By Kylie Marsh
Carrboro’s Town staff presented updates on its Lloyd-Broad Neighborhood Overlay and the Carrboro Connects Strategic Plan at the Town Council meeting on Sept. 26, following a declaration by Mayor Damon Seils that October will be Carrboro’s Community Planning Month.
Marty Roupe, Town Development Review Administrator, presented progress on the Lloyd-Broad Neighborhood Overlay. The Overlay is a zoning district established in 2018. The initiative started after the council noticed displacement in historically Black communities, such as Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood. This displacement was trending in Orange County, primarily due to student rentals.
Neighborhood residents were not present at Tuesday night’s meeting, although Hudson Vaughan, Interim Executive Director and Co-founder of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, had sent a notice to the community by email as a community representative.
“I would like to be so bold as to state that not having a room full of people suggests that the provisions are working in accordance with what they wanted,” Roupe said.
Mayor Seils said he received an email from Vaughan, stating that the Overlay is working as intended.
The Neighborhood Overlay limits new construction features, like building height, setback distances, occupancy by unrelated individuals, and parking standards. Since the last progress update in 2020, more zoning permits have been issued for the district. The council would like to continue receiving updates at 18-month intervals.
“What the Overlay intended to do is to model the way and to protect the neighborhood from demographic change,” said Council Member Randee Haven-O’Donnell. She also suggested having a robust lease-to-own program, possibly subsidized publicly or privately.
Council members moved to receive a written update through the consent agenda which passed unanimously.
Trish McGuire, the Town Planning Director, presented an update on the progress of the Carrboro Connects Strategic Plan. The plan was enacted in 2018 and includes a total of 35 projects.
The seven focus areas are: public services and communications, affordable housing, climate and environment, race and equity, transportation and mobility, parks and recreation, and land use. The plan was crafted with climate action and racial equity in mind and moving in accordance with the FY24 budget.
McGuire emphasized that this plan enabled all town departments to collaborate to implement the policies therein.
“These projects and strategies involve really all of the departments of the town to bring them to life,” she said. “And many of them will have extensive involvement from the community members outside of our town staff as well.”
The Plan’s 13 strategic focus areas are racial equity, climate action, zoning amendments, pedestrian bicycle connectivity, the overall comprehensive plan, safety task force, affordable housing, operational efficiency, performance management, building renovations, infrastructural improvements, economic development and the 203 project. Each project has four stages: Planning, analysis, implementation, and completion. Town Staff created a status table showing the projected time these projects will take during each stage. Many are projected to be implemented next year and reach completion after 2026.
Within the next year, some projects will begin their planning stages, including changes to the land use ordinance to accommodate for more residential density, and the downtown master and small area plans.
Jones Ferry Road will get a separated bicycle lane and the design for the North Greensboro Street bike lanes will be completed. There will also be a public hearing for residential parking maximums, a rental property task force will be established, and round two of the Green Neighborhood Grant Program will begin. The town will also receive the results of a study of the equipment and vehicles it owns this month.
Council member Danny Nowell recommended a work session in April to clarify the town’s barriers to implementing the plan, emphasizing that the budget is crucial to completing the projects. Town Manager Richard White offered that there will be a budget retreat this month where town staff can focus on collaboration between departments.
Mayor Pro Tem Susan Romaine asked that more specific dates be added to the progress report to give the council a better understanding of when projects are projected to be completed.
The Town Council unanimously approved the progress report.
Council also discussed amending the Town Code to allow remote participation by council members. The draft would allow only four days of remote participation, but a majority vote could change that.
“This is a policy that’s meant to be used sparingly,” said Mayor Damon Seils. “The expectation is that council members attend a council meeting. This is meant to accommodate situations that may not be possible for rare reasons.”
Council member Haven-O’Donnell raised the importance of flexibility of the amount of time granted for remote participation, for example, if a council member has a disability or compromised immune system.
The amendment passed unanimously.
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.