for affordable rentals and targeted solutions for people on the continuum of housing from homelessness to 100% plus median income.  We will receive a report in January, which will identify a range of solutions to continue our work toward creating a diverse housing stock for our diverse community.

What did you learn from the discussion and debate over the move of IFC’s Community House?

This issue is probably the most difficult one I have seen in town. The move is important. The community where the shelter is being relocated to is understandably nervous. People have preconceived notions about the homeless population, which is not always correct. This is made worse by shameful politicians that play on these fears. Balancing everyones desires is near impossible, but the homeless also deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They need our help to get back on their feet or just get out of the cold and as an affluent community we MUST help. To answer your question, I have learned that being a town leader is difficult emotionally and that you have to make very tough decisions at times that require wisdom and experience.

I think we need to insure that future agreements and plans feel inclusive to all residents. The good neighborhood plan has not felt inclusive to residents involved in A Better Site, and it should be. The new IFC shelter will be built, council has made a decision, but council and the leadership at the IFC have a responsibility to craft a process to create a good neighborhood plan that includes dissenting voices. Above all, we must provide services to the lesser of these in Chapel Hill. If I was on council, I would have voted to support the SUP that council approved. 

As a participant in the Town Council's Good Neighbor Plan Committee, I am still learning... In general, it appears that people jump to conclusions without fully understanding the issues. Compassion has to be a part of governing... 


We do not have a plan in place to address any problems in Homestead Park that may arise from the emergency shelter.  We should have had one in place before we approved the SUP.  We also should have had a binding commitment from the IFC that they would vacate the Town's property within a specified time of completing the Community House.  What will we do if the Carrbor Boad of Aldermen refuse to let the IFC move the kitchen to Carrboro?

How polarizing an issue  its become and the lack of opportunity for a meaningful discussion of the issues  prior to the May 9th, 2011 vote in favor of Resolution A (and C)Moving forward, I serve on the Good Neighbor Plan Advisory Committee and as you've read in the local media recently (which I'm a proponent for open coverage) has still some housekeeping to do before moving forward with the actual mechanics of the Good Neighbor Plan document which IFC will present to Council in the near future. Too, I've learned that being a good neighbor takes a considerable amount of work and appreciative of Chapel Hill's homeowners and residents who work-voluntarily- towards the process of the Community House and as a good neighbor.


I think one of the biggest lessons that we will continue to learn for years to come is the importance of education and outreach.  I think the IFC has made a good faith effort to listen to divergent viewpoints through the Good Neighbor Plan process, but as a council member I will continue to watch the process closely to ensure that it remains open and inclusive.  There are social services provided at almost every corner of our town, and the fact that so few people are aware of their locations I believe is a testament to just how non-disruptive they actually are. I have walked by the current IFC facility hundreds if not thousands of times during my residence in the Northside neighborhood, and not once did I observe any action taking place that should have caused me concern for my safety. Homeless residents are residents too, and I find discrimination against them to be disgusting. I have confidence that the IFC will be a good neighbor, and we're going through a very deliberate process to ensure exactly that. If anyone's keeping score, I supported the move when it came up for a vote before the planning board, and I am confident in my decision. The question we were asked was, "is the Homestead site an appropriate place for this type of land use?" not "is this the best place in town to place a transitional or temporary emergency shelter facility?"  I would have preferred to keep the shelter downtown, but I believe the IFC came to us with a reasonable proposal. I voted as I did because the location IFC was offered presented the most reasonable solution to a problem that they have suffered for years.  I believe we have a responsibility first and foremost to those who are most in need of our help but least able to ask for it.

Jim WardIn spite of much effort, I don't think everyone interested in the future location of the IFC's Community House knows what it is and what it isn't, or how to measure the level of risk, associated with any possible impacts, with other parts of the community fabric, such as a greenway or playground parking lot, which may also come with undesirable impacts.  None the less, I have grown to have tremendous faith in the citizens of Chapel Hill.

Jim WardI and the rest of the Town Council are requiring the IFC, via a reviewable Good Neighbor Policy, to find solutions proactively to any and all current issues, and any future issues.

I know a lot about it, as I have been actively involved serving food at the IFC for the last several years. I co-chaired when Orange United Methodist served the first Thursday of every month at IFC. I agree that IFC needs to have a new and improved facility. That would be beneficial for the town.However, I would have liked to have seen much more transparency in the siting process. The process could have only benefitted from more public discussion and dialogue. What I've learned is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Unresolved issues include how will the Good Neighbor Plan actually address neighbor's concerns and provide binding safeguards. In addition, How will we ensure that other municipalities pay their fair share in hosting and funding these efforts to resolve what is really a regional, and growing, problem.

That our community can rally around those in need.  Our community has  great compassion and a great appreciation for the work of the IFC. The IFC has taught us that the historic way we have approached homelessness must be shifted to a new transitional housing program which provides a comprehensive array of services and support in partnership with the surrounding community.We have also learned that when citizens raise concerns, we as a community will respond with a solution that solicits their input and works to address those concerns.  Community members have gathered with the IFC to create a Good Neighbor Plan that addresses problems and creates a clear guide for success. We create community solutions for community problems.

Thanks for your participation and thoughtful answers. Please feel free to add anything you want to add on the question threads and enter a closing thought or two.Remember, at 9:15 it's pencils down. After that, you won't be able to post anything else.  

Candidates and readers,If you'd like to continue the conversation, please feel free to join in on the OP Forum Open Thread.

I had a great time tonight. Thanks to OP and the editors for thinking about how to engage with residents and citizens in new and innovative ways that feel comfortable to them. That’s what my campaign has been about, and that’s what I want my tenure on council to be about. I started knocking on doors to have face to face conversations with residents since the day after I declared by candidacy. I’ve talked to residents on their front porch about this issues they’ve cared about, I’ve met with you in your community center to hear from you on your own home turf, and I’ve hosted community conversations in coffee shops across chapel hill, so that I would come to you instead of the other way around. I’ve been a progressive advocate and a coalition builder since I can remember, and engaging with the public at a grassroots level is part of how we create policy solutions that benefit all of us. Feel free to follow my campaign at Lee STorrow for Town Council on facebook and check me out on twitter at @leestorrow. Give me a call at 914-0311.

Thanks for moderating Kirk.  Your questions were excellent but what exactly do you mean by pencils down?.  Thanks to OP for the online forum.  First forum where I was able to eat sweet and sour pork and a slice of cake from Sugarland DURING the forum! 

Thank you, Kirk, for moderating and the folks at OP for providing this opportunity. I invite readers to visit my Web site at www.dehartforcouncil.com.Follow me on Twitter @jondehart and on Facebook.Again, thank you!

Kirk,Thank you and OP for the opportunity tonight. I am running for Town Council because I believe that we need new leadership in Chapel Hill. We need leaders that are interested in moving forward. We need leaders with experience and ideas. Leaders that are not afraid to make the tough decisions. We  need leaders that are interested in protecting everyone in our town, not just the most affluent. We need leaders who work for the town. I believe I am that leader. I only ask that you give me a chance to show you what I can do. Let me work for you to make Chapel Hill an even more amazing place to live, work, learn, and play.  Learn more about me at www.laneydale.com

Thanks to Kirk and the OrangePolitics crew for putting this forum together.  One of the reasons why I have been a participant on OrangePolitcs.org for all of these years, and intend to continue to do so if elected to office, is that I think proactive and transparent communications are absolutely critical to being a successful leader. All leaders should be good listeners, and forums like OP are a great place for us to help fill to role. But at the local level, I believe elected officials have another important role, to help educate and inform, and I'm thrilled for new media's role in helping make that easier. Regardless of what happens on November 8th, you'll continue to see me here for the years to come.In closing, I have one final thought: I hope that before you vote, you take the opportunity to look closely at all of us, and what our records say about the kind of councilmember each of us might be.  It's easy to claim to be a leader. It's much harder to build a record of service that backs up that claim.  I am proud of my record of community service, and I stand by the statements I make. I commit to you, if elected, to come to every meeting prepared, ready to listen, and ready to stand up for the progressive principles in which I deeply believe.  Thanks so much, and I'll see you on the open thread, or if you prefer, just get in touch with me! Visit my website, follow me on twitter or facebook, email me, or just give me at call at 919-442-8278.  See you soon,Jason 

We as candidates have been talking about our current situation as challenging and difficult. We need instead to think of this as a time for doing things differently, innovation and committing to our principles.  As leaders it is our responsibility to keep our eyes on our long term goals and not be distracted by short term crises.  We must continue to invest in our infrastructure and our people as we look to brighter and easier times.  This is not the easy path, but it is the only path for a town like Chapel Hill.Thank you Orange Politics editors for fixing my mistakes this evening and providing this opportunity.Good Night.donnabell4ch.com

Jim WardI'm proud to be part of a community that cares as much as we do, about Chapel Hill of today and the improved version of tomorrow.  I know I don't have all the answers, but we have a great Town staff, and I have the energy and desire to embrace our community's public process, which will find the best way forward.  I am hopeful that CH voters will allow me to continue to serve. 

Thank you Orangepolitics.org and you, Kirk, for moderating this evening's Chapel Hill Town Council forum.  I appreciate the opportunity to present my views in a race that heavily relies upon the local media and forum events. My platform with this municipal election for Town Council includes: Focus on Town Growth & DevelopmentPromote Business &Economic ActivityExpand Affordable Housing InitiativesBuild Community & NeighborhoodsPreserve Historic neighborhoodsPromote Chapel Hill’s local art sceneCarl Schuler for Chapel Hill Town CouncilOnline:  http:/www.carlschulerforcouncil2011.infoE-mail: mail@carlschuler.info


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