CHAPEL HILL - Continuing a theme we started in 2012, the staff of the Chapel Hill News has chosen five ongoing stories that we think will shape Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County in the new year.
Each time we report a major new development in a “Story to Watch,” you will see a capsule recap of the story so far and/or links to previous reports and what happens next. We hope this will help you see the big pictures, as well as the twists and turns in the stories on our list and any others we add to it.Political Change
During his 2011 campaign, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton vowed it would be his last.
In the last 21 years, he has been a Chapel Hill Town Council member, a Carrboro alderman and four-term mayor. He’s not done with local government, but says he wants to devote more time to being a dad to his sons, 13-year-old Samuel and 11-year-old Alexander.
“I think it’s useful to be outside local government from time to time – both because you get maybe a little bit different perspective from the outside and because, you know, stick around too long continuously and you run the risk of people getting sick of your mess,” he said.
Stepping aside also allows someone else to guide and represent the town. One of the most difficult parts is dealing with people who are really angry and upset, he said.
He got the opportunity to do just that in 2011 after local police mounted an armed response to protesters occupying the Yates Motor Co. building in Chapel Hill. In the days afterward, Chilton, who had sent Carrboro officers in as backup, espoused the “power of Satyagraha” – the belief that lasting social change can only come from nonviolent resistance. In February, he used words to defuse a similar occupation of Carrboro’s controversial CVS site.
In 2011, he also generated headlines by posting his unvarnished – expletive included – opinion about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooter Jared Lee Loughner on Facebook. Less controversial issues he championed include affordable housing and commercial growth, with which the town will continue to wrestle, he said.
Chilton’s seat is among several available in 2013. Three Carrboro aldermen’s terms will expire and a special election will be held to fill former Alderman Dan Coleman’s seat. In Chapel Hill, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt’s and four Town Council members’ terms expire. Major developments
Chapel Hill town staff will work with consultants and the developers of Glen Lennox and possibly Obey Creek to map development agreements.
A development agreement is a contract between the town and the developer that governs how the property is developed, including project details, public facilities needs and scheduling.
Town officials say each project is at a different stage in the process. The community worked with developer Clay Grubb for two years to refine his vision for Glen Lennox. The redevelopment will add more housing, shops, restaurants, offices and green space.
However, the Town Council told Obey Creek developer Roger Perry to get more community ideas for the $500 million mixed-use project on U.S.15-501 South. As proposed, it puts 600 rentals, a 130-room hotel and more than 700,000 square feet of commercial and retail on 40 acres. Neighbors worry it will have major effects on traffic, noise, the environment and public services. They want to see less-density, shorter buildings and more details about economic benefit.
The town already has one development agreement under its belt for UNC’s Carolina North project on Estes Drive.Academic excellence
UNC’s 11th chancellor should have integrity, good judgment, solid decision-making skills, and put academic excellence at the top of his or her priority list – much like current Chancellor Holden Thorp, officials say.
Thorp, who resigned in September, will return to chemistry research and the classroom June 30. A 21-member search committee of students, faculty, board members, staff, alumni and community members is looking for three finalists for his job. UNC system President Tom Ross will recommend one nominee to the UNC Board of Governors this spring.
The next chancellor will have a hand in hiring a new provost and vice chancellor for development, after former chief fundraiser Matt Kupec resigned over spending university money on personal travel. The new chancellor also will oversee the first stage of construction on the university’s 50-year, 250-acre Carolina North project off Estes Drive.
Thorp’s tenure has brought UNC to ninth place among leading private and public research universities for the amount of federal funding ($546 million) devoted to research and development. He promoted public-private partnerships to build small businesses. But his tenure also saw academic investigations related to athletics and UNC’s African and Afro-American studies department, some of which date to at least 1997.Road work ahead
Orange County will put transportation plans into motion, from better bus service to major road construction.
The first three months of 2013 will bring increasing traffic tie-ups as South Columbia Street is widened between Purefoy Road and Manning Drive. The N.C. Department of Transportation project will add sidewalks, bike lanes and a center turn lane.
In April, DOT will close the street’s southbound lane and detour traffic for roughly six months. Local officials said it could be like “game day every day” around UNC’s campus and the hospital.
On April 1, Orange County’s sales taxes will go up a half-cent – to 7.75 percent – and this summer, vehicle registration fees will increase to $43 to help pay for bus and light-rail transit.
Chapel Hill Transit officials will meet with the community to identify the biggest priorities, and riders could see more bus hours, including nights and weekends, by the end of 2013.
Orange Public Transportation and Triangle Transit also will add new bus services, and local and regional officials will start planning for a Hillsborough Amtrak station, a Mebane-Hillsborough-Durham bus line, a 17.3-mile light-rail line from UNC Hospitals to Alston Avenue in Durham, and other projects.New directions
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools will continue their transition to the state’s Common Core math and English literacy curriculum for all students. At least 44 other states have adopted the new standards.
City schools Superintendent Tom Forcella says Common Core is founded on the belief that all students can learn, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. The curriculum is more rigorous than previous programs and aimed at better preparing high school graduates for college and the global economy.
Common Core does not tell teachers how to teach, but it does provide them and students with more clearly defined expectations, officials said. It makes connections between topics, requires students to explain their thinking with examples and encourages a deeper understanding of what they read, officials said.
Students will read at least 50 percent nonfiction materials, such as newspapers and instruction manuals, and the work will become more complex with each grade level.
Math classes will relate common concepts to each other, teach students to do simple calculations faster and apply the math to real-world problems, such as adding up the cost of groceries, including sales tax.