With an area of less than 6 square miles and a little more than 6,000 residents, Hillsborough is a quaint, small town with strong ties to its colonial past. Residents and visitors walk the streets of the historic downtown, with its shops, restaurants and old homes, enjoying a town that's won national recognition for its preservation. But even a town like Hillsborough faces growth pressures, as developers line up to build on pristine tracts on the edge of town. The Hillsborough Board of Town Commissioners has largely rejected uncontrolled growth, pushing instead for development projects that reflect the town's character yet expand the tax base. Earlier this year, when Raleigh-based builder Asset Management proposed developing 200 acres in south Hillsborough, the board withheld its approval, instead negotiating with the developer to meet the town's needs. Town officials are working with Orange County leaders on a strategic growth plan to guide the next 20 years of development, so the city will be prepared for proposals such as Asset Management's. And the planning department is reviewing zoning ordinances so the wrong kinds of projects can't sneak in.
Our endorsements for the Hillsborough board focus on candidates we feel can shepherd the town through this challenging period. Four candidates are running for three open seats in the nonpartisan race. (Mayor Tom Stevens is running unopposed.) We support incumbents Eric Hallman and Evelyn Lloyd and political newcomer Bryant Kelly Warren Jr.
Hallman is seeking his second term. In his first term, the N.C. Central University biology professor and entrepreneur distinguished himself as a reliable vote for smart planning. He served with Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs as co-chairman of the Hillsborough-Orange County Strategic Growth Plan Steering Committee, where he helped establish growth guidelines that won't tax the town's limited water capacity. This election, his top priority remains managing growth pressure. He wants to ensure that new development doesn't burden the town's infrastructure or harm the town's character. But he realizes the town's fiscal health depends on some growth, particularly commercial. Observers note that Hallman is outgoing and smart and thinks about the issues creatively.
Lloyd is seeking her fifth term. After 16 years of service, Lloyd is a fixture on the board and around town. She runs a pharmacy in the heart of the historic district. Some question whether Lloyd has maintained her commitment to the town board and note that she can be difficult to reason with in meetings, but she remains a reliable progressive vote, especially on growth issues.
In her candidate questionnaire, she wrote, "Growth is surely coming and we must make certain that it improves our town and does not worsen the lives of our citizens. Careful planning must be used so that we encourage only those developments that will benefit our town. We do not need more 'big box' developments owned by national corporations. Instead we need to continue to encourage local businesses that keep revenues circulating in our community."
For the third seat, the Independent gives the nod to Warren over incumbent Brian Lowen. Both candidates are from the west side of Hillsborough, where observers say citizens tend to be more conservative and support growth. Warren has served on the planning board and the parks and recreation board, but has never held office. He is something of a political unknown. But he supports controlled growth for Hillsborough. Lowen, on the other hand, has rubber-stamped many developments.
Editor's note: Candidate Eric Hallman is married to Elizabeth Woodman, who serves on the Independent's board of directors.