CHAPEL HILL — Town Council candidate Loren Hintz has high hopes, but says Chapel Hill also has to be realistic about its challenges.
“I think as a community we will have to accept higher density in certain places and more traffic in certain places,” he said. “I think we have a fantastic market for business. We have the university, we have a lot of educated people, we have a lot of people that enjoy restaurants, and we have a very educated workforce.”
Hintz is one of nine candidates seeking four Town Council seats. Early voting begins Thursday; the general election is Nov. 5.
The Ohio native turned his sights on graduate school and teaching after nearly four years in the Peace Corps. His time was spent in El Salvador and Honduras, teaching, developing school curricula and helping seniors garden. He finished his education at UNC, taught in Northhampton County, on the Virginia border, for eight years and moved back to Chapel Hill in 1992 after marrying his wife Margaret. He retired last year from Chapel Hill High School after 18 years.
Life is good, he said, when asked why he’s always smiling.
“I guess probably I’m really optimistic. I think it’s really important for me to help people, and I think I like doing things that help people,” he said.
In January, he unsuccessfully sought to finish former council member Penny Rich’s unexpired term. The council chose ex-council member Sally Greene.
Looking for improvement
Hintz said the town does a good job but can do better. He wants a line-item budget and thinks town employees could fix more problems before they get complaints. Other concerns are the number of community meetings being held and the advisory board-council relationship, he said.
“I think it’s really important that staff and council show that they value what the boards have done,” he said. “The best way to do that is implement recommendation in a timely fashion, and if they can’t be implemented, explain why.”
Partnerships with UNC, Carrboro, the county and schools also are important for transit, affordable housing and preserving open space, he said. More university and private student housing could help families return to the neighborhoods.
However, the town should be careful its changes don’t give away bargaining power for affordable housing, transit and other community benefits, he said. By creating different types of development, the town could bring in more money to pay for those projects.
The town might never grow enough commercial taxes to substantially cut the residential burden, however, so new projects also should include a serious cost and benefits analysis, he said.
Well planned development
Hintz has biked around town and ridden many buses during his campaign. Along the way, he’s been checking buildings.
Taller buildings make economic sense downtown, but shade trees also play a role by affecting how people see and experience the town, he said. The Ephesus Church Road-Fordham Boulevard commercial areas could have up to six stories and still be pleasing to look at while generating tax dollars, he said.
Other areas, such as the Estes Drive-Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection, could have a mix of uses but at only three to five stories. Higher-density development would be suitable along identified town transit routes, Hintz said. MLK Boulevard is a key corridor for the town.
“I think they would have to work really hard to make the development atypical, where people would not be using cars as much. (Estes-MLK is) in an ideal place for buses to go by,” he said.
Town planning also must take weather into account, he said. The town can’t stop all the flooding, but it can join landlords to warn people living in flood-prone areas, he said. The town also could require more stormwater measures and offer fee discounts in exchange for individual upgrades, such as rooftop and rain gardens, he said.
“One rain garden doesn’t trap that much water, but hundreds of rain gardens in a community will make a difference,” he said.