Up the Creek
I am dismayed by the Town Council’s decision Jan. 13 to move forward in the development agreement process for Obey Creek, while largely ignoring its own committee’s recommendations (CHN, Jan. 19, bit.ly/1aloaYK).
The committee was charged with evaluating a single, ambitious concept plan, with no alternatives and without the data necessary to assess the impact on traffic, schools or town economics – an impossible mission. Is it any surprise that the committee recommended unanimously that the development process be delayed until such essential data is gathered and, in response to clear concerns voiced in public forums, that the developer be asked to provide some development alternative(s)?
The council heard many concerned citizens, as well as the Planning Board, urge them to follow these sensible recommendations. Yet subsequent council discussion made it disturbingly apparent that not all members clearly understood the process or the committee’s recommendations, and most had decided to proceed into the next process phase before the meeting began. The public was patronizingly told that this was fine because the council (as opposed to a broad-based committee of citizens) would now be handling things and “we need to trust them.”
Despite Mayor Kleinschmidt’s feeling that the council merits praise for the new, “more inclusive and open” development process, that process seems designed to minimize substantive public input by depriving its citizen committee of the tools necessary to do meaningful work. Our town deserves better.
How town can help
In response to Sally Keeney’s article on aging in place, and Yvonne Mendenhall’s letter, aging in place would be much easier in Chapel Hill if town regulations (the LUMO) were changed in two respects: 1) to increase the “Maximum Floor Area Ratio” in the R-1, R-2, and R-3 residential districts; and, 2) to allow more than one “Dwelling Unit” in the R-1, R-2, and R-3 residential districts.
An increase in the MFAR would enable more folks to expand their homes to accommodate additional space for live-in helpers, whether they are extended family or hired assistants.
Allowing more than one DU would enable those aging in place to have more privacy, by having a separate dwelling on their property for their helpers.
Both of the above would be in accord with much of current development thinking, which is to promote higher-density living, which is environmentally and fiscally the best way to go for communities.
However, I was recently told by a member of the Planning Department staff that proposals like these would have to await “future” treatment, because Chapel Hill’s bureaucracy and politics cannot handle more than the currently proposed changes to the LUMO (allowing B&Bs, signage changes, etc.).
Well, in the “future” we are all dead.
In light of the tremendous interest in aging in place, our town should actively consider making LUMO changes that will benefit individual families, such as those proposed in this letter. Until recently, our planning process has mostly favored big, rich developers. It’s time Chapel Hill bureaucrats made regulatory changes that will be of direct benefit to the rest of us.
Curbside recycling discriminatory
My concerns about rural curbside recycling go beyond the tax implications and focus on the “health and welfare” issues of the elderly in rural Orange County.
According to the Orange County Department of Aging, in the last 10 years, the population of citizens 60 years old or older has doubled. Excluding the towns where the services to the elderly are more readily available, the rural parts of the county are seriously lacking in services. According to the county’s Master Aging Plan a stated goal is to “maximize the health, well-being, community engagement, and independence of older adults at all functional levels.” So why would the county put seniors at great risk of hardship and danger?
The reality of rural curbside collection simply doesn’t work for rural people, especially the elderly. They take their trash and recyclables to the dump at one time, where they can get help if they need it. Slam dunk, and it is done. The county is asking them to carry the recyclables to the “curb.” In reality it is asking them to carry weeks-worth of recyclables to their cars, drive down long driveways, exit the car on often muddy and unstable gravel roads, retrieve the containers from the car, place them on the roadside taking care to avoid falling into ditches along the road, get back in the car, drive to the next driveway (1/2 mile away or longer ) to turn around and head back home. This, to be repeated another time to collect the containers. This doesn’t sound like “health and welfare” is being taken into account.
Can you imagine the difficulties this presents to elderly persons whether or not they have health issues? How difficult it is for them to manage all these extra actions? And the safety issues of walking on gravel beside a road next to a ditch? Is this any way to treat our senior citizens?
Mandating that seniors in the rural areas be taxed even when they cannot “safely” use the service is contrary the goals of the Department of Aging and the “general welfare” of the people.
This brings up tax equity concerns.
Why isn’t the whole county being taxed to support the shortfall in the costs of waste removal? The rural residents are far distant from the libraries, yet they support them through taxes to the General Fund. The rural residents are far distant from parks, yet support them through taxes to the General Fund. The rural people together with the urban population support education, health services, etc through general taxation. So the issue is not that this group only gets this service, but that the general good of the county is involved.
Taxation on this specific group is neither fair nor representative. I think it is in fact discriminatory.
Little River Township
Thanks for the article “Hospital parking fees add up (CHN, Jan. 15, bit.ly/1drIbkM)
I am completely dumbfounded that patients and their families are constantly being bilked out of their funds by these ridiculously high parking fees.
Patients and their families should never be charged these fees as the illnesses they are going through are bad enough to deal with.
Keep the pressure on with more articles and please send this to anyone at UNC involved with these decisions.
Praise for SECU Family House
My wife was in UNC Hospitals for a month, and I was able to stay at the SECU Family House for the duration of her stay.
What was really convenient was the shuttle provided to and from the hospital. Also the public transportation bus stop was right in front of Ronald McDonald House, which is right beside SECU; I also used this. Saturday and Sunday were free at the parking garage.
P.S. My wife will be cancer free three years November 2014.