News briefs: UNC says bathroom light started dorm fire

November 16, 2013 

Fire may have been caused by light

UNC investigators say a bathroom light started a Nov. 5 fire that damaged the fourth floor of Cobb Residence Hall, displacing 76 students.

UNC spokeswoman Susan Hudson said the official report isn’t finished, but they think a recessed bathroom light that showed charring on one side started the fire.

Officials previously reported that the fire started in the attic insulation. The damage is expected to keep the fourth-floor closed through the spring semester.

There is no cost estimate yet, officials said. The fire closed surrounding streets and forced the university to find overnight housing for about 380 students. The 76 fourth-floor students were reassigned to other campus housing.

Orange County OKs school projects

The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved borrowing $10.5 million recently for city and county school improvements.

The money will pay for several projects, including a roughly $5 million Culbreth Middle School science wing in Chapel Hill and a $1.7 million renovation of the county’s Whitted Building in Hillsborough.

The final step – the N.C. Local Government Commission’s approval of the financing plan – is expected to happen Dec. 1.

The debt would be equal to less than a penny on the county’s annual tax rate for 15 years. The county is not proposing a tax increase to pay the bill.

County changes development rules

County officials will talk first with neighbors the next time they want to build a new fire station or other government building.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved new land-use rules Tuesday after a March decision to site a White Cross Fire Department substation on Neville Road, west of Carrboro, ignited a neighborhood debate.

The future station’s neighbors were upset after finding out the department had bought the land before telling anyone what might be built there. Neighbors also worried the station could drain residential wells and add noise and traffic.

The new rules require the county to hold neighborhood information meetings before pursuing future developments. Neighbors within 500 feet of a proposed project site would be notified and signs would be posted.

Compiled by staff writer Tammy Grubb

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