After years of much-bemoaned inactivity on the touchy subject of Rogers Road, leaders in Orange County seem to be on the move these days.
Two weeks ago, Orange County commissioners passed a sweeping resolution to pledge $500,000 for a long-sought community center in the low-income neighborhood vexed by an aging landfill. That comes after Chapel Hill leaders closed neighbors' makeshift community center on Rogers Road last month over numerous fire safety concerns.
Tonight, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen will take up a proposal to provide public sewer to the community.
Extending sewer service to Rogers Road residents would cost approximately $5.8 million, according to the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA). It's unclear how leaders in Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro will divvy up the cost.
The sewer proposal comes from a task force of local government leaders and members of the Rogers-Eubank Neighborhood Association (RENA). Cost-sharing plans include dividing up expenses based on population, landfill usage and tax revenues.
There has been no consensus yet on how to pay the sewer bill, but officials acknowledge the need. Rogers Road residents blame health ailments and polluted water on the landfill, which was built prior to more modern regulations requiring dump lining to prevent harmful contents from seeping into the groundwater.
Rogers Road has been the landfill site for local governments for 40 years, after initially agreeing to house the dump for a decade. Leaders have postponed closing the landfill for years. County commissioners now say they will shut down the site next year.
Tonight's Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at Carrboro Town Hall.
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.
The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School is a long shot to open in August. Its founders are struggling to find a suitable temporary location for the school as they navigating the zoning approval process for a permanent site.
Amid opposition from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board and the local NAACP, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved fast-track status for the Lee School in February, clearing the way for the group to open later this year.
But now, as a backup plan, they say, the school’s brass has submitted a request to the state to open in 2013.
Danita Mason-Hogans, a member of the Lee board of directors, said the group identified one site in Chapel Hill and one in Carrboro but neither area was zoned for a school. She said she did not know the exact locations.
“There are some problems with both of the spaces based on the number of students we’d like to have in the school,” she said. “We had full intentions of opening in August. Now it looks like that may be put on hold.”
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."
N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced his retirement this morning, opting not to wage a re-election campaign against long-time colleague Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
The two veteran legislators were drawn into the same district, the 56th, by the Republican-produced new maps last year.
Hackney has served 16 terms, 32 years, in the General Assembly representing the 54th district, which includes Orange, Chatham and Moore counties. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2007 following Jim Black’s removal. He severed as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Orange County Board of Commissioners are committed to closing the local landfill, a burden that the Rogers Road-Eubanks community has been saddled with for 40 years now, in June 2013.
But, at last night’s Assembly of Governments meeting, leaders from the three Orange municipalities who dump garbage there as part of an interlocal agreement said they want to work together but differ on how to move forward. They have just 17 months to decide.
Chapel Hill is hiring a consultant, hopefully next month, to study its options and wants to consider keeping trash local and converting it to energy.
Carrboro is balking at the cost, both in dollars and in pollution, of the county’s plan to transport waste to Durham’s transfer station and then onto a landfill in Virginia. The Board of Alderman unanimously supports studying the feasibility of building a waste transfer station in Chapel Hill near the northwest intersection of N.C. Hwy 86 and I-40.
Hillsborough is OK with whatever everyone else decides so long as it doesn’t cost significantly more than what is being done now.
All want to offer remediation for Rogers-Eubanks and agreed to form a task force to work on creating a lasting community center for the neighborhood and on providing the water and sewer connections for neighbors that were promised when the site was built in 1972.
Chapel Hill rolled out a proposed Community Plan for Northside and Pine Knolls on Monday that leaders hope will help combat a student-rental takeover that is pricing out the town’s black and working class residents.
The plan comes during a six-month moratorium on development in those neighborhoods meant to buy time to craft a plan to keep housing affordable and better relations between students and long-term, single-family residents.
“I feel like I’m fighting for my life, and I shouldn’t have to feel like that, but the reason I feel like that is because investors came into my community with greed,” Keith Edwards, a long-term Northside resident, said during the public hearing.
“They came in and just ran over us like a bulldozer taking away our way of life.”
Born out of meetings with stakeholders and drafted by town planners and the Sustaining OurSelves coalition, the plan focuses on affordable housing, cultural and historic preservation, enforcement, education and outreach, parking and zoning.
A group of Occupy Chapel Hill members plans to gather at the police station at 6 p.m. Monday and march to Town Hall and the Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. in opposition to last Sunday's raid at the Chrysler Building.
Mike Connor, who was handing out flyers that read "Protest Police State Chapel Hill" on Sunday, says he expects 200 supporters to participate.
"Some people are going to go in and lecture (the town) on civility," he said. "Other people are going to stand outside, have an open mic and have our own Town Council meeting."
Brian Bower, who said his top priority if elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board would be “to pick my jaw from off the floor,” removed that possibility Wednesday night by dropping out of the race.
Bower, a UNC graduate student who was running primarily to establish in-state residency and earn lower tuition costs, is withdrawing from the race both because of the “remote possibility that my candidacy might jeopardize the re-election of Ms. (Jamezetta) Bedford,” he wrote in a statement, and because UNC recently approved his application to be an in-state student.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Chairwoman Jamezetta Bedford thought she had no opponents in her re-election bid. Today, eight days before the polls open, she learned she has to contend with seven other candidates also running for school board seats.
Seven other candidates, including three other incumbents, filed for four seats, all four-year terms.
But today, Bedford learned that she can't just run for a two-year term. The Orange County and North Carolina board of elections overlooked local election law passed in 1975 that requires all candidates to run in the same pool. The top four finishers will earn four-year terms, and the fifth place candidate will be awarded the two-year term.