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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Group calls for end to Carrboro's anti-lingering ordinance

Posted by on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Three dozen Carrboro community members, including social justice activists, day laborers and elected officials, assembled in solidarity at the corner of Davie and Jones Ferry roads Tuesday morning and called for an end to the town’s anti-lingering ordinance.

The controversial local law, which passed in 2007, forbids anyone from standing, sitting, reclining, lingering or otherwise remaining on that corner after 11 a.m. Day laborers often assemble on that corner trying to find work.

Supporters of the ordinance say it’s needed to address a few people, many of whom aren't looking for work, who allegedly drink and cause public disturbances on the corner.

On some days as many as 60 day laborers, many of them Latinos who live across the street at Abbey Court apartments, await trucks coming buy to pick them up for a shift.

Day laborer Angel Martinez addresses the crowd of supporters who are pushing to rescind Carrboros anti-lingering ordinance
  • Photo by Joe Schwartz
  • Day laborer Angel Martinez addresses the crowd of supporters who are pushing to rescind Carrboro's anti-lingering ordinance
Angel Martinez, one of two day laborers who spoke through a translator said he relies on the corner “to live a better life.”

“This is one of the only venues where we can provide for our families,” he said, adding that many who want the ordinance abolished did not attend the event for fear of retribution. “Once we are asked to leave, there’s nowhere else we can go.”

Chris Brook, staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, read a petition signed by 112 residents. Among the signatures are representatives from the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the Orange County Democratic Party, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, local business owners, former Board of Aldermen members and candidates.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chapel Hill food truckin’, What a long strange trip it’s been

Posted by on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Chapel Hill inched closer to allowing food trucks within town limits Monday night at a Town Council public hearing.

Council members received a proposed ordinance, already approved unanimously by the town Planning Board, which would:
-allow food trucks to be located downtown in private lots, at least 100 feet away from a restaurant entrance, as long as the trucks and the lot owner each have a permit;
-allow one food truck per 30 parking spaces in other commercial districts, with permits;
-require food truck vendors to comply with local, county and state tax regulations and to display health permits at all times;
-require food truck vendors to dispose of all trash and grease, and forbid them to offer seating;
-restrict food truck signs to those permanently attached to the vehicles and a portable menu sign smaller than 6 square feet.

“Based on these regulations, would we be able to have a food truck at the Town Hall parking lot for council meetings?” asked Councilman Matt Czajkowski asked, the only question in the 20-minute hearing.

“I believe you can do that now,” principal planner Kendal Brown answered. “It’s public property, (you could) with a special permit.”

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Commissioners to consider 751 South sewer service request at Sept. 26 meeting

Posted by on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 4:04 PM

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County commissioners have asked for more information by their Sept. 26 meeting so they may decide whether to commit sewage treatment services to the proposed 751 South development, a large project planned for almost 170 acres near Jordan Lake.

An engineer for Southern Durham Development has asked commissioners to allow the development to connect to county pipelines and send up to 600,000 gallons per day of wastewater to the Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant on N.C. 55. The developer's request comes to the county a month after Durham's City Council postponed any decision to provide utilities to the development until a pending lawsuit is resolved.

The 751 South project has been marked with controversy since it was first proposed in 2006, and the process has resulted in three lawsuits and several delays. (See a timeline) The developer has worked with the city since December to have the land annexed, or at least get guaranteed utility services, to no avail. From the comments of engineer Dan Jewell, who represents Southern Durham Development, the developer is now even considering using well water for the dense development, which could include a combination of 1,300 homes, condos and apartments, a shopping center, offices and community spaces.

Contrary to popular misconception, Jewell told commissioners, existing water and sewer lines are not far from the 751 South site, which is just north of the Chatham County line. But the 751 South site is also outside of the designated area the county is supposed to serve through the Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant, said County Manager Mike Ruffin. The proposed development actually falls into the city's jurisdiction, per a 1972 agreement between the city and county.

"This treatment plant has a natural service area," Ruffin said. "You could be entering into the city's service area ... so it raises implications of policy with this board," Ruffin told the commissioners.

If the county agrees to provide sewer services to the development, the decision could take away revenue from the city. The treatment plant was built in the 1960s and serves some business and industry in Research Triangle Park, as well as those in Cary.

Wastewater from Cary homes and businesses has been temporarily routed to Durham's plant while a Wake County plant undergoes renovations, Whisler said. With the wastewater from Cary, the plant currently has the capacity to treat another 1 million gallons of wastewater per day. Depending on when Cary chooses to ends its temporary contract with Durham, the capacity could increase by 5 million or 6 million gallons per day by 2015.

Through its agreement with Cary, Durham County is helping to pay for $42 million in renovations to the Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant completed five years ago. Anyone who purchases sewer services from the county must pay for that capacity.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A year on, Chapel Hill still doing prep work on food trucks decision

Posted by on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 3:47 PM

If Chapel Hill were a restaurant, it would be dawdling in the kitchen while diners impatiently waited for their meals.

After 11 months of deliberation, town officials still may not decide on legalization of food trucks until an Oct. 17 public hearing, at the earliest.

Parlez-Vous Crepe owner Jody Argote serves up some fare at Johnnys in Carrboro, where food trucks have been allowed for three years.
  • File photo by Jeremy Lange
  • Parlez-Vous Crepe owner Jody Argote serves up some fare at Johnny's in Carrboro, where food trucks have been allowed for three years.
Trucks flourish in neighboring Durham and Carrboro, but they are less welcome in Chapel Hill, where mobile vendors can operate only if they have special-event permits or if they park on private property with approval from the town planning board.

On Monday, 20 food truck vendors, citizens and politicians attended an informational session during which Chapel Hill Principal Planner Kendal Brown rolled out proposed regulations to govern the eateries on wheels.

Among the key stipulations:
-Trucks would be allowed only on paved, private, commercially zoned parking lots that have at least 10 designated spaces; vendors must have the landowner’s permission.
-Trucks could operate only when the business that regularly uses the lot is closed, and they must be parked 200 feet from the customer entrance of any restaurant.
-In addition, in some districts outside downtown, there could be only one vendor per 100 parking spaces or per acre, with a maximum of two vendors per lot.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Challengers join the fray in Orange County elections

Posted by on Mon, Jul 4, 2011 at 12:46 PM

The candidate-filing period opened with a flourish Friday in Orange County as mayors from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough all signed up to defend their seats and challengers emerged in the Chapel Hill Town Council and Board of Alderman races.

In Chapel Hill, Lee Storrow and August Cho filed as expected, and Laney Dale, a tech entrepreneur who moved to town four years ago, joined the race for the four open positions on the nine- member, including the mayor, council.

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  • Photo courtesy of Laney Dale
Dale, a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee, says he wants to make a bigger impact on the community he moved across the county to make his home. Along with his wife and three kids, Dale searched across the U.S. for a place to relocate from Los Angeles, eventually deciding on Chapel Hill for its schools, its location in the Triangle and the quality of the arts.

He is the CEO and founder of two start-up companies, Appuware and Appubater, which create computer and mobile applications. Appuwhere allows customers to be developers. Appubater accepts ideas from clients and partners to realize them.

Both businesses are located in Durham, and Dale says Chapel Hill needs to work to make it easier for businesses to establish offices there.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Greenbridge set for June 27 auction

Posted by on Thu, Jun 16, 2011 at 6:26 PM

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.

The property will be sold to the highest bidder, who will have to deposit either no more than 5 percent of the price bid or $750 at the auction, and will have to pay the full balance in cash or certified check when the deed is signed over to them.

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.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Together N.C. holds send-off party for North Carolina's progress

Posted by on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 4:29 PM

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.

Together N.C.s Rob Thompson apologizes to South Carolina for mocking the states level of public education funding and says with the North Carolina budget now, The joke is on us.
  • Photo by Joe Schwartz
  • Together N.C.'s Rob Thompson apologizes to South Carolina for mocking the state's level of public education funding and says with the North Carolina budget now, "The joke is on us."
Standing around a table with a banner reading “Farewell to NC’s Progress,” members of the coalition decried the decrease in public education funding, the jobs cut, which the N.C. Budget and Tax Center has estimated at 30,000, slashes made in health care, early childhood education and public safety and the "shameful" midnight manner in which the House voted to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto.

“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.”

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Friday, June 3, 2011

When it rains, it pours: more leaks for Greenfire?

Posted by on Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 6:23 PM

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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.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Telecommunications giants 1. People 0. Perdue lets HB129 become law

Posted by on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Governor Bev Perdue will let House Bill 129, the anti-municipal broadband bill become law today, opting to neither sign nor veto the legislation before the midnight deadline.

She issued a statement (full text below) saying she both wants every North Carolinian to have Internet access and seeks rules to prevent cities from having “an unfair advantage over providers in the private sector.”

Crews in Wilson installed fiber lines in 2008 for the town-run broadband Internet service. Municipalities such as Wilson, where broadband is already in place, received exemptions in the bill.
  • File photo by D.L. Anderson
  • Crews in Wilson installed fiber lines in 2008 for the town-run broadband Internet service. Municipalities such as Wilson, where broadband is already in place, received exemptions in the bill.
Her decision is a crushing blow for Internet access advocates, who have fought bills for four years arguing that broadband must be viewed as a valuable public utility that the government should provide as it does for water, sewer and mail.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Revised Senate bill nixes digital billboards but would expand tree cutting

Posted by on Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 6:22 PM

A billboard ad near N.C. 147 last year in Durham.

This blog entry has been edited and updated from its original version to include additional content.

A Senate bill expanding the law on outdoor billboards cleared a Senate committee Wednesday, but only after the bill was stripped of language that would have allowed billboard companies to replace traditional signs with electronic or digital ones.

Had the language remained and passed this legislative session, it would have superseded any local policies against digital billboards, including any opposition from Durham city leaders, who voted unanimously last summer not to permit such signs.

But the remaining language in the bill, (SB 183) which has been sent back to the full Senate for approval, still has representatives of cities and statewide organizations concerned. The proposal expands the amount of land billboard companies may clear of trees and other vegetation so their signs may be seen from the road. On state roads and highways, cleared swaths could increase from 250 feet to 340 feet. Outside city limits, the area that could be cleared would go up to 380 feet.

"These are the roads that shape how people perceive our communities," said Ben Hitchings, president-elect of the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association. "Now we have a framework under the bill that would trade trees for billboards." He pointed out that a poll released last month by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters showed that nearly 80 percent of respondents to the poll were opposed to the removal of more trees so billboards could be visible for a greater distance.

Representatives of the billboard industry, including the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, initially aimed a little higher with SB 183. Billboard proponents wanted even broader clearing allowances, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, who sponsored the bill. But over the past month, Brown said he led about 15 hours of negotiations among interested groups including lobbyists for the billboard industry, the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition.

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