As promised, the Chapel Hill Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to enact a six-month moratorium on residential development in Northside and Pine Knolls, the town's two historically African-American downtown neighborhoods.
It allows exemptions for homeowners seeking to repair foundations or catastrophic damage, correct code or zoning violations or to remove an existing structure and to replace it with a structure of the same or smaller size.
Charles Brown, the black business owner whose complaint against the Chapel Hill Police Department helped reignite the campaign for a civilian police review board in Chapel Hill, has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill police officers accused of falsely detaining him in 2009. The complaints against the Town and police officers claim violations of the N.C. Constitution, false imprisonment and assault and battery.
The “best life in town,” as the commercials promised, is being sold to the highest bidder on June 27, when Bank of America plans to foreclose on Greenbridge—the 10-story, 217,000 square foot residential and retail development on West Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill.
The property will be put up for public auction at the Orange County Courthouse at 10 a.m. that day, following months of financial troubles for the developers.
Bank of America filed the foreclosure proposal in April, and since then has been in negotiations with the Greenbridge developers to resolve the close to $30 million in principal, interest and late fees Greenbridge Development has not paid on its $43 million loan from Bank of America. They have failed to reach an agreement and Greenbridge has failed to pay, so Bank of America is going ahead with its plans to auction the property.
Less than half of the 97 units in the development are occupied. The Community Home Trust owns deeds to some of the condos, so people living in those condos will not face foreclosure, but any Greenbridge tenants who wish to terminate their rental agreement after the sale can do so with 10 days written notice to the landlord.
Republicans leading North Carolina’s redistricting process announced today, at a joint meeting of the House and Senate committees charged with drawing districts, that preliminary proposed maps will be released no later than Monday, with the full versions for N.C. House, N.C. Senate and U.S. Congressional districts to be unveiled July 1.
But the joint meeting of the Senate and House Redistricting Committees, Democrats balked at the schedule and questioned how citizens can give helpful input in such a short timeframe.
After House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Wake, termed the process, “deliberative,” “sequential” and “welcome breath of fresh air, Minority Leader Joe Hackney, D-Orange, fired back, “I personally don’t know where the fresh air is.”
“We’ve been here since January, we don’t have any maps, and we haven’t had any meaningful committee meetings. We have no criteria. It’s perfectly apparent that the maps are going to be drawn in secret by the majority,” he said.
“I would simply say that this process has been one that’s set up to look like a process but it’s not really a process at all.”
Though the committee held 36 public hearings across the state, critics point out that citizens did not have maps to comment on, hamstringing meaningful dialogue. Wednesday’s meeting was just the second that the committees have held.
Cloaked in Hawaiian T-shirts with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, leis around necks, cone-shaped party hats on scalps and noisemakers in mouths, members of the progressive Together N.C. coalition threw a send-off party to North Carolina on Wednesday morning on the Halifax Mall, bidding adieu to the state’s ability to thrive, they said.
“We’re here to say what makes this state great is ask risk,” said Louisa Warren, co-coordinator of Together N.C. and a policy advocate at the N.C. Justice Center.
The group handed out “pink slips” and offered cake and lemonade.
Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, stopped by to sign an oversized greeting card that read, “We’ll miss the good times, N.C.”
In passing House Bill 36 last week, the N.C. House of Representatives sent illegal immigrants a message.
If you want to come here and tend our fields, pick our crops or otherwise work outside in the sun, we'll look the other way. But if you try to put on a collared shirt and tie, we're coming for you.
Let me explain.
House Bill 36 broadens the state's E-Verify requirements. Already state agencies are supposed to submit the names of potential hires to a federal database to determine whether they can work legally in the United States. House 36 initially expanded this requirement to city and county governments, as well as private companies with government contracts.
Then legislators included any business with 25 or more employees, with a notable exception. From the bill:
Exemption. — The requirement to register and participate in E-Verify to verify the work authorization of new employees does not apply to an entity that employs solely seasonal temporary employees for 90 or fewer days during a 12-consecutive-month period.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday in North Carolina Superior Court calls into question the legitimacy of the InterFaith Council for Social Service’s move from downtown Chapel Hill to a new facility off of Homestead Road.
The Chapel Hill Town Council approved the permit application for the 52-bed, 17-cot men’s shelter, Community House, in May by a 6-2 vote after months of debate. Now neighbors to the site are taking legal action, appealing that elected officials had already decided to approve the permit prior to the public hearings on the move.
At the May 9 meeting, residents asked that Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and council members Penny Rich, Ed Harrison and Matt Czajkowski recuse themselves based on positions they took about the shelter relocation in a 2009 endorsement questionnaire. The officials opted against recusal, and now that decision will be challenged in court. Czajkowski joined Laurin Easthom in opposing the permit.
Check out the discussion on the lawsuit over at local blog Chapel Hill Watch. More to come as new details develop.
"It's going to take us a little time to recover from 100 years of disaster. But guess what? We're going to go ahead and we're going to show you how to do it. You're welcome to join us, or you can cry about it."
- Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho, Feb. 3, 2011
"This budget is your budget, and you're going to accept responsibility for it. We're going to make sure of it. I once again say to you I hope you're right, because we have got to recover from this recession or we are going to be looking like a third world country before too long."
- Democratic state Sen. Martin Nesbitt, June 1, 2011
When politics descend into hyperbole, the people lose.
But that seems to be the way things are going during this session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
Sen. Rucho, a key Republican leader in the Senate, set the bar high back in February. Sen. Nesbitt, the Democratic Minority Leader, was the first person I heard compare the state budget to the Titanic. Interestingly, he did it within minutes of complaining that Republicans hadn't given him time to actually read that budget.
The governor called the GOP's budget, which passed this weekend, a charade. State School Board Chairman Bill Harrison said it will do "irreparable harm" to the state.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis told this weekend's state GOP convention that NCAE staffers, who lobby for teachers, "don't care about kids, they don't care about classrooms, they only care about their jobs and their pensions."
What are the chances, do you figure, that they care about all those things?
Three weeks after the collapse of the roof at Liberty Warehouse on Rigsbee Avenue, two more properties controlled by Durham-based Greenfire Development could be under scrutiny for leaky roofs.
The city's building inspectors received a report Thursday about water leaks at two warehouses on Foster Street, said Rick Hester, assistant director of Durham Neighborhood Improvement Services. An inspector will be assigned next week to check out the claim that roofs at 609 Foster St. and 619/621 Foster St. are leaking when it rains.
By phone Friday, Greenfire Managing Partner Michael Lemanski said he was aware of minor leaks at the warehouses and didn't know Hester's department had received a complaint.
"We have water leaks. That's the constant battle with dilapidated buildings," Lemanski said, emphasizing that nearly all of the 30-some buildings Greenfire controls in downtown Durham were in various states of disrepair when the developer acquired them.
The news comes as Greenfire is managing both repairs at the Liberty Warehouse, and its reputation. With at least one million square feet of retail, office, warehouse and residential space in downtown, Greenfire has a firm grasp over the future of the way downtown Durham looks and feels, and whether it continues to prosper.
The city and county have promised to invest more than City leaders have supported Greenfire's long-range redevelopment plans, which could call for more than $20 million in public funds over the next several years to come to fruition. The city has pledged $3.2 million in incentives and a $1 million loan to help the company tackle its $50 million redevelopment of the SunTrust bank building into a 160-room boutique hotel. The incentives would be payable over 15 years after the completion of the project.
Despite that vote of confidence from the city, Greenfire is also under pressure from the city, tenants and the public in the dramatic May 14 roof collapse to act quickly to repair Liberty Warehouse and redevelop its other historic properties.
Those holdings include 117 W. Parrish St., a property at the center of an ongoing dispute with the city's Neighborhood Improvement Services department. A Greenfire-related entity purchased the building after it was gutted by a fire and the structure has sat without a roof—or any covering—for more than six years, Hester said.
Stirred by tension with NIS, Lemanski said Friday he would invite scrutiny of all of Greenfire's properties instead of having the buildings picked apart by city code inspectors, who Lemanski said are dishing complaints about Greenfire-owned properties to the media before contacting the developer. Lemanski made the comment Friday evening and the Indy could not reach Hester for an immediate response.
"We're going to invite them to take a look at all of our properties at once," Lemanski said. "We think it will be more efficient."
Lemanski said tensions with the city's inspectors began last year in disagreements over the building at 117 W. Parrish St. The city has found the building unsafe and has recommended it be demolished. Last year, Greenfire challenged those findings via a letter from its engineer.
The city commissioned an independent report from a Raleigh-based engineer to determine whether the building is structurally sound, and that report is due next week.
When we spoke with Los Primos owner Miguel Collado in March about how the widening of Alston Avenue could affect his grocery at the corner of East Main Street and Alston Avenue, he was hesitant to talk. Los Primos had been one of five convenience stores whose employees had been charged in February with selling stolen and counterfeit merchandise. Collado was not implicated in the theft ring, but two other Los Primos employees were charged.
Los Primos forfeited its ABC license after the Durham police sting, and back in March, Collado said his store was a lot more peaceful without beer and wine sales. From our story:
"Beer is 2 percent of our sales in this store," Collado said. "We sell more meats and groceries than beer." In fact, he said, the store has been so peaceful without beer sales—without people begging or employees having to chase shoplifters—that he's considering not selling it again. "It's been a blessing," he said.
But it looks like Collado's plans have changed. On Thursday, Collado and employee Rafael de la Cruz applied for an ABC permit, said Durham police Officer John Massimo, who solicited public input on the permit application from the district's Partners Against Crime group. Collado was not immediately available for comment.
There was nothing barring employees of the store from applying for a permit, Massimo said. But a background investigation and comments from neighbors will likely lessen the chances it is approved. In most cases, it takes about four weeks for police officials to gather public comment and background information and decide whether to approve a permit, said Massimo, the towing inspector and permit coordinator for the Durham police.
De la Cruz is still facing pending charges of possessing counterfeit trademarked items, organized retail theft and permitting unlawful activities on an ABC-licensed premise. He is required to appear in Durham district court on June 9.