In Carrboro, Community Input Needed for Better Land-use Decisions

GUEST COLUMN

By Kari Lenox

I am a concerned citizen in Carrboro.  I have recently become aware of several town projects that are underway, projects of which I and most of my community were unaware.  One of these projects, the 203 Project, involves the development of a mammoth library and parking garage placed in the midst of our now quaint downtown area, rather than dedicating this precious land parcel to affordable housing.  The 203 Project will cost the Town of Carrboro almost 19 million dollars, and it is my understanding that the town is to take on over 12 million in debt financing in order to see this project to fruition.  Although the plans for this project have been going on for a number of years, the final approval process for the 203 Project took place during the pandemic lockdown in which there was very little outreach for community input to the final decision-making process. The Town is now working out the details of the debt financing for this project rather than asking whether it should it be built at all, especially given the Town’s stated priorities around affordable housing. 

Similarly, in 2019, the Carrboro Town Council approved development of The Shops at Lloyd Farm, which, at 35 acres, was the largest remaining land parcel in Carrboro. Yet no affordable housing will be built there.

Instead, another proposed development site is currently under consideration for affordable housing: a beautiful hardwood forest that is owned by the Town and has served as green space for decades.  These Town-owned plots of land off Pathway Drive in Carrboro are zoned for somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 units.  The Town Council has stated time and again that they are in “pre-step one” of any plan to build on any existing town-owned plots of land.  This is misleading given that the Town Council has already been in the process for several years of narrowing down the available town-owned parcels of land from 47 parcels to the now 3 parcels that they are considering developing.  These decisions have been made without sufficient community input.  It was only by happenstance that those most affected by these decisions came upon this information.

The Town Council members all ran on platforms that support affordable housing and support environmental concerns in light of climate change.  I am perplexed at the decision-making here and have the following questions:

If the Town Council is indeed in favor of affordable housing, why did they not plan to create an affordable housing complex on the flat, already cleared Town-owned land where the proposed multi-million-dollar monstrous library is now to stand?  Given the proximity of this Town-owned land to essential resources — i.e., grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, public transportation, etc., wouldn’t it be wise to instead have at least some affordable housing on this site?

Given the Town Council’s stated concern for climate change issues, wouldn’t it make sense NOT to destroy a long-standing hardwood forest that is protective of the environment?

And wouldn’t it make sense that the Town Council not compromise its current citizens who are at risk for exacerbated flooding issues which are already severe?  The town has a history of irresponsible development which has cost existing homeowners additional thousands of dollars in stormwater-related assessments and interventions in order to remedy flooding issues long neglected by the Town.

Why is the town not allowing for in-person meetings at this point to discuss these important issues of concern to its citizens?  The meeting to discuss debt financing for the 203 Project is April 5 and will be held virtually.  Why? Governor Cooper relaxed COVID restrictions some time ago and has declared that we should all exercise personal responsibility in our decision-making regarding COVID precautions.  What could possibly be the reason why this very important meeting will be virtual?  In addition, the Town supposedly advocates for those individuals who may not have access to the internet. Where is the equity here?

I have been canvassing Carrboro residents recently to make them aware of the Town Council’s recent decision-making that has and continues to neglect opportunities for affordable housing on the few major parcels of land in town.  It is baffling to so many people at this point.  I am in favor of genuine forums for community input on the Town of Carrboro’s decision-making.  The Town Council has been non-responsive to this point. Now that COVID restrictions have been relaxed, the community is demanding opportunities to be involved in the Town’s decisions that affect us all.


Kari Lenox lives in Carrboro.

 

In response to TLR’s request for comment, Mayor Damon Seils provided the following statement:

“I would note that the 203 Project, strategies for expanding affordable housing, and other issues are topics on which there has been and will be extensive public engagement. The Town Council is scheduled to return to in-person meetings on April 12.”

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4 Comments on "In Carrboro, Community Input Needed for Better Land-use Decisions"

  1. In response to Mayor Seils:
    Our community is requesting an in-person April 5th meeting to address debt financing for the 203 Project. What is your reason for NOT having this meeting in person? I am publicly making this request again for an in person April 5th meeting. I will be forwarding our community’s petition for same.

  2. My community is not demanding this meeting on the 203 Project. My community respects the several-decade process, and the work of many dedicated elected officials and citizens of the town and county, that got us to this point. Let’s build it—better, if the final meetings reveal things that need tweaking—but build it. And let’s not muddy the waters by making this about affordable housing. It is not.

  3. I agree that it can be helpful in allowing all persons to participate by having meetings in persons. While the virtual options have been very useful in allowing people who are generally occupied in the evenings by childcare, other activities, and mobility challenges to participate in public meetings without sitting for hours in a meeting room waiting for a particular item to come up, the author is correct that there are people who may have difficulty participating remotely.

    However, it’s not at all clear that the people who are leading this last-minute, last-ditch effort to stop this final approval step needed for this decades-long process to build a library in Carrboro are the ones who find challenges participating virtually. There are also multiple other ways to share their opinions with elected officials on what action the town should take. I don’t live in Carrboro, but my Chapel Hill representatives (both ones I’ve supported and ones I’ve not supported) have always been willing to listen to me, and I’m confident the same is true in Carrboro. I’m sure they’re even willing to speak with people who have not voted in any local Carrboro election. Their contact information is listed here: https://townofcarrboro.org/248/Town-Council

  4. Carrboro Citizen | March 28, 2022 at 11:15 am | Reply

    I respect where you come from Kari, but as you have noticed the pandemic has severely affected businesses in Carrboro and many fled for lower taxed Durham and other neighboring counties. That means a huge loss in taxable revenue that the town could have and needs. Now would you rather pay even higher taxes (highest in the state) to fund those good schools, infrastructure and safety? The Town of Carrboro is at a risk of being California-fied if it cannot attract business revenue to maintain that standard of living. The proposed affordable housing on Pathway Drive will be walkable to the shops in Lloyd Farm, Carr Mill mall and has a bus system close-by. I do not mean to be petty but a Google search of your name shows you live close to the proposed affordable housing site on Pathway Drive, so I am seeing a case of NIMBYism in this article. We have already been California-fied I guess.

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