Orange County commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight on a proposed solar farm on a 50-acre tract just north of Chapel Hill. The hearing will begin the process for builders to obtain a special use permit for the property, which is located off Mount Sinai Road near Cascade Drive. The applicants, Arizona-based Sunlight Partners LLC, intend to use roughly half of the land to build solar arrays, which will feed into the public power grid.
County Planning Director Craig Benedict said Orange County currently has one similarly-sized solar farm already in construction in the White Cross area.
Officials are expecting some opposition to the development, chiefly over fears that it will lower neighboring property values. The property is located within the county's rural buffer and is surrounded on three sides by residential development.
Tonight's hearing is a quasi-judicial hearing, meaning supporters and opponents will be limited to fact-based evidence, rather than subjective opinions.
Commissioners will not be making a decision on the application tonight. Following the hearing, it will be referred to the county Planning Board, which is expected to make a recommendation in time for commissioners' Sept. 16 meeting.
Obtain a copy of the permit application here. Tonight's meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the county's Department of Social Services office, located at 113 Mayo St. in Hillsborough.
Roughly 150 or so Durham residents craned forward to look Thursday night as Liberty Warehouse's prospective developers unveiled their site plan at the Durham County Public Library. The verdict? Not much surprise and a somewhat mixed reaction.
During a community meeting convened by Preservation Durham, builders from Chapel Hill-based East West Partners explained their intentions to convert the historic tobacco warehouse near Durham's Central Park into a 320,000 square-foot, mixed-use complex. Highlights include 246 apartments, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 391-space parking deck at the project's center. At its tallest, the building will stand five stories.
Roger Perry, president of East West Partners, said developers will look to design a complex that retains some of the warehouse's historic charm, co-opting old signs and building materials to keep a resonant, if not identical, look. Builders will also look to retain the warehouse's historic brick wall facing Central Park, which they say will be cut slightly to help it "mesh" with the new development.
"That's what's important," Perry said. "Preserving the memory of the building. It's not necessarily preserving the building."
The developers say they submitted their site plan to Durham city leaders this month, with demolition slated to begin in May. Opening date for the development is sometime in early 2016.
East West Partners is behind a number of upscale Triangle developments, including Woodcroft in Durham and East 54 in Chapel Hill.
It's a sign of movement in a long-stalled warehouse, which is beloved by longtime Durham residents for its historic place as the last standing tobacco auction warehouse in the city. Meanwhile, the crumbling building has been a thorny issue for members of the Durham City Council, which stripped the warehouse of its historic landmark status last May to clear the way for demolition.
In recent years, the structure had been used as a space for local artists and nonprofits, but its been largely vacant since the roof collapsed in 2011. Liberty's longtime owners, Durham-based Greenfire Development, were dogged by negligence claims when it came to the warehouse.
Many of the locals in attendance Thursday indicated they were somewhat pleased with what they saw. Others grumbled audibly.
Meanwhile, Preservation Durham Executive Director Wendy Hillis told residents that, with efforts to save the historic warehouse all but lost, it's best now to focus on working with the builders to create a pleasing project. "That ship has sailed," Hillis said.
Expect a full rundown on the Liberty project and its implications in next week's Indy.
Carrboro planners may have rebuffed a Family Dollar developer's designs for settling in an Alabama Avenue historic neighborhood, but local opponents of the discount store aren't breaking out the party hats and streamers just yet.
"We've been having these small victories," said community resident Anissa McLendon. "But we can't celebrate 100 percent, maybe we can celebrate about 80 percent."
McLendon, along with a band of fired-up neighbors, has led protests and even a march to stymie Raleigh-based builder Will Stronach's plans to build a 8,100-square-foot Family Dollar in the largely residential community.
The discount store would be built on less than an acre near the intersection of Alabama Avenue and Jones Ferry Road. Residents in the tightly-knit Alabama Avenue community have been largely unified for more than a year in their quest to jettison Family Dollar plans.
McLendon's guarded optimism comes after Carrboro Development Review Administrator Marty Roupe wrote in a July 20 letter that a builder plan to pipe drainage water off of the Alabama Avenue site clashes with town ordinances that development "shall conform to the natural contours of the land and natural drainage ways shall remain undisturbed."
By piping the drainage off-site, the builder hoped to avoid town rules requiring Stronach receive a variance from town regulations on an ephemeral stream, a temporary waterway created by precipitation. Carrboro land maps denote one such stream on the Alabama Avenue plot.
The builder contends a pipe running beneath a nearby convenience store "artificially" increases the flow on the Alabama Avenue tract, and that piping the flow to the town's drainage system on Jones Ferry Road would render the variance unnecessary.
Carrboro staff would not give their blessing.
The decision is the latest snag for Family Dollar, a Matthews-based chain that residents worried would beget heavy traffic and crime for the neighborhood. In June, Stronach—who did not return an Indy phone call this week—withdrew his application after the Carrboro Board of Adjustment rejected the stream variance. Reps for the builder have been inquiring about his options with town staff in the weeks since.
Following Family Dollar's latest defeat, McLendon said Tuesday that locals hope the developer gets the message. "Maybe they will just go find another lot that would be suitable for their needs," she said.
Family Dollar foes hope to deal another blow to the proposal in September, which is when officials on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen are expected to consider rezoning the Alabama Avenue tract for residential uses. The move would require any future commercial development plans go before the town's elected leaders for rezoning.
North Carolina’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $1.24 billion in direct economic activity, and the Triangle region led the state, accounting for just under a third of the total amount in 2010. Moreover, in a time when economic growth has been scarce, jobs in the state’s creative industry have grown by more than 3.5 percent since 2006. Those numbers were among the findings announced Monday in Winston-Salem when the North Carolina Arts Council released the results of a statewide study into the economic impact of the arts.
The study, “Arts and Economic Prosperity IV,” also found that arts and cultural spending generated more than $119 million in tax revenues for local and state governments, supporting more than 43,000 jobs in North Carolina in 2010.
One of the study’s more significant findings was that a nonprofit sector constituting just 2 percent of North Carolina’s total creative industry generated more than five times that amount of the industry’s direct gross domestic product, accounting for 11 percent of all industry spending in 2010. “The fact ... illustrates again just how powerful, profitable and important our nonprofit organizations are to the overall creative industry of North Carolina,” said Linda Carlisle, Secretary of Cultural Resources.
Ardath Weaver, director of research for the North Carolina Arts Council, noted the difference between the state’s support for nonprofits and the return it receives. “When you look at the amount of seed money invested from the public sector into these organizations, you see a huge return that their activities bring back to the coffers of state and local government,” Weaver said. “The amount of state funding we give out in grants to these organizations is $6.8 million. That returns $62.3 million to the state in tax revenue.” An additional $56.6 million is also generated in local tax revenues.
“We hear a lot of talk about supporting the arts, but I think this study shows that the arts support us,” noted Steve Berlin, vice-chairman of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. “Arts create jobs, generate tax revenue and make tremendous contributions to our community.”
In the Triangle, nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their patrons generated $390 million in direct economic activity in 2010, accounting for 14,882 jobs. They generated $19.7 million in state tax revenue and $17.7 million in local tax revenues.
The North Carolina study, which drew on fiscal information from 957 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and more than 19,000 audience surveys from across the state, was conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology as part of a national economic impact study effort by Americans for the Arts, a Washington-based advocacy group.
In focusing only on nonprofit and government facilities, the survey did not include for-profit enterprises (including the movie and gaming industries), or individual artists and creative workers. Not all eligible organizations participated in the study, so the report notes that its findings are probably an understatement of the industry’s actual economic impact.
The study found that more than 25.7 million people across the state attended events and facilities sponsored by the reporting organizations in 2010, spending an average of $23.37 on refreshments, meals, ground transportation and lodging beyond ticket prices.
“More than 47,000 creative for-profit and nonprofit establishments are making a difference in our state,” Carlisle said. “This latest study shows even more strongly that an investment in the arts is an investment in a growth industry.”
If you’re a Durham County resident, you may have received campaign mailers supporting the slate of Michael Page, Brenda Howerton, Joe Bowser and Rickey Padgett for county commissioner. Here's the mailer:
That mailer was paid for by the innocuously named Durham Partnership for Progress. But innocuous it is not: DPP is actually an independent expenditure political committee—commonly known as a Super PAC—organized by developer Tyler Morris, a majority shareholder in Southern Durham Development.
And not coincidentally, DPP is bankrolled, so far, by Southern Durham Development, which plans to build the controversial 751 South project in the sensitive Jordan Lake watershed.
Also not coincidentally, Page, Howerton and Bowser—all incumbents—voted to approve a controversial rezoning that allowed 751 South to move forward. Padgett supports the project; he also applied for an appointment to the commission last year to fill the seat held by Becky Heron, who resigned because of illness. (The commissioners instead appointed Pam Karriker, who is not running for election.)
Morris is listed as DPP's assistant treasurer. Rhonda Sisk, the DPP treasurer, lists an address that is Southern Durham Development's company office.
Here is the statement of organization: statement_of_organization.pdf
The first donations to the DPP are from Southern Durham Development: $2,500 in-kind and $100 in direct funds. expenditures.pdf
The $2,500 went to pay for a survey by Public Policy Polling that asked several questions of potential voters, including if they would vote for commissioner candidates who support 751. The survey also asked if the developers should sue the City of Durham.
In February, six Durham City Council members voted unanimously to reject the developer's request that the city provide water and sewer service to the 751 South. Councilman Howard Clement was absent due to illness.
Super PACs such as the Durham Partnership for Progress can receive unlimited funds from unlimited sources and spend unlimited amounts of money, according to Michael Perry, director of the Durham County Board of Elections. The only stipulation is that the Super PAC must not directly or indirectly make contributions to candidate committees or other committees that make contributions to candidates. Super PACs cannot coordinate with candidates, although that distinction is often not apparent.
Durham Partnership for Progress complies with that requirement by stating on the mailer that it is not endorsed by any candidate.
The DPP Super PAC sets a troubling precedent in Durham. It can accept enormous amounts of money from the wealthy development community—including out-of-towners like Morris, who lives in Raleigh—and use it to influence local elections.
First-quarter campaign finance reports are due April 30, the contents of which could further demonstrate the reach and influence of the DPP Super PAC.
Talk of teaming up, including a possible merger, riled the community for 18 months. The Raleigh-based YMCA of the Triangle, which runs a dozen Piedmont-area YMCAs, does not list sexual orientation as a protected class in employment materials.
Jennifer Trapani, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA Board of Directors, said the decision to no longer seek a partnership was mutual. The controversy played a part in the discussions, but it was not the only factor in Friday's announcement.
"Our community is obviously very important to us. Our YMCA is an organization for our community, so we were trying to listen to everyone's comments and concerns openly," she said.
"We were very convinced that they are not an organization that discriminates at all, but still, the uneasiness from our community made them and us concerned."
A group of 20 anti-capitalist protesters occupied CVS-owned in property in downtown Carrboro for three hours Saturday night before walking out at the strong encouragement of town police and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, who each told them they would be charged with breaking and entering if they did not leave.
The demonstration concerned a forthcoming rezoning application from CVS to build a two-story, 24,000 square foot building at 201 N. Greensboro St., to house a 24-hour drug store and office space.
The anarchist demonstrators, who call themselves "Carrboro Commune" and align with "Occupy Everything," would rather the site be used for a community center, free school, health clinic or performance space.
Maria Rowan stood outside the building handing out fliers inviting passersby to an open assembly at 4 p.m. Sunday to discuss what to do with the building.
"It's my personal hope that the community reclaims our vision for this land and make it clear that multinational corporations and their money are not more important than people," she said
Upon exiting at 7:10 p.m. wearing black bandanas for masks and carrying black flags, Carrboro Commune members promised more occupations and engaged in a heated discussion with Chilton.
They derided the mayor for enforcing property law. Some hurled expletives at him. They said police are one command away from being Nazis.
"I don't think treating your fellow human beings that way is going to get us anywhere," Chilton fired back.
"Look under here, it's skin" he said, pointing to his shirt.
Press release below. More to come, I'm sure.
The N.C. Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 13, regarding a new state law that allows billboard companies and other outdoor advertisers to clear more trees around their signs.
The law has already been passed. But members of the public can now weigh in on how billboard owners should contribute to planting new trees, shrubs and other vegetation on the sides and medians of highways to help make up for what they removed.
Previous rules allowed billboard owners to trim trees within 250 feet of their signs to allow a clear view from roadways. The new state law, which took effect Sept. 1, maintains the 250-foot maximum on locally controlled roads or highways within city limits. But advertisers may now cut a swath up to 340 feet in front of signs on interstates and state-controlled access roads, even if they're inside city limits. Outside of city limits, the cutting zone expands to 380 feet. (Read an analysis from the N.C. League of Municipalities that summarizes the changes, PDF)
Early versions of the bill, which was passed last summer by the N.C. General Assembly, would have overruled local ordinances, including those banning digital billboards. But thanks to outcry from the public, the N.C. League of Municipalities and environmental groups, language that would have taken away local rights on signage were stripped from the bill before it passed.
Under the new law, billboard companies still must also follow local ordinances, such as those governing sign appearance and tree preservation. When they start cutting out trees, the billboard companies must also submit plans to the N.C. DOT to install new plants to compensate for the ones they removed.
How these plants will be replaced, and how close they have to be to the site that was cleared appears to be determined. According to a public hearing notice, the the N.C. DOT has to establish temporary rules on how to comply with the new law, including the replanting program, and it's on those temporary rules that the N.C. DOT is seeking public input.
Once established, the N.C. DOT will enforce the temporary rules while working on longer-term permanent guidelines.
The public and elected leaders across the state can chime in between now and Dec. 23 with input into how these billboard companies should compensate for tree-cutting, including what types of plants they should be required to replace.
Tuesday's hearing will be held in room 100A of Wake Commons, 4011 Carya Drive, in Raleigh.
Can't make the hearing? The public may submit comments to Helen Landi, 1501 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1501, fax them to (919) 733-9150, or email Landi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: The Joe Rowand Art Gallery was vandalized Saturday, Nov. 26, according to a Chapel Hill police report. Two large flower pots were broken, the business' banner sign was torn and the building was spray painted. Damage is valued at $1,100. No arrests have been made. The report is here. policereport.pdf
The Indy redacted some personal information for privacy reasons.
After declaring personal bankruptcy last year, Joe Rowand, former president of the now-defunct Somerhill Gallery, is auctioning 164 pieces from his own art collection Dec. 2–3 at Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales in Hillsborough.
Rowand filed for individual bankruptcy around the time Somerhill declared Chapter 7. The gallery owed artists hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work; this included some pieces that had been sold several years ago but for which the artists were not paid a commission. Meanwhile, according to court records, Rowand was drawing a $15,000 monthly salary from the gallery.
Ironically, Rowand’s personal cache, available online at llauctions.com, contains works by two artists listed as creditors in the Somerhill bankruptcy: Ginny Stanford of California, whom Somerhill owed $13,000, and John Beerman of Hillsborough, $40,000. These assets are not part of the gallery, and thus separate from any corporate legal proceedings.
Now legally absolved of his Somerhill debt through bankruptcy, (although since he didn’t pay the artists, one could question whether he has met the ethical obligation), Rowand has a new gallery on Legion Road in Chapel Hill.