Virtual Carrboro expo offers help to business owners – Town Council debates land use rules

GOVERNMENT

By Fraser Sherman
Correspondent

Whatever advice or knowledge your small business needs, Carrboro’s Town Council members hope you will find at Monday’s Virtual Business Expo.

The free event is set for Monday, April 29, from 6 to 8 PM, courtesy of the city’s Boost Carrboro business initiative, Carrboro Economic Development Director Jon Hartman-Brown told The Local Reporter.

“Boost Carrboro is like a business support and training program,” Hartman-Brown said. “It provides things like this Virtual Business Expo, one-on-one coaching for businesses, support, and counseling. Businesses can take advantage of this program to work with our consultant; there’s also going to be training.”

The Boost Carrboro initiative launched this year in partnership with the Infinity Bridges business consulting firm. According to Hartman-Brown, any business is welcome to participate. However, there’s a strong focus on Carrboro’s minority-owned companies. “We’ll be approaching everything we do through the lens of a challenge for BIPOC businesses,” he emphasized. BIPOC is an acronym for “black, indigenous, and people of color.”

According to Chisa Pennix-Brown, Chief Curator at Give It To The People, which curates and organizes the expo, Boost Carrboro focuses on giving local companies networking connections, business strategies, and other essential resources.

Business owners can register for the Virtual Expo through Give It To The People’s website.

What’s involved in the event? Hartman-Brown said there’ll be networking opportunities and presentations by Infinity Bridges on marketing, finance, and “the basics of helping a business stabilize as well as grow.”

Highlights of Monday’s virtual business expo include networking opportunities, a workshop with funding strategist LaTasha Best-Gaddy, and virtual exhibitor booths set up by various organizations and business-to-business service providers.

“It’s probably accessible to any type of business,” Hartman-Brown said, including startups and aspiring business owners. “They could glean a lot of information.” Though startups may find “there might be a little that’s over their heads,” he added, such as in-depth panels on business growth strategies.

“We’re happy to provide this partnership to the community,” Hartman-Brown said. “It’s a way for us to grow BIPOC businesses in Carrboro and the greater Carrboro area.”

Council Debates Land Use Changes at April 23 Meeting

Carrboro Town Council said Tuesday they liked a Jones Ferry Road mixed-use development proposal, but weren’t satisfied with the approval process.

In 2018, the council approved a mixed-use business/residential project for 603 Jones Ferry Road, including four 1,200-square-foot live-work units for both business and residential use. More recently, Heather Washburn of Calico Studios requested that the project be modified. Instead of four live-work units, Washburn proposed the development of 14 units (500 to 1,000 square feet each) plus a neighborhood cafe. The increased density would mean the building would be developed upwards rather than spread outwards.

Washburn’s requested changes also require changing the city’s land-use ordinance. Under the current rules, the neighborhood cafe, for instance, wouldn’t be allowed. Council Member Catherine Fray said they had a problem with that approach.

“I think that this proposed land-use ordinance amendment is how we got to where we are with the land-use ordinance today,” Fray said. Negotiating changes project-by-project added to development costs and left the same obstacles in place for future developers to overcome, she said.

Council Member Danny Nowell said the city should drop the project’s minimum parking requirements because parking used up land, Carrboro’s most scarce, valuable resource. He said developers wouldn’t risk failure by building less parking than necessary.

Planning administrator Tina Moon said the amendments were tailored to this specific project but took into account that future developers might want to create similar ones. Moon said the parking rules weren’t intended to straitjacket developers but to serve as a starting point. It’s easier for developers, she said, if they have a rough idea of how much parking the town thinks they need.

Rather than vote on the ordinance changing the land-use rules, the council asked staff to rewrite the ordinance, dropping the parking requirement and reducing the minimum square footage per unit. Landscape architect Dan Jewell said the delay shouldn’t be a problem as long as the code was revised before the permit hearing for 603 Jones Ferry.

American Rescue Plan Funding Reallocated   

The council unanimously voted to change some of the budgeted spending from the $6.75 million in COVID-19 relief funding Carrboro received under the American Rescue Plan. The city still has $4.86 million that’s neither committed nor spent and it has until the end of 2024 to allocate the money.

The council transferred $1.6 million to the affordable housing nonprofits Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment. $250,000 budgeted for providing broadband access to affordable housing will be reallocated to the Carrboro Family Financial Assistance Program and to affordable housing units. Carrboro already had 93 percent coverage for Internet access, and $250,000 was short of the $1 million it would need to close the gap.

Parking Penalties Increased

As part of the consent agenda, the council voted to increase fines from $50 to $250 for using handicapped spaces without tags or identification.


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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