Greene welcomes chance to keep working for Chapel Hill

tgrubb@newsobserver.comOctober 22, 2013 

Sally Greene, Town Council 2013 candidate


  • Candidate Profile

    Name: Sally Greene

    Age: 57

    Address: 406 Morgan Creek Road, Chapel Hill

    Occupation: Research attorney, writing briefs for other attorneys; Greene is licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C.

    Previous political experience: Chapel Hill Town Council, 2003-11, 2013

    Relevant community service: Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission, Council Committee on Affordable Housing, Historic District Commission, IFC Comprehensive Service Center Work Group, Inclusionary Zoning Task Force, Library Building Committee, Mayor’s Committee on Strategic Planning, Mayor’s Committee on Campaign Public Financing, Northside Conservation District Advisory Committee, Planning Board and Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force, among others.

    Interesting fact: Sally Greene is a native of Gilmer, Texas, a town of roughly 5,000 people that produced music greats Don Henley and Johnny Mathis. Greene says her favorite local music is Django Haskins and The Old Ceremony band, whom she saw during the summer at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw.

    Greene said Gilmer also is home to the East Texas Yamboree, which her grandmother helped to start in 1935. The annual festival attracts more than 100,000 people during four days to celebrate the sweet potato. The crowning of the Yam Queen is a very serious occasion, she said.

    “I grew up thinking everybody got out of school for two days for the Yamboree, just like they got out for two days at Thanksgiving. The whole town is decked out in bunting and there’s a carnival, there’s a parade. When I was a kid, 20,000 people would come watch the parade, all the bands, the floats. There’s a livestock contest, the best yam grown and a yam pie contest,” she said.

  • Need to know

    The 2013 municipal and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board elections will be held Nov. 5. Early voting and same-day voter registration run through Nov. 2.

    The following locations allow early voting:

    • Board of Elections office, 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough

    • Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro

    • Rams Head Dining Hall, second floor, UNC campus, 320 Ridge Road, Chapel Hill

    • Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

    For more information about early voting, go to

— When Sally Greene took a year off from Town Council in 2011, it made her realize what’s important, she said.

That’s why she was quick to apply when former council member Penny Rich left for the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Greene was a council member from 2003 to 2011; the council appointed her to fill Rich’s seat in January.

“It’s an honor to serve the community and being away for a year did cause me to realize what important work it is and what a privilege it is to do the work, so when I decided to come back, I think it was with a greater sense of commitment to the work,” Greene said.

The Texas native worked as a corporate attorney in Washington, D.C., before coming to Chapel Hill in 1987. She has since taken on a central role in affordable housing and homelessness issues.

Greene was instrumental in passing the town’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires building at least 15 percent of the new homes in a project for lower-income buyers.

This summer, she and council member Donna Bell led an affordable rentals task force. The town is limited by state law, land and money, so it will take creative solutions, partnerships and a faster approval process, she said. The time also might be ripe for a senior staff member focused solely on those goals, she said.

Someone “being on the ground and knowing who the developers are who are thinking about apartment complexes, who the nonprofits are who do affordable, subsidized housing, and having the smarts to be able to get them in the same room and working through the town process,” she said.

Greene’s other big project is the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, which just finished a 10-year effort to house the county’s chronically homeless – those who have lived on the streets at least two years. The community estimates housing is needed for roughly two dozen chronically homeless people, she said.

New commercial development could help, she said. Besides the obvious benefit of commercial taxes reducing the homeowner tax burden, new businesses also bring more jobs and potentially better wages, she said. Even sustainable, light industry might be possible in the area along Eubanks Road, she said.

Chapel Hill also shares in the county’s successes, and the two may find more partnership opportunities as the county’s leadership changes, she said. It takes compromise and a willing ear, she said.

“I think inclusiveness, diversity, fairness, sustainability when it comes to the environment and economy, social justice – all of those things can be claimed as Chapel Hill values, and those are my values,” Greene said.

Although she didn’t actively participate in Chapel Hill 2020 Plan talks, Greene was there and was impressed with how many people were involved. The surprise – and now the priority – is how determined the town is to put the plan into action, she said.

“You have to figure out where are the resources going to come from to make the dream a reality and what kinds of balancing acts do you have to do to achieve one goal and not disturb another goal,” she said. “Ideally, you would want to do those all at one time, because developers are not going to wait.”

Greene said she might consider seven stories for buildings in the Ephesus-Fordham commercial area but declined to speculate about other parts of town. She also declined to talk about budget cuts or tax increases, but if money can be found, it might be good to add a bus route to the library, she said.

Downtown also will be a priority, and the vision of a culture and entertainment destination is exciting, she said. It will mesh well with the entrepreneurial and innovation hub envisioned for West Rosemary Street, but the town should be careful to include Northside residents and make sure any changes don’t have a negative effect, she said.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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