Carrboro Town Council tackles development, fuel tanks, and mask bans

GOVERNMENT

By Fraser Sherman
Correspondent

CARRBORO–“A cancer patient can’t wear a mask, yet a clown performer can.” That’s how Carrboro Town Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell summed up House Bill 237, aka the Unmasking Mobs and Criminals Act, during the May 21 Town Council meeting. The state bill restricts wearing masks in public, making exceptions if someone wears them for holiday cosplay, parades, or performing as a clown. Senate Republicans rejected adding an exemption for people who mask up to protect their health or the health of others.

Haven-O’Donnell said that during the 2020 pandemic, the state added a health exemption to longstanding laws about public masking. Senator Buck Newton, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, has told the media he wants to return to the pre-2020 status quo.

The Town Council voted unanimously for a resolution urging Carrboro’s state legislators to oppose House Bill 237 and encouraged other local officials to do the same.

Other than masks, development was the main topic on Tuesday’s agenda. The largest discussion focused on a proposed three-story multifamily residential project at 400 North Greensboro Street. The developers have requested rezoning the 0.37-acre site to “conditional residential” zoning to give them more flexibility. If they decide to include commercial uses on the first floor, for instance, conditional residential zoning would give them the option.

Planning Administrator Tina Moon told the council a conditional residential zoning district offers a menu of land uses and conditions. Property owners can select some of the items on the menu but not everything on the menu. The possible uses for 400 North Greensboro include offices, cafes, bars and restaurants, in addition to residential. The possible conditions include: water conservation, energy conservation, on-site energy production, and stormwater management exceeding Carrboro standards. The developer would have to pick three conditions from the list.

Rather than contributing a unit to Carrboro’s affordable housing program, the developers would contribute to the town’s housing fund. Moon said that at current prices, that would run around $48,000.

Council Member Catherine Fray asked Jim Spencer, the architect representing the developer, if there was any chance the large oak on the property could be saved. Spencer said no: “It renders this site undevelopable, just by its root zone.”

Fray moved to adopt the zoning amendment with one requested change: that the sidewalk planned for Parker Street be on the development property rather than added to the city’s right of way. The council voted unanimously in favor of the amendment.

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting:

  • The council granted Heather Washburn a two-year permit extension for a business/residential development at 603 Jones Ferry Road. Washburn said work is moving slower than anticipated and requested the extension.
  • The members also approved Edward Lammas’ request for a two-year permit extension on a 201 North Greensboro commercial project. In a letter to the town, Lammas said a rise in interest rates is making it tough to find financing.
  • The council awarded JF Petroleum Group the $474,000 contract to install above-ground fuel tanks at Carrboro’s Public Works facility. The current underground tanks have exceeded their useful life and they’re within the Morgan Creek floodplain. Storing the oil above the ground reduces the risk of soil and water contamination.
  • Council member Catherine Fray, who sits on the 203 Project’s Naming Committee, said the committee intends to solicit public input on the name later this summer. The 203 Project will include a new Carrboro library branch, Orange County Skills Development Center, Carrboro Recreation, Parks and Cultural Resources Department, WCOM radio, and the Virtual Justice Center.

You can watch the entire meeting on Carrboro’s YouTube channel. The council’s agenda package is also available for download.


Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press<

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