Published: Jan 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 19, 2013 05:03 PM
Recently, I was in a meeting where new development opportunities were being discussed, specifically a proposed mega-development in Chapel Hills southern ETJ, or extra-territorial jurisdiction.
The surrounding residents, some of whom live in incorporated neighborhoods, some of whom live in the ETJ, are opposing the size of the new project. Several times during that discussion the allegation was made that the town needs the revenue from this development, and that people who dont pay town taxes shouldnt have a voice in whether or how it is designed or built.
Ive heard this argument for years: those of us who live on the boundaries of town and dont pay town taxes are freeloaders, not carrying our fair share of the costs for the municipal services we benefit from. So Ive been cataloging which services I am taking advantage of.
I know the library is a point of contention; we went through several months of complaints about county residents unfairly using the library. The Town Council used that argument effectively to convince the Orange County Commissioners to contribute more toward library services. So theoretically, shouldnt we be able to use the library without guilt now? Since I know the elected officials dont feel like the county is paying enough to cover all of the non-municipal-tax paying residents, I will continue using the university libraries. I really dont want to be a freeloader.
I am also a frequent patron of the transit system. The county, as well as the university where I work, contributes to the transit budget, so Im comfortable continuing to ride the bus. But I do occasionally park at the Southern Village Park and Ride. Normally, I prefer the Chatham County Park and Ride paid for by the university.
What about recreation? I occasionally walk in the Southern Community Park. And I know that some of my neighbors take advantage of the dog park. But again, the county paid a portion of the costs for the park, so are we really taking advantage of the town? One abuse I am guilty of is walking on the Bolin Creek greenway and on the towns sidewalks. So like with the park and ride, I am using municipal services without having paid any municipal taxes.
But am I really freeloading?
I regularly shop at Weaver Street in Southern Village, Whole Foods, Southern Seasons, and Phydeaux; every few weeks, I go to movies at the Lumina or the Chelsea. I enjoy a number of Chapel Hill restaurants, and when I need socks, I go to Dillards. And then theres Talbots. So does all this shopping make up for those walks on the greenway and sidewalks and parking at the park and ride?
Those of us who live in the Carrboro portion of the ETJ as well as those who live in Chatham County but have a Chapel Hill address (this includes Governors Club and Briar Chapel) contribute to the town of Chapel Hill through any sales tax collected on Internet purchases which are distributed via ZIP code. So in this way, the town of Chapel Hill is benefiting from us without providing any concomitant services. Im not much of an Internet shopper but Im hoping that the little I do along with my other contributions to the local business community will offset my abuses on the greenways and sidewalks. Maybe the town will count my volunteer work over the years against those park-and-ride abuses.
All joking aside, there are many ways I benefit from the town. I like the people, the arts and all the social and cultural perks that come from living in a university town. But none of those are municipal services. Those of us who live in the ETJ pay for our own trash, the county maintains our roads, and we pay the same school taxes as in-town residents.
Are we freeloaders? Ill let you decide.
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