By Kylie Marsh
Tuesday night’s Carrboro Town Council Meeting started off a bit tense as council members grappled with a resolution pertaining to the Israeli occupation of Palestine in the Gaza Strip.
Council member Sammy Slade put forth a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel at the Gaza Strip. Member Danny Nowell seconded the motion.
“We have a tradition of putting forward resolutions that go beyond our scope,” Nowell said, reminding council members that they previously called for a ceasefire in Ukraine.
However, other council members moved not to discuss the resolution, 4 – 3. Slade said he was disappointed and shocked.
“This isn’t the Carrboro I know,” he said.
Also on the agenda was a resolution to name December 13 the Braxton Duncan Foushee Day of Service in recognition of former council member and Black trailblazer Braxton Foushee. Foushee has an impressive history of improving conditions for the Black community in Carrboro.
Public comment opened returning to the topic of Gaza when a community member thanked the council for the decision not to discuss Slade’s resolution. She stated that she has immediate family in Israel and that members of her synagogue have been threatened, with the immediate Jewish community of Carrboro feeling unsafe.
“Carrboro’s role should be to support all of its community members,” she said, “and this would only upset community members in some way .… No one needs the Town of Carrboro to weigh in.”
Slade responded, informing the council that he and the community member had previously exchanged emails on the subject. Slade told the council and the community member that he has family, including his wife, who are Israeli, and stated that he believes a ceasefire is the best way to stop the conflict.
He called the actions taken by Hamas “war crimes” and stated that they “do not justify the response in kind: massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and the continued siege, occupation, and displacement of a whole people. I grieve for the Palestinian people too.”
Later, council opened a public hearing on a text amendment to the Land Use Ordinance dealing with residential density in Planned Unit Developments, presented by Town Planning Administrator Tina Moon.
The Planned Unit Development (PUD) is a type of zoning district meant to combine characteristics of two or three different zoning districts. They can include residential, manufacturing, and commercial. They are, however, different from mixed-use districts.
Right now, there are two PUDs, one off Homestead Road and another off Old NC Highway 86. Moon said the text amendment would change the residential unit requirement from 25 to 30. The amendment was adopted unanimously.
Next was a hearing on a text amendment to the Land Use Ordinance regarding residential parking standards. Tina Moon also presented on this topic, as it was called for in the Carrboro Connects comprehensive plan. The plan required that residential parking areas be close to public transit. The amendment omits the classification of “low-income and elderly” specifications for multi-family units. Staff concluded that this amendment is in accordance with the comprehensive plan.
During public comment, a community member presented a critique of the staff memo, saying it “ignores the Carrboro Connects goal of reducing negative effects of parking requirements on housing costs and natural resources.” He suggested removing minimums for commercial developers and both maximums and minimums for residential developers.
Another community member stated that presumptive minimums for parking spaces drives up costs for developers, which ultimately fall on the shoulders of renters. Council members also discussed the local problem of “predatory towing” happening in some apartment complexes.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Romaine used the example of the Carrboro 203 Project, stating that developers had less parking than the code required.
“Why do we have a need for maximums if developers are getting by with minimums?” she asked. She also said the Town has been trying to get in-fill development downtown and that the formulas to determine parking minimums “go decades back.” She suggested moving forward with no minimums or maximums for commercial developers, suggesting it may attract more commercial investors and broaden the tax base. Lastly, she suggested an 18-month monitoring of how amending the Land Use Ordinance (LUO) without maximums or minimums was going.
Council member Slade suggested that the minimum standards are “perhaps too generous,” and that “the last thing we should be supporting is more car infrastructure.” He explained that commercial parking in the downtown area depends on private lot owners. He also expressed concern that not enforcing minimums would cause the town to lose leverage with businesses
Council member Randee Haven-O’Donnell raised concern that developers would charge individual renters for parking spaces.
The council found that the draft ordinance is in accordance with the comprehensive plan and unanimously moved to adopt it with no changes.
A former TLR correspondent from Durham, Kylie Marsh returns to writing for the paper, albeit from new digs in Charlotte. Her work has also appeared in QCity Metro. As a graduate of NYU, she writes about local issues of class, race and inequality. When not freelancing, Kylie is organizing for the rights of workers, women and the homeless in Charlotte.