Erwin Trace: A challenge for local government

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 19, 2005

One of the more unusual ideas to hit Chapel Hill of late was the suggestion, adopted last year, that the town seek authority to purchase open space outside its jurisdiction. On the face of it, this was nonsensical. As Kevin Foy put it last September, "Citizens of Chapel Hill are citizens of Orange County, and Orange County buys land throughout the county. I don't think we have an interest in duplicating the efforts of the county."

But Foy went on to point out that the town's planning interest extends beyond the town line. Tactical purchases outside the town's extra-territorial jurisdiction can help Chapel Hill protect the rural buffer and provide additional open space. This was born out recently when the town opened the door to cooperating on the possible purchase of property along Erwin Road just northeast of the extra-territorial jurisdiction.

The tract in question is a 43-acre parcel of Duke Forest which Crosland Inc. plans to develop into a 49-home upscale subdivision. Unfortunately, this subdivision would remove a crucial link in a planned 15-mile corridor of green space linking Duke Forest to Jordan Lake along the New Hope Creek corridor.

Durham County has suggested that the entire parcel could become a regional park, owned and operated cooperatively by Durham County and Orange County. According to Duke, the purchase price is around $1.5 million, including a half-million dollar profit payout to Crosland. Durham and Orange County officials are hoping that at least a modest price reduction might be obtained.

These 43 acres of Duke Forest are taking shape as the first test for Chapel Hill's new power. At the council's Jan. 24 meeting, Bill Strom wanted to leave open the possibility of the town's financial contribution toward the preservation effort. Ed Harrison disagreed, insisting that town open space funds ought to be spent strictly within town limits.

This illustrated the difference between a bureaucratically oriented approach and an entrepreneurial approach, the one Strom took by proactively looking for opportunities to further public policy goals. Harrison cautiously looked to follow well-established precedents; Strom insisted that the town's "new-found authority" opened the door to an unprecedented opportunity.

Harrison's commitment to reserving Chapel Hill funds for in-town parcels overlooks the benefit of using funds that might buy a couple of acres in town to leverage the purchase of more than 40 acres elsewhere. This leverage becomes particularly important given, as Mark Kleinschmidt explained, that the Erwin Trace project illustrates the fact that Orange County cannot rely on the continued availability of Duke Forest as open space.

In the end, Harrison backed down when Mayor Foy stepped in to agree with Strom that "the council should be prepared to participate financially to make something happen out there."

Meanwhile, several hundred area residents showed up for a meeting sponsored by the Erwin Area Neighborhood Group.

Participants pledged $37,000 toward the land acquisition and committed to raising $100,000 by April 1.

Artist Emily Weinstein spoke eloquently for her neighbors when she wrote, "When you see another strip mall being built, do you say, 'Oh good, another strip mall!' Of course not. Well, here, in southwest Durham, we have developments proposed to the south, north, east and west. The Duke tract represents a vision hatched over a decade ago to complete the New Hope Creek corridor.

"Another development is not needed. We are told it will be done nicely; even in an environmentally friendly way. Total rubbish. Building waste, yard poisons and fertilizers will run off and pollute the stream beds and continue into the New Hope Creek."

Their efforts got a big boost two weeks later when Wade Penny announced that if local governments buy the Duke tract, he and his wife, Carolyn, would restrict development on their 59.5 acres, adjacent to the Duke tract and New Hope Creek. This would preserve an additional 40 acres of developable property for open space and would result in a 114-acre corridor of mostly forestland.

Recently, the figure of $100,000 was floated as a possible contribution from Chapel Hill. That's a small part of the town's open space funding but enough to help. And it's enough to encourage the other parties to look for ways to make the purchase a reality.

The fate of the Duke property can go only one of two ways. If the property is developed it will be a stark example of the failure of our private property system to respond to identified public needs. If it is preserved as open space and parkland, it will be testimony to the effectiveness of intergovernmental cooperation, citizen activism and forward-thinking elected officials.

At this writing, the outcome is far from clear.



There is an aspect to this story that I did not have room to include in the column. That is, the desire of the developer to run a water line to Erwin Trace through Orange County's rural buffer.

I spoke with both Moses Carey and Barry Jacobs about this. They each assured me that protecting the rural buffer was long-standing county policy, one that they held as inviolate. Each tells me he believes there is no change the BOCC would approve this water line.

Interesting twist in the budget debate. So what openspace do we leverage or sell first?

Memorandum from Town Attorney on Town Open Space and Park Lands as Security for Loans

TO: W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager

FROM: Ralph Karpinos, Town Attorney

SUBJECT: Town Open Space and Park Lands as Security for Loans

DATE: February 16, 2005

This message responds to the question raised at the February 7 Budget Review Advisory Committee. I have checked my files, reviewed the statutes and discussed this with Kay Johnson. I agree with the response you provided at the meeting to the question raised.

Essentially, the Town would be able to borrow money and use Town open space as a security for that loan if the purpose of the borrowing were to make improvements to the property which is the security for the loan or to finance or refinance debt associated with the purchase of the property. We could not borrow money, using the land as security, and use the loan funds for operational purposes or some other purposes.

If open space parcels were to be sold, the proceeds from the sale would need to be used to pay off any outstanding bonds associated with the acquisition of the property. Once we have complied with the bond regulations governing reuse of the proceeds from the sale, any net proceeds would be legally available for other purposes. There may be public expectations regarding the reuse of such funds that would need to be considered.

A relevant article in today's Herald on the success of Durham and Orange counties' collaboration at Little River Regional Park.

This all seems so frantic and sloppy! Why didn't the neighborhood group do a better job of selling this to the public? I bet they could have easily picked up the extra $75,000 from private donors all over both counties if they had made a stronger case that this is a park for all. No one asked me for money. With a little convincing that this is a good place to hike, I would have thrown in a few bucks.
Also, the Penny's contingent offer rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't sound like largess; it sounds like tit for tat.

Last night at the business meeting they talked about this. Ch has put up $100k, Orange Co. $200, Durham Co. $900k, TLC $25k, the neighbors $200, durham city I can't remember. Any how; long story short; the situation has come up $75k short. The dead line for getting the ducks in a row is Friday Little of this land lays in Orange county and none of it touches Chapel Hill. Edith Wiggansc was opposed to giving any more money towards the program in an 11th hour move. Cal Horton said that if CH goes ahead with this that the money will come from open space bond money which is in the bank. On the other hand, spending on this land will mean that there is less money for tracts that are closer to CH.

So that's were it stood as of last night. Cal is going to talk to the oter parties today to see if comprimise is likely. The plan is going to be talked about again today at 4:00 pm. I'll try to make it there and let you all know what goes down.

Cal Horton came back yesterday and said that the thing had been ironed out and no additional CH money was needed but the town kicked in another $25k. So I guess the deal is going down.

Part of the problem is that the city of Durham doesn't want to spend dime one on open space. There is a low income neighborhood which has been asking for a park for years. Instead of planting a park where people live, Durham has sunk $75k into this fringe area which buffers up scale housing.

One of the issues that the budget session repeated was town service to out of towners. We are buying a park for a town that doesn't support parks. We give free internet access to 700 out of county residents. We built southern village park and park and ride for chatham county. We pay staff for special olimpics and street fairs for ornage county residents. On and on. The phrase "soft touch" was used more then once.

I'm glad we're going to get a 77 acre land preserve (after today's emergency OCBC session); however, I wish we could muster this kind of fire for our 'invisible' Orange County residents. I doubt many of the 'invisible' will know about this new 'park', much less ever use it. I really, really would like to see the towns and county pull together a big park for the people. ( I would invision something with the ambiance of the Asheboro Zoo). The objection that we have no money doesn't fly. Just look at what this empowered neighborhood association pulled off! Quite impressive!
Lest I seem ungrateful to the Penny family, thank you for the conservation easement! (I've never been one to hold out carrots; but I suppose I should accept that that's the way politics works.)

Here's an oddity for you. According to today's N&O,

[Ed] Harrison pushed for Chapel Hill to lead the way in helping buy 43 acres off Erwin Road

But, according to the 1/25 Herald

Councilman Ed Harrison seconded the point made by Horton, that there were a number of other open-space parcels the town should consider. He highlighted the fact that Duke's land was about two miles from town, while there were potential open-space parcels much closer that Chapel Hill residents could walk to. In addition, Harrison said he would have a hard time putting up Chapel Hill funds for the land, until other jurisdictions did something, in particular the city of Durham.

According to the town minutes:

Council Member Harrison said he would like to leave it open that we would not participate, but he would “have a hard time” supporting this until we see what the other jurisdictions are willing to do.

Ultimately, Ed joined the rest of the Council but, unlike the N&O's contention, he in no way "pushed for Chapel Hill to lead the way." Quite the contrary.

What I'd like to know: did the N&O just screw up their own reporting or did they fail to fact-check a claim in a campaign release from Harrison?

Perhaps Matt Dees will grace us with a clarification.

Does this mean that Ed's also going to be credited for leading the revolt against mega-development, as typified by the Super Wal-mart project, on the South flank of Chapel Hill? It seemed the case from yesterday's HeraldSun. Maybe, again as reported in yesterday's HeraldSun, he'll go down in history for his brave opposition to the 17,000 parking spaces slated for UNC/North.

Look, I have no problem with credit going to where credit is due (even if it's partial credit) or acknowledging the contributions of all the players, no matter what political stripe, but to characterize Ed's involvement in these issues as one of leadership is way off the mark.

Now, not to sound too much like Mr. "well at our committee meeting" Harrison, but I, by happenstance, was at a number of the Council meetings where discussion of the Erwin Rd. tract occurred. I recall, sometime early January, when the discussion turned to Erwin Rd., Ed interjected some of his usual cautionary notes and hearkened back to when Duke had said they'd sell off bits of their Forest. Hey, I also remember that in the '80s Duke said they would develop bits of the Forest. There was quite a hubbub by the whole community. In the ensuing time, though its only been of late that Chapel Hill could intervene, nothing was done to proactively negotiate a transfer.

If Ed was taking a leadership role, instead of apologizing for not alerting the Council to what he said he knew Duke would be doing, he'd have moved quicker and either brought more pressure to bear on our Durham neighbors or worked on negotiating a better deal with Duke pre-Crossland's involvement.

During those Council meetings I attended Ed's support continued to be tepid and cautionary - he definitely wasn't leading the charge.

Lately, the sleeping Candidate Ed appears to have awoken. I remember Candidate Ed from four years ago. I voted for Candidate Ed four years ago. I remember Candidate Ed's strong rhetoric on the environment, development, managing change, dealing with transportation, dealing with UNC and his claims that having participated on this or that board or committee would help him move Chapel Hill forward.

The problem? Candidate Ed disappeared after the election.

Protecting and preserving the New Hope Creek corridor was definitely something Candidate Ed would have taken on. Where in the world was that Ed?

Ed's a nice guy, works well on committees, comes prepared on his issues, has great recall of the intricacies of meetings he has attended but in the last four years he's been the "flag" and not the "wind".

Ed's had his opportunity to demonstrate he can lead as well as follow.

Chapel Hill is facing a tough slog over the next four years and we need nine strong leaders to pull us through the coming morass. With four slots to fill (considering Mayor Foy is the presumptive winner) Ed will either have to convince us that Candidate Ed is here to stay, something that didn't happen in the last four years, or he needs to bow out.

The New Hope Corridor was already protected. No one was allowed to develop on New Hope Creek. CH, Orange, Durham & Durham just bought a million-dollar+ back yard for Solaris. So instead of the few dozen homes that could have been developed close to Duke Hospital, there will be a few dozen more homes at a 30-minute commute.

Bad budget policy. Bad social policy. Bad environmental policy.

Will--you are totally off the mark IMHO. Leadership can be defined in many ways. Sounds like you equate chest thumping with leadership. To me, listening to constituents, providing guidance on issues like the plant regulation bill, making sure council and staff are fully informed on environmental and transportation issues before them, campaigning for new open spaces in the face of rapid development--are the type of leadership I most appreciate and these are all actions Ed has taken that would ensure my vote for him--if I could vote in Chapel Hill.

Terri, I understand where you're coming from but what I was describing wasn't "chest thumping" - it was asking a candidate to standing firm for those issues you ran on or, if you change your mind, at least explaining in a forthright fashion to those that supported you why it changed. And if you're going to let those issues linger until the next election cycle and then show firmness, for gosh sakes, don't complain, even through surrogates, about your treatment.

I still clearly remember the day I voted for Ed. I met him and Mark early election morning in front of the Library. We spoke a couple moments about a particular issue. The passion and sincerity of both lent confirmation that I was voting for great candidates.

Maybe I'm more disappointed in Ed because I expected much more from him - more passion, more vision into reality, more firmness. Yes, keeping abreast of the plant regulation bill or keeping informed on transportation issues is important but you need to do more than that - and this is where I fault Ed's style.

Maybe you can't vote but you probably will have influence in the Chapel Hill election. If you think a more passive,tentative,overcautious approach to governance is appropriate as, in the next four years, the Town faces continued budget stresses, management problems, what will probably be hardball negotiations on UNC/North, the formation of a contentious OI-X zone, further deteriorations along our Southern borders, etc. then continue to endorse/campaign/support Ed.

I'm looking for leadership that will persist. If a candidate this election champions the HWCC recommendations on UNC/North or muni-networks/Wifi or removing the stormwater utility or increasing tax efficiencies or any number of proposals, I expect them to either follow through or, if not, to otherwise provide an explanation.

I definitely don't expect them to throw up their hands, claim it's too tough, that state government is intractable or any number of excuses. Instead I expect a persistence that will win through the obstacles. You like to remind us, Terri, that governments move slow, to expect modest changes over long periods of time (something you know I don't agree with - expect more, demand more, get more - it's how every other sector of the economy functions) but Ed has had 4 solid years to demonstrate that he can do more than counsel, more than guide, more than educate - that he can realize the some of the visions he ran on.

He hasn't done that.

As far as the open spaces initiatives, where was Ed leading the charge? Isn't a more modest appraisal of your candidate called for than we seen in local news reports?

I absolutely agree with you Will that persistence is an important quality for any politician. But after watching you in action and reading about how you choose to apply your concept of persistence, I think we define the concept very differently. I see persistence as the ability to observe, analyze, and reframe a problem if selected tactics are not achieving your desired goal. Solving problems, which is what politicians do, is a trial and error process. If one solution path doesn't work or if its going badly, you step back, rethink and take a different path. Study after study of expert problem solvers have shown this flexibility. Your bull in the china shop strategy is one of the less effective problem solving strategies because it corners anyone in opposition to your position and causes then to take an oppositional approach/dig in their heels. It also doesn't leave room to consider new data gleaned in earlier stages of the problem solving process.

After watching the Chapel Hill council rather closely for the past year or so, I feel that they have as a group have been persistent in their negotiations with the university, their support for public art and open space, and their desire for a more socially just community. Most, but not all, have been equally consistent as individuals. Ed is dedicated to protecting the environment and supporting alternative transportation, and from everything I've observed he has acted consistently on those values.

Hmmn, now you've gone from characterizing my call for clear and strong leadership as "chest thumping" to that of a "bull in the china shop"?

I know you're a well-meaning supporter, but it's quite a stretch from calling for a candidate to delineate and support their positions to asking for a policy Blitzkrieg.

Maybe solving problems is a trial and error process in some venues, say if you're speaking of a mouse in the maze (you're not comparing your Candidate Ed to a trapped, squeaking mouse are you Terri?), but, for a number of issues, the Council is presented with clear and convincing choices - some choice that Ed has wavered on, weakened or unintentionally sabotaged.

As far as

ability to observe, analyze, and reframe a problem if selected tactics are not achieving your desired goal

What are Ed's goals? You present some rather nebulous examples "protecting the environment and supporting alternative transportation" but history shows that Ed, generally, has been ineffectual at best or even destructive of these goals at worst throughout the last four years.

And are these the same goals reheated from last election cycle?

Further, while the "ability to observe, analyze and reframe" is integral to the process, it's not the whole process. Ed might have displayed these first three elements, and in this fashion is no different than one of our Town's staff, but he's not been able to take the next step required of an elected official - vision into action.

Hey, maybe having a "bureaucrat" on Council hasn't been catastrophic over the last four years but the Town is facing a tough slog next cycle - we need a Council that'll be hitting on all eight-cylinders.

Now, Terri, I'll resist characterizing the type of leadership you keep calling for and, instead, point out out that this is an election and Ed is being called to task for actions he's taken during his incumbency.

He has to justify his elected-existence.

He can defend his record. He can explain his record. He can apologize for his record.

I don't think he can dodge his record.

Terri, as you know, there are many factors that must be considered in evaluating elected officials. A council-member's vote on unanimous decisions is usually the least revealing. Thus, in this case, Ed's final vote in support of Erwin Trace obscures his arguing against that decision when it was first raised. Ed could demonstrate his personal integrity by coming forward here on OP and refuting Matt Dees' characterization himself. He has not done so (nor has Dees explained his error, but that is another matter).

If you want to understand Ed's votes, you need to look at the questions that split the Council. Ed, unfortunately, has too often been in the weak position, unwilling to adhere to the principles that he claims to hold.

Key for many voters in this regard is Ed's performance on the August 26, 2003 chiller plant vote. This was the occasion of his infamous “gun to my head” cave-in when he claimed to support neighborhood protection but voted against it because Roger Perry had threatened him (as recorded in the minutes).

Or, when he said that as “Citizen Ed” he would have spoken out in favor of renaming Airport Road but that as a council-member he would vote against it. His contention, according to the town minutes, was that “some of the [unresolved] issues must be valid because so many people had brought them up.” Nor did those still unresolved issues, still raised by the exact same people, prevent him from voting for the renaming six months later.

Interesting in this discussion is that Will seems to be saying that three years ago he thought of Ed much as you do now. Is it possible that observing the same positions statements and votes would have caused Will to turn 180 degrees while Terri's position was reinforced? Intriguing.

I just re-read this thread and according to Dan's editorial, Ed expressed his concerns about entering this business deal based on his previous experience with the players. Then there's the issue of what open space to acquire/protect--that which is within existing town limits or outside of it. Seems like a reasonable discussion to have, especially along 15-501 to the east and south of town. There's also the issue of budget deficits. As I recall, a lot of effort was expended figuring out how to minimize the increase in city property tax rate this year.

Look, I didn't pay any attention to the council meetings or the news reports on this issue. I've never spoken with Mr. Harrison about Erwin Trace. All I've done is read what is written here, which doesn't make a strong case for a decision in either direction. I think there's a good case to make for extending town limits by purchasing open space from other local governments. But it seems to me that it comes down to sacrificing in the short term for achieving long term benefits. If outside land is purchased then the town foregoes the opportunity to purchase land closer in to town (all those Smart Growth principles such as walkability, density, etc.). If the town doesn't purchase the land, we face Walmart et al. It's not simple, therefore its not an either or decision. Sounds like a perfectly fine discussion for the upcoming election to me.

Terri, the point of re-opening this discussion is not the substance of the Erwin Trace question but the N&O's identifying Ed as a leader in Chapel Hill taking a pro-active role. He wasn't.

BTW, the Council was unanimous in the end to put up the 100K for this (Wiggins was the sole vote against upping it to 125k)). It's hardly a controversial issue at this point or a likely campaign issue.

Ed's honesty, if that turns out to be the problem with the N&O piece. would be a campaign issue. I hope he'll clarify the question and ask the N&O to issue a correction.

Dan--I didn't suggest reopening the Erwin Trace question. I proposed expanding the discussion toward aspects of the Erwin Trace discussion, such as open space and intergovernmental planning/communications, that are going to continue being issues. You characterized leadership on Erwin Trace as entrepreneurial (Strom) vs bureaucratic (Harrison). I see value in both approaches, so why not take the opportunity of the campaign to discuss the implications of those different approaches?

Actually, as Will points out, we pay people to take the bureaucratic position. They're called bureaucrats.

I wanted to thank Dan Coleman for a good conversation yesterday about this thread. Responding here to him will require some significant space.

I will now explain what I think happened to what I said to Matt Dees in the N&O's "editing' process. Last Wednesday, since reporters kept asking about a candidacy. I called Rob Shapard of the CH Herald and Matt Dees of the N&O/CH News. (I had already talked with the DTH's Chris Carmichael when he approached me after Monday night's final regular Council meeting. )

Rob, unlike Matt, seemed to have some time to spend with his article, which was a full-blown piece on three of us who had announced.

(Please note my giving equal time to a couple of friends who also announced around the same time).

Rob correctly paraphrased my highlighting of "work in areas such as drafting the wording for requirements on steep slopes and stream buffers, in the town's revamped Land-Use Management Ordinance, and a range of transportation issues, from pushing for more bicycle facilities to seeking better planning for the U.S. 15-501 corridor."

As it happens, the CH Herald published editorials specifically commending my initiating Chapel Hill's efforts – that is, leading the Council's way – on giving large buffers to intermittent streams, and in doing a locally-based, transit-oriented plan for redesigning U.S. 15-501 between University Mall and I-40. You may have noticed how seldom any newspaper editor writes a piece praising a specific elected official – and only that official. The stream buffer provisions are adopted and doing their job, and we're still waiting for NCDOT to get with our program for the Boulevard.

Back to Matt Dees: I didn't connect with him until after the Council's work session on downtown development on Wednesday. He was obviously in a huge hurry. I made almost exactly the same statements to Matt as I had to Rob (whom I heard typing them into his computer) – using the same handwritten notes. Matt used a reporter's chicken scratches on a notepad (the paper kind) – and was so rushed that I asked him if he thought he'd gotten it right. Oh sure, he said, but now he had to go file his pieces and then immediately leave for 2 weeks. Some editor would put something short together on all the races around here, he said, and he'd be back later to do longer candidate profiles.

Somewhere in there he had asked about notable votes in recent months. What I noted was that I had been the first elected official on any of the four involved boards or councils to make a motion to spend money on the purchase of the Duke land on Erwin Road for open space. This happened on March 21 – 8 weeks later than January 28, 8 weeks in which a project which appeared to protect City of Durham backyards had developed into a major regional nature preserve, including sections of the New Hope Creek valley which I knew almost as well as the owners. I have the link to the minutes for the meeting below.

I have some idea of how Matt wrote this, and really wish he'd picked other items of more importance to Chapel Hill – as Rob had – to send along to an editor who was also obviously in a hurry.

So that's how this "oddity' got into print, I think.

Someone may accuse me of being inarticulate to the point of vagueness – and they'd have a point. But I really don't believe someone can accuse me of dishonesty at any point in my Council service or in anything I've said to the media. I want to thank Dan for acknowledging that. The statements of late January which he found troubling were the completely honest, unrehearsed statements of an elected official who knew too much about the issues to let him consider all the crazy possibilities. Since there are hardly any issues at the Council with which I have as much experience as open space protection around New Hope Creek, this sort of Hamlet-like indecision is highly unlikely to happen again.

In the minutes of the March 21 Council meeting. you will see that there's no mention of Bill Strom – the colleague who kept me optimistic that something could come of this project, which looked barely feasible in late January. Bill was driving in from RDU at that time. As the primary Town representative on the regional group which had worked the most on this – the Durham-Chapel Hill-Orange Work Group (where Bill is an alternate, who almost always attends alongside me) – I was the key person in place at 7 PM on March 21 to "start the ball rolling." I came into the meeting knowing that an incredible deal had been pieced together, and that it was now or never to bring it to a close.

Once we'd done our piece, unanimously, I lobbied Durham Council members to do something similar, and sat for several hours in the front row of the audience at their work session, next to Durham Commissioner and 40-year preservationist Becky Heron, to stare at them until they did do something. To give credit – the major regional leadership on this, to move it from a neighborhood trying to block a development to four governments creating significant open space preserve, was from Durham Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, chair of her board, with a lot of help from Orange Commissioner Barry Jacobs. Both their boards had split votes – Durham County's was 3-2, and the 3rd vote was hard for Becky and Ellen to get.

Dan sees that this (Erwin Trace) should not be "a likely campaign issue." I agree. I do hope it's one for a couple of anti-environmental iincumbents on Durham City Council, but that's a subject for other blogs or listservs based in that city.

If you've read this far, see below for documentation.


Council Member Harrison said he had worked for a long time on issues surrounding the New Hope Corridor, noting he had worked on the original studies for the Corridor. He said he had a series of opinions on this going back to January, adding his opinions had evolved due to the changing circumstances. Council Member Harrison said that under ordinary circumstances he would not agree that the best way to spend our funds was on open space outside the Town limits, or the New Hope Corridor for that matter. But, he noted, what had changed since January was that Duke University was willing to sell and put payment at a three-year period, and the Penny family's offer to sell. Council Member Harrison noted he had recommended the purchase of this land in 1989 in his report to the Triangle Land Conservancy, and that the Triangle Land Conservancy and Orange County had been attempting to purchase it since that time. He noted that finally, the Penny family had an offer on the table and he hoped they would have an option worked out in the next few days.

Council Member Harrison said another change since January was that the grants that were available, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Environmental Enhancement Program and possibly others, were more real now than before. He said especially worthy of note was the significant citizen effort that had just begun in January and had moved along impressively, including involvement by some Chapel Hill citizens. Council Member Harrison said the biggest battle in terms of getting this to happen would be the City of Durham, and believed that Orange County and Durham County would have some interesting closed sessions on this.




I hope that Ed's detailed explanation of how his comments came to be represented in the N & O will suffice for Dan and Will, at least for awhile. I have known Ed for about 4 years now and, in addition to considering him a friend, have no doubts that his interest in preserving the New Hope Creek corridor goes back well before the Erwin Trace project was being considered and years before CH Council began its deliberations. Anyone who knows Ed knows that he has been a long-time friend of the environment and its preservation in this area. And anyone who has dealt with the press (and particularly editors) knows how articles sometimes lose bits of information in their composition or editing which can significantly affect how they might be interpreted.

Thanks, Ed, for your detailed explanation. I'm sure I'm not the only one who appreciates your acknowledgment of how you misled Dees as to that vote. That's not easy for an elected official (or anyone) to do.

GeorgeC, I'm talking about a disconnect between intent and implementation.

Maybe it's his desire to please staff, maybe it's his desire to please the Chamber of Commerce folk, maybe it's a consequence of his technocratic/bureaucratic style, but in several key instances, Ed hasn't been a good champion for strengthening Chapel Hill's commitment to the environment.

Ed, like I assume most of the Council, wants to do the right thing by the environment, but his actual work implementing his good intentions has been flawed. In a few memorable cases his involvement has been nearly disastrous - which makes the claims in his "explanation"

Rob correctly paraphrased my highlighting of “work in areas such as drafting the wording for requirements on steep slopes and stream buffers, in the town's revamped Land-Use Management Ordinance, and a range of transportation issues, from pushing for more bicycle facilities to seeking better planning for the U.S. 15-501 corridor.”

As it happens, the CH Herald published editorials specifically commending my initiating Chapel Hill's efforts – that is, leading the Council's way – on giving large buffers to intermittent streams, and in doing a locally-based, transit-oriented plan for redesigning U.S. 15-501 between University Mall and I-40. You may have noticed how seldom any newspaper editor writes a piece praising a specific elected official – and only that official. The stream buffer provisions are adopted and doing their job, and we're still waiting for NCDOT to get with our program for the Boulevard.

beyond ludicrous.

I haven't looked into the specifics of the Chapel Hill Herald's praise of Caesar Ed, but I'm sure in the coming months that those who came to praise will start to bury Ed's aspirations as the details of his incumbency spill forth.
To start with, for instance, his work on stream determinations was at odds with the rest of the knowledgeable environmentalists on Council - to the point of reversing the complete intent of those determinations. Luckily, some of his missteps were corrected by others interventions but his involvement was deleterious at best.

What would've happened without those interventions? I think we'd have a "name only" policy as far as perennial stream designations. Instead, we have a compromised solution that could have been stronger but for Ed's involvement.

In light of that, it's strange of him to claim streams protection as one of his successes.

And LUMO? What of all the discussions on the steep slope provisions of LUMO? As I recall, when the staff presented their ideas on limiting development on steep slopes in Town, nearly the whole Council joined together in a call to strengthen the provisions. Ed was asked, I believe maybe because of his stated interest in preservation and staff-like abilities, to take charge of redrafting these provisions - to put teeth in those steep slope LUMO regulations.

Here was Ed's chance to shine but shine he didn't.

He started out with some fine intentions, but brought back a weaker proposal - a proposal since amended back to some reasonableness, but, again, whatever Ed's intent, a proposal lesser for his involvement. Maybe the weakened LUMO proposal was execusable based on Ed's relative newness on the Council, but he's seemed to continue this pattern throughout his incumbency.

Ed's a fine person with some great intentions but, at least from what I've observed over the last four years, he's his own worst enemy when it comes to breaking with the herd. Whether steep slopes or stream designations, strong regulations were sure to tick off some of his constituents (as, obviously, weaker ones would also do ;-) ). Applying the "most good for the most citizens over the most time", one would think Ed could clearly stand on principle, the stated principle he ran on as a Council candidate, and go against those that favored short-term gain over long-term preservation.

Instead, absent any apparent strong outside pressure, Ed's resolve wavered and the results were less than adequate.

Again, I think we have a tough slog over the next four years and we need eight Council members firing on all cylinders.

We can't afford to keep a candidate because he's a nice guy, we like him, he has good intentions when the outcome of his involvement is usually a watered down, weakened result for reasons unjustified.


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