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Candidate for Pittsboro Town Board

Jim Hinkley 

Candidate for Pittsboro Town Board

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Jim Hinkley
Full legal name, if different: James Robert Hinkley
Date of birth: 10/08/1933
Home address: 126 Evergreen Drive, Pittsboro, NC 27312
Mailing address, if different from home: N/A
Campaign Web site: pittsborotogether.org
Occupation & employer: Retired; AICP certified professional city and regional planner; CZO certified zoning officer
Home phone: 919 542-5364
Work phone: N/A
Cell phone: 919 548-6300
E-mail: jhinkley@nc.rr.com


1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

I am retired with more than 40 years experience as a certified professional city, regional, and state planner in North Carolina. A refugee of North Hills in Raleigh, I have lived in Chatham County for 26 years. I love my home town of Pittsboro. I have been involved as a leader in community life wherever I have lived. My public and community service includes:

  • Member, Washington, NC Redevelopment Commission, 1967-69
  • Chair, Washington PTA Presidents’ Council, 1968-69
  • Board of Directors, Washington United Way, 1968
  • Five Outstanding Young Men of North Carolina, NC Jaycees, 1968
  • President, NC Chapter, American Planning Association, 1973-1975
  • Chair, National Chapter Presidents’ Council of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), 1975
  • Member, City of Raleigh Planning Commission, 1970’s
  • Chair, Raleigh Citizens’ Advisory Council, 1970’s
  • Co-Founder and President, Raleigh Pan-Lutheran Ministries, 1970’s
  • Member, Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council, 1970’s
  • Current Member, Chatham County Planning Board, and in 1983-84
  • Lord Mayor of Bynum Ridge, Chatham County, 1980’s
  • Secretary, Saralynn Corporation, Chatham County, 1980’s
  • Executive Director, North Carolina Land Stewardship Council, 1980-1989
  • Member, North American Council on Christianity and the Environment, 1980’s
  • Board of Directors, Haw River Assembly, 1981-1988
  • Member, Pittsboro Friends of the Library, 1980’s
  • Co-Founder, CORA Chatham Outreach Alliance (Food Pantry), 1980’s
  • Lay Eucharistic Minister (Current), St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church
  • Junior and Senior Warden, 1980’s
  • Chair, Pittsboro Together, 2005-2007

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a progressive and open minded Democrat who believes that it is important not only to talk-the-talk but to walk-the-walk as a caring person in society. The matters and issues I stand for are reflected in my community service, professional, and religious life.

Basically, I am a strong believer in and promoter of equal opportunity, decent affordable and accessible housing, equal access to community facilities, and an open, accessible, and compassionate government for all. Opportunity for citizen participation in decision-making is paramount. I want to help citizens imagine the good things that can happen in Pittsboro through open government. I will advocate and promote comprehensive land use planning, downtown revitalization, public improvements planning, capital improvements programming, “high road” economic development that seeks clean industries paying good wages, openspace conservation, and environmental protection.

I am a member, former chair, and active supporter of Pittsboro Together, an inclusive community organization with the goal of improving the quality of life of Pittsboro. I am a part of a progressive team of candidates that includes out gifted incumbent mayor, Randy Voller, and talented Town Board candidates, Michele Berger and Gary Simpson. Together, we four are dedicated to becoming a new majority on the Town Board in support of Mayor Voller and Commissioner Pamela Baldwin.

3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

It is imperative that Pittsboro adopt the comprehensive land use plan being developed by citizens with the help of the Triangle Council of Governments before any big decisions about new development are made. Otherwise, the Town will end up in a hodgepodge of unmanageable land use and development that will sink the community into debt, congestion, and even worse water and sewer problems. Unfortunately, the recent decisions of the majority of the town board clearly show that it is uninterested in land use planning.

Town Government must develop a vision for the future and cease reacting and kowtowing solely to the influence of outsiders’ plans for Pittsboro. These developers and realtors have many plans for us, but they do not necessarily fit into a sensible overall, self-created, self-sustaining plan for Pittsboro’s future. The existing town board majority’s submission to outside proposals are fostering urban sprawl, strip development, and unbearable traffic congestion.

A new Town Board must develop a vision for Pittsboro’s future that will bring order and good sense to decision-making. Town government needs to become proactive in planning for the future rather than sitting back and responding positively to any and all inconceivable outside proposals.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

New homes in all of the recent subdivisions in Pittsboro’s jurisdiction are generally upscale and expensive -- ranging upwards from $200-250,000. These homes do not provide opportunities for good housing for lower to medium income families. Ironically, the current majority of the Town Board recently turned down a $400,000 offer from Chatham County to create opportunities for affordable housing within the town limits. I will work for affordable housing in Pittsboro and its extraterritorial jurisdiction. I am also a member of the county planning board and supported the new majority of the County Commissioners who are moving to require new developments to provide a fair share of affordable housing in their community through inclusionary and incenetive zoning. Mayor Randy Voller is a member of the county affordable housing task force and with Mayor Voller the Pittsboro Together slate will work with the county and revise our own land use regulations to promote affordable housing in mixed income neighborhoods. That has historical been one of the beauties of small towns and one reason I moved to Pittsboro. We want to preserve and enhance Pittsboro as a mixed-income, inclusionary and diverse community where people of all incomes, races, nationalities, backgrounds etc are welcomed and embraced.

Possibly by being a model of how a community and small town can grow without becoming exclusionary in terms of income and race, we Pittsboro can become a model for other similar growing communities in the Triangle.

5. Do you support Chatham County’s proposed land-transfer tax? Why or why not?

The one percent Land Transfer Tax as it was originally proposed in the General Assembly was a good concept. A 1% LTT was intended to replace the regressive flat impact fees on new residences and to keep real property taxes and sales taxes low. LTT would have been a progressive and equitable tax since payments would be proportional to the price of real estate sales. It also would have been more sustainable since it was not totally dependent on new homes sales.

Most importantly for Pittsboro’s municipal election, as originally proposed some of the funds were to be shared with municipalities. This would have been significant for Pittsboro, which is facing a critical crisis with insufficient water and sewer capacity. It could have given both counties and municipalities, such as Pittsboro, alternatives for maintaining fiscal ability to keep up with mounting needs such as infrastructure in addition to water and sewer (including streets, fire and police protection, downtown renewal, street lighting, sidewalks, etc.), and at the same time to keep the real property tax burden low as has been proven already to be the case in six NC counties.

The compromised LTT bill that finally passed with only a .4 percent rate eliminated municipalities from participating and receiving benefit. The legislation fell short of helping towns. Although Chatham County may benefit greatly, Pittsboro would not realize this added income potential.

I believe that the County LTT issue diverts Pittsboro voters from the real issues in this municipal campaign, namely the failure of the current majority of the town board to control growth, to provide clean and safe drinking water, and to expand the towns' sewer capacity to meet local business needs and to accommodate high paying industries that want to locate in Pittsboro.

Incumbent town commissioner and mayoral candidate Max Cotten is trying to make the LTT an issue by forming a referendum committee opposing the issue. Ironically, as a retired career Chatham County school administrator he is actively opposing a proposal that would provide increased funds for school construction. On October 1, the County Commissioners vowed to dedicate at least 85 percent of the proceeds from the LTT for schools.

6. Residential and commercial growth will change Pittsboro’s landscape and residents’ way of life drastically over the next several decades. What are the pros and cons of projects like Pittsboro Place and River Oaks coming to town (or not)? Separate from individual projects, please explain your overall vision for Pittsboro’s future.

I am a strong believer in Smart Growth. I know what Smart Growth is, and in spite of what the developers said, Pittsboro Place is not an example of Smart Growth. It is a classic example of urban sprawl. This proposal promised a “world class” mall larger than Southpoint in Durham, Crabtree Valley in Raleigh, Carytown Mall, or Crossroads Shopping Center in Cary. If implemented the development would choke Pittsboro with traffic congestion and kill Downtown.

In the meantime, 64 Crossroads, a commercial strip development has been proposed for Pittsboro. Located 2½ miles from the Courthouse Circle on Eubanks Road between US 64 Business East and US 64 Bypass, 70+ acres were rezoned by the current town board majority in a 3-2 vote with the recommendation of the planning board. Within a month of each other. Pittsboro Place and 64 Crossroads have been rezoned to accommodate outside developers proposals without the guidance of a current land use plan. Inappropriately, adequate water and sewer are not available for these proposals. Sufficient sewer will not be available for five years.

For years Pittsboro’s Planning Board and the majority of town commissioners have been operating in a reactionary mode without the benefit of sensible land use planning. In cases, these boards have responded to individual desires and pressures without looking at the big picture and not overall community interests. As a result, Pittsboro now presents itself as a soft touch for sprawl developers’ rezoning proposals. Obviously, outside developers are well aware of this. They are moving in to take charge of Pittsboro’s growth. They have the advantage because of the town’s current lack of vision and stalwart desire for quality growth. The bottom line is profits at a high cost for the town and its residents.

The citizens of Pittsboro resent being told by outside realtors and developers what they think is good for the town and how they think it should grow. Rezoning our industrial park by the town board majority to mixed use for Pittsboro Place was very short sighted. The ill conceived action placed our newly constituted Economic Development Corporation with its new director at a great disadvantage at the get go. Reportedly, there have been a number of excellent prospects for industrial development on the property in question that were turned away because of lack of interest by the current town board and their giving away of all available sewer to outsider residential and retail developments. This includes a questionable good-old-boy 15,000 gallon a day sewer allocation to the outsider developers of Pittsboro Place.

On the one hand, jobs that industrial development will bring would be good paying, with good benefits. On the other hand, the 3,300 service and retail sales and dead-end-jobs promised by Pittsboro Place developers would be low paying. Since the majority of the Town Board has turned down Affordable Housing for Pittsboro, there would be little housing accommodation for low paid workers in proposed Pittsboro Place. They would have to commute to Pittsboro. Promised bowling alley jobs (renting shoes, serving hamburgers and beer, and polishing alleys), and movie theater jobs (selling tickets, making popcorn and selling Milk Duds, and scraping chewing gum off the floor) are low paying dead-end jobs with few or no benefits.

My overall vision for Pittsboro’s future is a small to medium size self-sustaining community with opportunities for decent housing, quality jobs with good benefits, shopping, recreation, street connectivity, walkability and bikeability. I envision a rejuvenated, infilled central business district (downtown) with a variety of attractive shops and restaurants with a festival atmosphere. I would like to see a concentric pattern of development emanating from a high density town core, decreasing in density outward with no strip commercial development. There would be plenty of greenspace and recreation opportunities. The arts, theater, and music would be abundant. New subdivisions would be mixed-use with mini-service oriented, walkable commercial uses. Limited big box development and highway oriented uses would be guided to the two interchanges of the US 64 Bypass at US15-501 and NC 87.

7. The departure of the previous town manager was an ugly episode in town government. Now that you’ve hired a new manager, what do you want him to accomplish in the next six months? How about in the next year?

First, he will need to get his feet on the ground, become integrated into the management process, and get to know the new Town Board. I would like to see the new manager get acquainted with citizens and particularly with the merchants of downtown to begin to know their desires and needs. Although the merchants have creatively fended for themselves and have been treated over the years as an unwanted stepchildren by the majority of the town board, the central business district remains vibrant with inventive activities such as First Sunday and Fishy Friday.

As much as he is able as he performs his administrative duties, I hope the new town manager would develop and maintain an open door policy with town employees and with the citizenry. During the next year, I hope that the new manager can be a strong leader in beginning to overcome 20-30 years of infrastructure (water, sewer, and streets maintenance and improvement) neglect. I trust that he would become a catalyst in turning the town board modus operandi away from the pervasive malaise of studying, restudying, and placing blame to a positive “Can-Do” way of decision-making. I would like to see him strongly support the current citizen driven land use planning program and to bring it to fruition with a strong commitment to implementing the plan. The new manager should promote making development decisions for community facilities and capital improvements in accordance with a newly adopted comprehensive land use plan. This should be paramount in his administration of town government. The current majority of the town board voted to spend $50,000 to prepare a plan while at the same time approving gargantuan outside developer projects without any planning guidance. To this point in time, this has been a major waste of $50,000 of the tax payers money.

I would like to see the new manager look at the positive aspects of governing and bring that positive thinking to meetings. He needs to assimilate and represent the new “Can Do” attitude of a newly elected town board majority to accomplish what must be done to the run the town effectively and efficiently.

8. If you are incumbent, please share some self-reflection about the pros and cons of the job the current mayor and council are doing leading the town. If you are a challenger, critique the job the incumbents are doing.

I have attended numerous Town Board meetings both as a private citizen and as a professional planning consultant. Mayor Voller has a positive vision for Pittsboro but without a vote and little cooperation from the incumbent majority on the board, his hands have been tied. The majority of the town board has little vision incorporated into decision-making. It operates in a reactionary mode, rather than moving forward in a proactive manner to provide services and facilities for the community.

Currently, the town board majority seems to always have 16 reasons why something cannot be done rather that 2-3 thoughts and ideas on how things can be accomplished. The Pittsboro planning board has been making some unusual, erratic, and ill conceived recommendations to the town board. These recommendations have been rife with personal interests and desires devoid of overall community interest and without the recognition of a land use plan. As a result, Pittsboro has become an easy target for rezoning proposals. It has become easy prey--a soft touch. “The realtor/developer complex” is well aware of this weakness. A new town board will need to carefully choose new planning board members.

Deliberations of the current majority of the town board centers around matters of not having enough money for respective projects, administration, and water and sewer maintenance and improvements. There is inertia in deciding to take action. For instance, the majority of the town board has been discussing improvement and enlargement of the very limited seating accommodations for citizens for nearly nine years. In addition to the neglected water and sewer systems, the deterioration of the town’s basketball and tennis courts in an unusable state for many years was just another matter of neglect by the majority of the Town Board. If it were not for our assertive mayor, grant monies to make recreation improvements would not have been awarded the town.

The quality of drinking water has been a concern of citizens for years. The 1950’s treatment plant is outdated and in need of upgrading, improvement, and expansion. The sewer lines are decrepit and leaking, and the sewage treatment plant cannot operate at full capacity because has not been maintained in good condition. The town board has placed band aids on systems for 20-30 years without bothering to find ways to upgrade and maintain the systems.

  • Candidate for Pittsboro Town Board

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