Baby Steps: Our First NCD

Tomorrow (1/21/03) the Chapel Hill Town Council will hold public hearings on some major (and some minor) zoning changes. On the table are the creation of the town's first-ever Neighborhood Conservation District (NCD). This NCD would apply to Northside (where I live), and I was on the commitee that developed the proposal. The biggest change is the banning of duplexes (which I opposed). That is probably what most peope will speak about at the hearing, although there are also concerns about the proposed cap of 2,000 square feet per dwelling (which I supported). I think the NCD is sorely needed, and this is a good step. But it doesn't really confront the problems that face our downtown, working-class, near-campus neighborhood. Some people don't think it can address those things. I think it could have... but anyway.

It's Happenning on Rosemary Street

Drive down West Rosemary Street and you will now see a huge pile of rubble where several buildings used to be. Tom Tucker's "Rosemary Village" development is finally underway. I'm both scared and excited.

To me, this represents a new era for Chapel Hill, especially downtown. Tucker's development will be compact but dense, and truly mixed-use. Street-level retail with upscale condos (and a few token affordable rentals) on top. The plan has some flaws, but that's no surpise since we've only done one or two things like this before (ie: The Fountains). It's decidely urban, and I like that.

If it's done wrong, this could be a huge drag to Northside. If done right, it could jumpstart healthy revitalization of West Rosemary Street. I like Tom Tucker, and I trust that he wants to help the community (as long as he still makes money). Still, it's so tall!

Whose House? Cam's House.

Well some folks are starting to get pretty worked up over the story of Cam trading property with the University. So let's discuss. I know emotions are high around this issue, please keep it civil!

The Chapel Hill News reports today that Town Council Member-Elect Cam Hill made a deal with the University to trade his house on Cameron Avenue for a nicer one on Rosemary Street. I think there are two issues here (correct me if I'm wrong). (1) Is Cam being hypocritical for criticizing the University and it's associates, and then cutting a deal with them? And (2) should this deal have been disclosed before the election?

Many folks, including Eric Muller at, have taken issue with the fact that this deal was kept quiet for six weeks leading up to the election. However, I'm not convinced that this constitutes a "conflict of interest." (And yes Eric, there is a recall provision, ask Joe Herzenberg about it.)

To Duplex Or Not To Duplex, Is That The Question?

When they adopted the Land-Use Management Ordinance in 2002, the Chapel Hill Town Council created a new way to protect residential areas, it's called the Neighborhood Conservation District. The first community to develop an NCD is Northside, where I live. If you are unfamiliar with it, Northside is a historically black and working-class neighborhood downtown (north of Rosemary Street, south of Bolin Creek, east of Carrboro, and west of Columbia Street). Low prices and convenient location have made the neighborhood increasingly attractive to student renters and their investor-landlords who can afford to pay more than many families and contribute less to the community in my opinion.

I have lots more I'd like to say about this, but what I want you to know right now is that the Town is holding a public forum to discuss the recommendation of the citizen committee that is working with the Planning Board to develop this Neighborhood Conservation District for Northside. Here's the scoop:


Friends of Who?

Yesterday's Chapel Hill Herald gave us a preview of the "Friends of Sunrise" forum. Excuse me, but who the hell holds their candidate forum on the same night as a Town Council meeting? Doesn't that sort of indicate that you are more interested in making your own points than hearing other people's?

They also gave the candidates questions in advance:

One of the submitted questions reads in part, "Do you think that the town should continue its current policy of ignoring I-40 noise?" Another question asks, "Do you think nonprofits should be allowed to build large-scale, low-income housing projects with public funds and with no public accountability?"

The question on the bonds reads, "Keeping in mind that property taxes have increased steadily over the past 15 years and many Chapel Hill residents have lost their jobs in the economic downturn, how would you justify that this is the time to initiate the largest bond package in Chapel Hill history? Are there other ways to accomplish the intended goals?"



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