Growth & Development

Thorpe's Dean Dome vote

Here's a statement from Bill Thorpe clarifying his leadership in protecting neighborhoods on Town Council during the 1980's:

I am writing to clarify my role in Council votes over the Smith Center Special Use Permit. I believe that by providing voters with this background, they will understand that I have long been a strong advocate for the people and neighborhoods of Chapel Hill.

Here are the facts: In July 1980, I voted to approve the university's application for a special permit to construct the Dean Dome, having cast two prior opposing votes because of my concerns about the impact the development would have on the surrounding neighborhoods. These two 'no' votes were based on the legitimate objections raised by nearby residents about noise and traffic problems. I voted 'no' until the council secured noise buffers and more traffic controls. After securing those concessions, I voted yes - the vote alluded to by Mr. Davis.

UNC discusses Master Plan with itself

I keep hearing that there will be engagement with the entire community about UNC's Master Plan, but the public hasn't been invited to any accessible (ie: off-campus) meetings about it. The the last two "community workshops" (November 2004 and May 2005) were held in the middle of central campus (and were not well-attended in the previous round).

I would think UNC would use a space either near downtown or near parking if they actually wanted the community to attend. Or as I suggested last May, enable feedback by giving the community more than one meeting to look at, process, and give feedback on the plan:

Local governments tackle affordable housing

During last week's Sierra Club forum in Carrboro, candidates were asked what they felt needed to be done to increase the stock of affordable housing in town. Each of the 4 candidates who addressed this question agreed that it is the most complex problem before the BOA.

Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill work from a version of inclusionary zoning that requires new developers to include affordable units along with their market priced units. In Carrboro developers who comply with the "small house ordinance" are given a density bonus to help them recover some of their lost opportunity. In Chapel Hill, developers can provide payment in lieu of compliance. New units developed through the Carrboro plan are deeded over to the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust as a means of ensuring they stay affordable. Buyers own the dwelling but not the land upon which the dwelling sits. Chapel Hill is currently clarifying the legal the language around their affordable housing options.

Connectivity and Community

The importance of streets to community was articulated by Ivan Illich in his essay Silence is a Commons. Here is the excerpt:

What a difference there was between the new and the old parts of Mexico City only 20 years ago. In the old parts of the city the streets were true commons. Some people sat on the road to sell vegetables and charcoal. Others put their chairs on the road to drink coffee or tequila. Others held their meetings on the road to decide on the new headman for the neighbourhood or to determine the price of a donkey. Others drove their donkeys through the crowd, walking next to the heavily loaded beast of burden; others sat in the saddle. Children played in the gutter, and still people walking could use the road to get from one place to another.

Weigh in on wi-fi

Guest Post by James Protzman

The idea of communitiy wi-fi is emerging as a potential local election issue -- and would seem to warrant broader public discussion as well.

Some say wi-fi should be a purely commercial undertaking left to the private sector. Others (like me, for example) see wireless connectivity as an increasingly critical part of community infrastructure -- similar to sidewalks, parks and public safety -- services that support the common good.

My view is simple: we cannot allow the issue of connectivity to become yet another element in the growing "digital divide." That is, no one should be disadvantaged for not having resources to buy high-speed access for their homes and families.

There are plenty of ways to think about this and many experiments going on around the country. Some of them are reported here . . . and I'm sure there are other good resources. If you know of any, please share them.



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