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Hot Orange News & Analysis - September 2008

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Gangs… The Devil Inside! Chapel Hill Admits Presence of Gang Members At Halloween UNC Street Party

Press the Image to Hear Mayor Foy Warn of the Devil Inside



Now you don’t see gangs. Now you do.

Pulp readers are familiar with the past inability of Chapel Hill politicians and officials to recognize publicly the presence of gangs and gang members in southern Orange. (See Gangs in Southern Orange Stories.) “Facts optional” behavior is acceptable in southern Orange governance, particularly if it's in furtherance of local business interests. Gang presence has not been wanted… until now. Thus, gangs have not been present, despite warnings from outside southern Orange.

Gang presence now serves a governance purpose as a Halloween “devil inside the party” threatening public safety. Thus, gang members in Chapel Hill (at least as Halloween party visitors) now can be acknowledged.

Mayor Foy created the need for a scary bogeyman by declaring in August 2008. “I think the first thing is to make it clear to people that they're not invited. It's a local party. The trend is toward larger and larger crowds; the trend is toward longer and longer nights, and that's a trend that we need to reverse. We want Halloween to be an event that students and people in Chapel Hill can continue to enjoy, but we want to stop it from being regional or statewide.” See Pulp Foy Halloween Story.

In response, Police Chief Brian Curran and Recreation Director Butch Kisiah deliver the gang bogeyman on schedule. ”As the years have gone by we have observed fewer people in costume and more people who come for the sheer spectacle of the crowd. Many people come from out of town. Binge drinking prior to arriving on Franklin Street is common. Included in this crowd, unfortunately, are those who would look to take advantage of this situation in a mean, violent or criminal manner. We have observed over the past several years the addition of criminal street gang members mingling through the crowd.” See Herald Sun Halloween Story.

Town expenditures of $221,000 to subsidize a UNC student street party are complemented by a survey of local businesses indicating that money is lost by businesses during the Halloween event.

No word on whether or not the sighted gang members are just wearing gangster Halloween costumes.

UNC Washes Hands of Waterless Urinals As Carrboro Aims Firmly For Relief Using Waterless Urinals

Press the Image to Hear the BOA Waterless Urinal Lecture

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UNC ‘s waterless urinals, symbol of sustainability, turn out to create foul smells.

UNC will substitute ultra-low-flush devices for the odoriferous wonders installed in 2002. Deposits inside the waterless urinals have been blocking the plumbing system at times, leading to foul smells. Apparently other sustainability advocates have been discovering the same thing.

In addition, after installing the toilets, UNC modeled the maintenance costs for the urinals, which require expensive disposable maintenance cartridges. (See Daily Tar Heel Urinal Story.)

Meanwhile, the fact based negative experiences of UNC haven’t deterred the Carrboro Boa from calling for waterless urinals in all commercial construction projects in Carrboro. See Pulp Waterless Toilet Story.

No word on whether or not Alderman Jacquie Gist will take a recycled bike over to the UNC surplus yard to recycle the flushed waterless urinals.

Faith Based Governance, Mayor Foy Seeks Support For Issuing Library Expansion Bonds While Keeping Secret the Rise In Taxes

Press the Image to Hear the Faithful

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Hammered earlier this year in announcement of an 11% tax increase (see Pulp Chapel Hill Tax Increase Story), Chapel Hill Mayor Foy asks faithful to approve issuing library expansion bonds without telling how much your taxes will rise.

Library supporters want to expand the town library (separate from the county library system) from 45,000 square feet to 65,000. The cost will be $16,000,000 in capital bonds and $1,000,000 more per year in operational costs.

Showing faith based governance, Mayor Foy supports the 2003 voter approved library expansion bonds and is asking town residents whether they're still willing to pay more for a larger library. To assist citizens in proving their faith in OPie governance, neither he nor the town staff has issued any estimate of how taxes would increase in response to issuing the bonds.

See N&O Library Story.

No word on when a unified, county-wide library system will be considered over redundant, Balkanized town and county library systems.

Drought Over, OWASA Rewards Customer With 10% Basic Residential Water Rate Increase

Press the Image to Hear OWASA's Response

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The recent drought of 2006-2008 was for the record books. In response to the drought, OWASA water customers cut back dramatically on their usage. Not only did that voluntary reduction stretch the water supply, it stretched OWASA finances as people paid less in water bills despite OWASA efforts to hit its customers with raised rates. (See Pulp OWASA Rate Story.) To reward customers for their response, OWASA is increasing basic residential water rates, raising your bill by 10%.

Off-peak Winter Rates
In the seven months from October 1 through April 30, a lower “off-peak” seasonal rate is in effect. The off-peak rate from October 2007 through April 2008 was $3.08 per 1,000 gallons. In October, 2008, a new off-peak seasonal water rate of $3.40 per 1,000 gallons will go into effect as part of an annual adjustment of our rates

Peak Summer Rates
In the five months of May 1st through September 30th, a higher “peak” seasonal water rate applies to water use. From May 2008 through September 2008, the peak seasonal rate is $5.85. The peak seasonal water rate from May, 2009 through September, 2009 will be $6.46 per 1,000 gallons.

In the spring of 2002, OWASA completed a multi-million dollar expansion of the Jones Ferry Road Water Treatment Plant that increased production capacity from 15 to 20 million gallons per day. The improvements were necessary because the community’s peak demand for water had almost exceeded our treatment capacity. Based on Carrboro and Chapel Hill government supplied numbers in 1999, OWASA determined in 1999 that the service residential buildout will grow from 25,726 units to 45,542. However, neither OWASA nor the town governments are restricted to planning to these numbers.

No word on when the Assembly of Governments will announce that “sustainability” includes the concept of “carrying capacity”.

No word on when local governments will limit residential development to conserve water.

Oops… Affordable Housing Model Broken, Lifetime Job Bureaucracy Needs Deep PILOs of Cash

Press the Image to Hear the Bureaucratic Response

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Like the proverbial camel poking its nose ever deeper into the desert tent, a tax supported, local non-profit bureaucracy keeps pushing further into the public purse in order to fund affordable housing. The Orange Community Housing and Land Trust (OCHLT), through its 25% annual pay increase executive director, Mr. Robert Dowling, recently attended the Fall 2008 “Assembly of Government” meetings, aka the local turf battle and catfight for Orange Progressive politicians.

Pulp readers know that the affordable housing crisis is based upon the the declared belief that the inability of “lower income” people to live near median income residents creates an imbalanced society that hurts Orange County, not financially, but psychologically. For OPie purposes, someone making 80% of the median income is “lower income”. OPies do not take into consideration if that person's income is ascendant. For example, perhaps they are beginning their career path and will make more than median income during the term of their occupancy, or they are trustafarians living off trust incomes without really having to work, or they have made life choices temporarily reducing a two income family status to a one income family status.

Creating Your Publicly Funded Lifetime Job
After declaring a crisis loudly to the “stenographer pool” (aka the local media), crack, local, wannabe, tax exempt bureaucrats swing into action.

The first step in creating your lifetime job is to announce that government is not equipped to manage an affordable housing program.

The second step in in creating your lifetime job is to advocate in front of each local governance board for the adoption of a zoning requirement for developers to provide for a percentage of smaller size housing in a development, the smaller housing being equated to less expensive housing for lower income residents.

The third step in creating your lifetime job is to advocate for funding yet another tax exempt (read non-profit) non-governmental organization in southern Orange, in this case the OCHLT, to assist “lower income” (less than 80% of the median Orange County income) residents in finding housing.

The fourth step in creating your lifetime job is to get appointed to the OCHLT at a modest salary, with testimonials from local OPies.

The fifth step in creating your lifetime job is to advocate in front of the local governance boards for funding to support your bureaucracy’s operational costs.

The sixth step in creating your lifetime job is to advocate in front of the local governance boards for capital funds to buy housing and to rehabilitate into managed lower income housing, the right to own the property being retained ultimately by your bureaucracy.

The seventh step in creating your lifetime job is to advocate in front of the local governance boards for yet more funding for your bureaucracy to oversee developer-built affordable housing.

The eighth step in creating your lifetime job is to advocate in front of local governance boards for the adoption of a PILO (payment in lieu of) financial structure for developers. PILOs enable developers to give money to the town instead of building lower income housing mixed in with higher income housing. Effectively the raison de etre of an affordable housing crisis has evaporated (the need to mix socio-economic classes), leaving only the solution to a different crisis (the need to fund your lifetime job).

The ninth step in creating your lifetime job is to ask local governance boards to funnel PILO moneys to your bureaucracy to buy yet more bureaucratically controlled housing. (See Pulp Right to Shelter Story.)

There is no final step, as bureaucracy is never ending.

Flawed Program Bureaucratic Job Insurance
Even in the current depressed local housing market, there is one constant. Averaged over a long enough period of time, all maintained housing goes up in value. Apparently, OCHLT and its abetters (the local governance boards fo Orange County, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill) forgot to include this constant in their collective wisdom of funding the OCHLT housing empire. Four two bedroom, affordable housing units in Vineyard Square in Chapel Hill went up for sale in the Summer 2007. Under the terms of the OCHLT created program, homes that were bought by lower income residents for about $92,000 had increased in value to about $100,000 over several years. OCHLT can buy back the housing at the $100,000 price.

There’s only one problem, OCHLT can’t qualify lower income homebuyers at that $100,000 price. According to Mr. Dowling, by the time you figure in higher tax rates, home owners association dues and a stagnant median income standard, Mr. Dowling says, “many potential owners are priced out”.

Put simply, the OCHLT is in a financial mode of negative cash flow even with regards to selling its permanent stable of OCHLT owned housing. It can only sell the units it bought about five years ago at a loss of about 10% of capital because median income isn't increasing apace with housing costs.

Compounding a failed business model is the fact that OCHLT puts lower income residents into housing that they cannot afford to maintain. Only after having established an empire requiring his lifetime assistance has Mr. Dowling included the cost of maintenance by lower income homeowners into the model. He now estimates that over the next 25 years (taking him comfortably into retirement) OCHLT will need at least $1,500,000 in maintenance grants to OCHLT borrowed homeowners.

PILOS of Cash to the Rescue
No need to worry. Here’s where PILOs come to the rescue. Mr. Dowling wants local governance boards to fund the maintenance grants through PILOs, in yet another local, financially imbalanced, Ponzi scheme.

Chapel Hill Councilor and public micturator defender Mark Kleinschmidt says, “I think it speaks better of us when we find other ways of taking care of our affordable housing non-profits that don't take away from the ultimate goal of putting units on the ground.,” He’s also concerned that PILOS interfere with ”getting units on the ground, having a place for people to live.”

Showing continued trouble in adopting a “facts optional” approach to governance, Chapel Hill Councilor Matt Czajkowski counters Mr. Kleinschmidt’s visions by saying, ”My notion is, we've got a problem, we don't see any other source of funding and therefore we should try to fix the problem right now by accepting payment-in-lieu.” See the Herald Sun PILO Sory.

Failure Is Its Own Reward
No word from the Assembly of Government on the causal relationship between the failure to include maintenance costs in a funding program and the awarding of a 25% annual pay increase for such failure.

Hispanic Communities Don’t Have Crime Problem... Just Ignore Governor’s Report on Hispanic Gang Activity

Press the Image to Hear What Wasn't Said At UNC

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In response to a bonehead statement by Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell about Hispanic immigrant procreation habits, Orange Progressives declare that anyone questioning the role of criminal gangs in Hispanic culture is a racist.

Former Carrboro Alderman, former head of the local ACLU, “Hell” bar owner, and non-profit UNC Center for Civil Rights lawyer Marc Dorosin charges that the characterization of Hispanic immigrants as prone to crime is reminiscent of the marginalization of African Americans during segregation. “That image of the Latino community as being dangerous criminals really foments a backlash. That fear is even more powerful when it's fomented by law enforcement.” UNC law professor Deborah Weissman says, ”Much of the immigration controversy is driven by fear and prejudice.” Irene Godinez, advocacy director for the statewide Hispanic group El Pueblo, places the color card saying, ”Suddenly, if you're brown, you're dehumanized. North Carolina was one of the states that led in the civil rights movement. … It's really shocking and saddening to me to see that now, we're not taking to the streets.

While raising the thoughtful level of public discourse with cries of racism and prejudice, none of the speakers at a Chapel Hill conference on 19 September 2008 offered the possibility that perception is based on reality. That perception is not the rhetorical exaggeration that all Hispanic immigrants are criminals or dangerous, but the perception that Hispanic immigrant culture contains dangerous seeds of a propensity for including a criminal gang culture.

Noticeably absent from the intellectual discussions at UNC is any reference to the work done in 2005 by the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission and the North Carolina Criminal Justice Analysis Center. There's no mention of a thoughtful published report on Hispanic gang activity in the state. The local media provides no context in their reporting as well. (See the N&O Hispanic backlash story.)

Growth in Hispanic gangs
Between 1999 and 2004, gangs in North Carolina grew 68% in size (up to 387 groups with 8517 members). The greatest rate of growth in North Carolina’s youth gang population has occurred within the Hispanic communities, which now have 22.5% of the recognized youth gangs.

Despite the statements of local Orange politicians, gangs are present in southern Orange, as they are in 29.4% of the municipal jurisdictions in North Carolina. Over half of those jurisdictions having Hispanic gangs acknowledge that they have a “significant problem”. On average, Hispanic gangs accounted for about 10% of reported crimes, but in some areas it was up to 50%.

Part of gang activity relates to turf battles and drug market control disputes among gangs. Territoriality or disputes arising from turf related issues accounted for 24.5% of the gang conflicts. Drug related disputes account for 29.6% of gang disputes. Consistent with existing gang literature, these gang related disputes remain typically within the Hispanic community and almost exclusively involve Hispanic gang members.

Source of Gang Member Influx
On average, 73.7% of their gang members migrated into their jurisdictions from either another city in the state, another state or another country. California and Texas were cited as the largest feeder states, followed by Virginia, Georgia, New York and Florida. Mexico and El Salvador were cited as the largest feeder countries, followed by Honduras and Nicaragua.

Gangs in School
Orange County school systems have been noticeably silent about gang activity in schools, despite student acknowledgement of the presence of such gangs even at the elementary school level. Eighty percent of the gang reporting jurisdictions found gangs and gang members in their public school systems.

National Gang Affiliation
Of the 118 Hispanic gangs in North Carolina, 91 were reputed to be nationally affiliated. Some even have connection outside the country. At least 3,420 Hispanic gangmembers were identified of which 276 were female members (8.1%). Surenos, or Sur-13, was the most prevalent gang. Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangs were reported to exist in at least 18 counties with a minimum number of 430 members being recognized. Vatos Locos gangs also indicates known national ties for 16 of these gangs. Each of the reported Mexican Mafia gangs and five of the 18th Street sets were described as national in scope.

Nationally affiliated Hispanic gangs were described as “somewhat visible, mobile, violent, profit-oriented and involved in drug-related activities.”

Most Dangerous Threat
Gangs residing in the central, or Piedmont, region of the state “may be the most problematic, or have the greatest potential, for becoming more of a threat. These gangs were consistently rated as being more visible, slightly more violent, more profit-oriented and more organized than either the local gangs in the eastern or western portions of the state.

See Governor’s Hispanic Gang Report.

Chapel Hill Approves An Office Park Disguised As “Smart Growth” Village Mixed Use, Existing Neighborhood Character Ignored Again

Press the Image to Hear Citizen Response to the Disguise

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On 9 September 2008, the Chapel Hill Councilors ignored the recommendations of the town planning board and approved “Woodmont”, another, so-called “smart growth” village mixed use (VMU) development comprising 91,500 square feet of office space and at least 88,900 square feet of multifamily homes and retail spaces. Located in Durham County as the town of Chapel Hill spreads beyond single county boundaries, Woodmont will eventually comprise up to a total of 600,000 square feet of VMU use, located off N.C. 54, east of Barbee Chapel Road.

For those Pulp readers wondering why the town of Chapel Hill is in Durham County, state municipal annexation law is designed to promote cross county annexation by towns and cities. The annexation of the vacant Woodmont acreage is designed to promote deals between politically connected developers and town governance boards such as the Chapel Hill town council.

In April 2008 the town planning board saw Woodmont as an office park disguised as a VMU, a VMU to be plopped into the middle of low density residential use. Such conclusions are not surprising given that the owner of Woodmont project is a well connected Triangle office park developer, Capital Associates.

The town council saw tax revenues. Money to feed a ceaselessly burgeoning government bureaucracy trumped any zoning legal concern over the rights of nearby residential town citizens, who can’t afford to move elsewhere regardless of what the council approves.

The town council saw an office park amidst low density residences as being in furtherance of the town’s comprehensive zoning plan, an office park built with the tallest structures on the highest point of the landscape.

The town council saw an office park with six story structures and segregated multi-family residential structures as fitting within the two to three story structures with integrated living units described for VMU use in the town’s comprehensive zoning plan.

The town council saw a fit between Woodmont (an office park with two story, lighted parking decks, and segregated high density residences (8 to 15 housing units per acre)) and existing low density residences.

The town council saw no problem with approving Woodmont without any promise as to when a separate new traffic intersection would be built onto NC 54, one of the most congested roads in southern Orange, even though NCDOT has a current backlog of $65,000,000,000 in requested projects statewide.

The town council saw a reduction of 10% in traffic use for an office park because of the existence of Chapel Hill Transit, even though Woodmont is not scheduled for a transit stop, the closest stop being half a mile away at the Meadowmont VMU.

The local media saw increased real estate advertising revenues. (See N&O Woodmont story.)

Dense Is As Dense Does, Politically Connected Developers Continue Profits Over People Development

Press the Image to Hear the Sound of Rezoning Music

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The power of locally connected developers over Orange County governance boards continues unabated. Developers of the Chapel Hill village mixed use (VMU) hill sprawling, twisty road community known as the “Goat Trails” (aka Southern Village) have proposed a six-story building in the middle of the village center. Less than a decade ago the 60-foot spire on Christ United Methodist Church symbolized the faith of local urban planners in “humanizing” suburbia. Now that spire will be dwarfed by the new symbol of local urban planning, the Trump-like profiteering of a high end condo block blocking people's views.

Currently, the village center has parking for those visiting the stores and shops of the village center. In the words of developer dream team member and former Chapel Hill mayor Rosemary Waldorf, ”[a] hotel or new residential condominium building could be a third 'anchor' in the Village Center, along with Weaver Street and the Lumina Theatre.” Ms. Waldrop and associates D.R. Bryan and John Fugo are all members of the team seeking approval for a 1,000,000 square foot project at Buckhorn Village.

No local political observers see the well-heeled developers having any difficulty in getting their friends on the town council to rezone the entire village center as a VMU, a designation not in existence at the time of approving the Goat Trails. As reported in the Chapel Hill News, the increase of 90,000 additional square feet (sf) would take the village to about 440,000 sf, not counting about 58,000 sf in structured parking below the building.

In the words of local campaign financial contributor Ms. Waldorf, ”It gives the building owners here a little bit more flexibility in responding to the market.”

No word on how the developers will make up for the lost recreational credits in paving over the open space and parking.

Chapel Hill May Lend Bond Rating and Tax Exempt Status to Apartment Complex Buyer

Press the Image to Hear How Developers Make Money Off Your Taxes

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Related Companies, L.P. is an opaquely owned firm that develops, manages, and finances affordable apartment complexes, more than 1,100 properties in 47 states. Related wants to buy and rehabilitate a 1970s apartment complex in Chapel Hill, the Timberlyne Apartments complex, 144 garden style apartments at 200 Westminster Drive.

The entire complex will be converted in one fell swoop to low income housing. According to the developer, the complex currently has 80% market rate tenants and 20% low income tenants. After the rehabilitation project is complete, all of the the units will be set-aside for tenants who are 60% of the area median income or below.

There’s only one hitch, Related Properties wants to rehabilitate the complex using $8,000,000 of tax exempt financing issued by the town of Chapel Hill, along with $1,700,000 of tax credits against future taxes allocate by the state (through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA)).

Taxpayers beware. If these “pass-through’ bonds are issued to further private profiteering, the town’s credit rating can be affected if the private entity defaults.

The issue has been transferred to the town Council Committee on Affordable Housing, (see town memo).

Orange Home Tax Assessment Values Up 15% to 35% in Four Years

Press the Image to Hear the Tax Assessor

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It’s reassessment time again. Tax assessor John Smith is warning homeowners, expect to see increases of 15% to 35% since 2004. Anticipating a spate of objections, Mr. Smith will give you a sneek peek at your reassessment in November and December.

In the real world, homes sales in Orange County have slowed from 874 properties in January to July 2008 versus 1,152 properties sold in the same time in 2007. Time on market has increased from 59 days in 2007 to 78 days in 2008. The average July price of a property in Orange County was $302,635, down 9% from $332,842 in 2007. The mean price July price was $243,500, the midpoint between high and low, down 5% from $257,000 in 2007.

Carrboro Adopts Affordable Housing Maintenance Giveaways, Coming Closer to a “Right to Shelter”

Press the Image to Hear a Description of the Giveaway Guidelines

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In a continuing series of incremental moves designed to shelter the end goal, the town of Carrboro edges closer to a de facto citizen’s “right to shelter” from their government. On 9 September 2008, the Boa adopted changing the town affordable housing policy to permit homeowners to seek emergency repair grants (not loans), from the town of Carrboro.

The first step in a right to shelter was the declaration of an affordable housing crisis. The Boa declared that the inability of “lower income” people to live near Carrboro median income residents was said to be creating an imbalanced society that hurt the town, not financially, but psychologically. For Boa purposes, someone making 80% of the median income is “lower income”, even if that person's income is ascendant, e.g., they are beginning their career path and will make more than medan income during the term of their occupancy, or they are trustafarians living off trust incomes without really having to work, or they have made life choices temporarily reducing a two income family status to a one income family status.

The second step in a right to shelter was the adoption of a zoning requirement (now 17%) for developers to provide for a percentage of smaller size housing in a development, the smaller housing being equated to less expensive housing for lower income residents.

The third step in a right to shelter was the funding of yet another tax exempt (read non-profit) non-governmental organization in southern Orange, the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust (OCHLT), to assist “lower income” (less than 80% of the median Orange County income) residents in finding housing.

The fourth step in a right to shelter was the funding of OCHLT to buy housing and to rehabilitate into managed lower income housing, the right to own the property being retained ultimately by OCHLT.

The fifth step in a right to shelter was the funding of OCHLT to oversee developer-built affordable housing.

The sixth step in a right to shelter was the adoption of a PILO (payment in lieu of) financial structure for developers whereby the developer could give money to the town instead of building lower income housing mixed in with higher income housing. Effectively the raison de etre of an affordable housing crisis had evaporated (the need to mix socio-economic classes), leaving only the solution to a different crisis (the need to create a right to municipally governed shelter).

The seventh step in a right to shelter was funneling of PILO moneys to OCHLT to buy yet more housing.

The current eighth step in a right to shelter is the granting of giveaways to lower income residents for housing repairs.

Under a cobbled together process that the Boa dare not have introduced in one fell swoop, government money funds an organization that can put people into housing they can’t afford to maintain, and then picks up the housing maintenance costs as well. As reported by the Daily Tar Heel, OCHLT executive director and 25% annual pay increase recipient, Robert Dowling, “What Carrboro is doing is recognizing that there is a need amongst low income people for funding to help make their homes habitable. With affordable housing, it’s not unusual for homes that are sold to lower-income people to fall into disrepair over time, because to maintain a home is expensive. It’s easier to get someone into a home … than it is to allow them to be successful in being a homeowner and maintaining the home.

Under the adopted “process”, a resident simply asks the crack Carrboro Economic and Community Development department for a home maintenance grant, saying what the money will be used for and why they should get it. In the words of the ED head, Mr. James Harris, “We know about these situations but sometimes we just can’t do anything about it. All properties are priorities to somebody.

Ultimately, the Boa will decide to whom to give money, apparently on a “case-by-are-they-my-voting-friends-case” basis, as there are no guidelines or objective criteria for determining who should get how much money.

No word on why the Boa didn’t offer low interest FEMA type loans for housing emergencies as opposed to outright giveaways that promote not maintaining one's home.

Local Governments Are Watching You... But Not Because Crime Against You Is Increasing

Press the Image to Report Suspicious Behavior

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Pulp readers are aware of both the increase in seroius crime activity in southern Orange County and the denial of local public officials that crime is a problem, as robbery occurs openly on the UNC campus (as reported by the N & O}.

In the latest Opiate move (not in response to increased local crimes, but merely to remove unwarranted fear of local crime) the municipal governments of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough have banded together under a new public safety initiative called “Community Safety Partnership”. The program enrolls government employees to report suspicious activities or violations while performing their non-criminal enforcement roles. Even the water police, OWASA, are joining in, throwing in their fleet of meter readers.

On 9 September 2008 by Mayor Kevin Foy of Chapel Hill, Mayor Mark Chilton of Carrboro and Mayor Tom Stevens of Hillsborough announced the public safety program. Government employees are being charged notifying law enforcement if they come upon anything of a suspicious nature, an accident, or perhaps a citizen in trouble or need. Community Safety Partnership troops are undergoing training to report ”motor vehicle accidents, reckless/impaired drivers, crimes in progress, audible alarms, overcrowding of bars or restaurants, blocked or obstructed fire hydrants, damage to firefighting equipment, parking in fire lanes, illegal burning, environmental issues, other hazardous conditions and water main breaks.

Stressing that there is no link between crime rates and the new program, Mayor Foy said in a town media release, “Our communities are safe places to live, and our crime levels are low; nevertheless, there is much we can do to create an environment free from crime and the fear of crime. Public servants who regularly work outside in the community in various capacities already are a great a resource and have potential to be even more helpful to residents.

No word on when cameras will be installed outside every home to increase safety and the reporting of municipal violations by town citizens.

The Genius of Blind Trusts for UNC Employees

Press the Image to Hear a Blind Trust in Action

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How blind is a blind trust run by an undisclosed trustee, a trust operating in the same field as the trust beneficiary? That's the unanswered question presented by the appointment of UNC CH's newest executive.

UNC recently appointed Mr. Holden Thorp as its new chancellor, highlighting the role that biotech and biomed research will play in converting UNC biotech and biomed research into cold cash for university personnel and members of the financial UNC penumbra. Chancellor Thorp is ready to assist with the opening gambit of UNC's Carolina North research park, the UNC Innovation Center.

Mr. Thorp comes well equipped for the job. He was a partner with his brother, Mr. Clay Thorp, in Hatteras Venture Partners (HVP), an RTP-based venture capital business that supports biotech start-ups. Although when Mr. Thorp took the chancellor job he indicated that he was holding onto the partnership role as well, his brother, Mr. Clay Thorp has seen the appearance of a conflict of interest.

As reported by the Triangle Business News, brother Clay has ended brother Holden's partnership role and placed his brother's HVP equity stake in into a blind trust run by an unnamed trustee.

Brother Clay admits that he and brother Holden still have informal discussions about science and business. In brother Clay's words, “He’s got a lot on his plate. We’ve got a lot on our plate. It was better for him to just have no formal ties.”

No word on whether or not the blind trust will invest in any ventures spinning out of UNC research or use discussion of such research to benefit the trust.

No word on whether or not a double blind trust was considered, where the trustee does not know the identity of the beneficiary.

City Schools Dance to Student Tunes, Use Online Learning State Grant to Hand Out Ipods over Computer Notebooks

Press the Image to Hear Student Learning in Progress



City schools have received a $30,000 grant (about $60,000 to taxpayers when overhead on both ends is considered) from the state owned North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) to assist students in online learning courses. Southern Village’s Culbreth Middle School administrators have earmarked their half of these funds for a pilot program to give the popular entertaiment player, the Apple iPod Touch, to a select group of students in the school's AVID program.

As reported by the Herald Sun, nurturing and conciliatory Culbreth Principal Susan Wells says, ”We're obviously pleased and looking forward to moving ahead with our AVID students.” AVID students typically are those identified as being the first generation in their families to attend college.

According to Principal Wells and her staff, an iPod provides easy, unchallenging access to engaging learning material, as well as entertainment. ”We believe the educational potential of this tool is clear. We are excited about this pilot [program] and believe it will be an outstanding, engaging tool for our students. Our hope would be to extend this tool to all students within Culbreth if private, state or federal funds can be secured.

No word on why administrators didn’t choose to give more robust, challenging, and versatile notebook PCs to the students.

Flying Cowpies! Ex Town Councilor Capowski (aka "Weaver Guy") Seeks to Fly Local Future Airport into the Ground

Press the Image to Hear Weaver Guy's Airport Expertise

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The closing of the Chapel Hill Horace Williams airport owned by UNC Chapel Hill is an eagerly awaited event by OPies. The insistence of UNC Health Care to maintain an airport in Orange County is viewed askance as not being sustainable. UNC Chapel Hill and the UNC Health Care system are forming a 15-member board to site a replacement airport ithe airport. With the creation of an airport board, OPies are concerned that building a new airport in Orange County is more than a pipe dream.

To soothe the progressive psyche, up to the plate steps former Chapel Hill Councilor, OPie propagandist, Carrboro Mayor political attack surrogate (aka ”Weaver Guy” on local political blogs and forums), and failed local transfer tax shill Joseph Capowski. Mr. Capowski wants to serve on the airport authority

Mr. Capowski is concerned about the airport board’s “too great authority,” which includes the power of eminent domain, i.e. the acquisition of of private property for public use. Writing to Chapel Hill Mayor Foy to secure the town's seat on that board, Mr. Capowski says, “Though I spent 21 years on the faculty of the med school, I do not believe that a UNC airport is the all-important need for the med school, the UNC hospitals and health care in North Carolina. Rather, an airport must be viewed in the context of the county and towns.

Mr. Capowski, a contract UNC employee without any medical degree or tenure track position, has no known qualification in aviation, infrastructure siting, or emergency medicine logisitics, matching his expertise in taxation policy and character assessment.

Boa Continues to Shower Beaucoup Gifts on Developer Pals, This Time It’s The Butler

Press the Image to Hear Boa Sentiments

nuts_bolts.jpg


In March 2008, the Pulp reported on the Boa providing a cornucopia of monetary gifts to Roberson Square, one of the many developer pal groups concentrating on densifying the Carrboro historic district.

The developer pal party continues with an even denser project.

On 26 August 2008, the Boa approved the Butler project off Brewer Lane. As approved, the current 3400 square feet of commercial use (sf) will balloon to a lower floor of 22,170 sf of office space capped by four residential floors, totaling 57 units in 76,793 sf (for an average size of about 1350 sf). Underneath will be a two story parking garage with 136 spaces, thus adding another 40,000 sq ft to the project total (about 140,000 sq ft). Pulp readers should remember that the Roberson Square project approved in February 2008 had more commercial/retail space (about 32,000 sf) but less residential space (only 18 units in about 33,000 sf for an average size of about 1800 sf).

Of course, an affordable housing component has been leveraged out of the developer for the yet another southern Orange tax-exempt organization, the Orange County Housing and Land Trust empire that continues to grow. Mr. Robert Dowling, head of OCHLT, having recently received a 25% salary increase in bad economic times, approved by the Boa and paid for by local taxpayers is not happy with the gift of five units.

The Boa reduced the originally proposed nine units (total of 6750 sf) to only five units, so long as the developer pays $100,000 to the OCHLT town fund for each of the four units not built. At 750 sf, Mr. Dowling considers the originally proposed affordable housing units too small in size, likely to attract young single people, not the true low-income residents Mr. Dowling wishes to attract. In Mr. Dowling’s words on young single people,”They're not bad people, but they're temporarily low income. And as a result this is transitional housing for them.” So four of the five units to be built will be upped to about 1000 sf each.

As with the Roberson Square project, The Butler ”virtual children” will play in the courtyard used by the ground floor businesses in lieu of real recreational facilities. Again, this project is designed to retail at a nominal $250 per sf.

Again as with Roberson Square, the Carrboro Developer Service Department (aka town planning staff) orchestrated a plan to change the “rules” for The Butler. According to the town planning staff, there’s no problem with The Butler being built (all almost 140,000 some sf) on the existing about .9 acre site without additional area logistical staging and construction parking. Supposedly, historic business district parking and traffic flow will not be adversely affected.

More importantly, the infamous town zoning PILOS (”payments in lieu of”, see were brought out in full force. Town staff recommended granting the developer PILOs for a reduction recreational facilities, as well as for the need for affordable housing from 9 units (comprising about 7000 sf) to five units comprising about (5000 sf). (See Pulp PILO Virtual Affordable Housing Debate.).

Ordinarily, existing zoning laws would require a project of this magnitude to have 149 parking spaces, and not the approved 136 parking spaces, a difference of 13 parking spaces. These missing spaces would require (even in the newly downsized parking space limits approved recently by the Boa) the developers to convert an additional 5100 sf of the about 140,000 sf total project developed area from what is now revenue producing area into parking. At a sales revenue value of $250 per sf, the Boa approval of reduced parking is worth about $1,275,000 to the developer.

Perhaps more interesting is the parking algorithm in existing zoning ordinances. The table below compares the physical attributes of Roberson Square versus The Butler. Even though The Butler has three times the number of residential units found in Roberson Square, parking spaces are barely doubled. Such is the genius of the Boa. Such is the “parking plan” of the Boa. (See Pulp Parking Values Story.) If the residents of The Butler don’t cocoon themselves in Carrboro without a car, then an additional 30 parking spaces should have been required, carving out from revenues an additional $2,947,500 of footage.

How much do the $400,000 PILO fees “cost” the developer? By paying these fees, the developer can free about 2000 sf into full revenues. That space will yield (at about $250 per square foot) $500,000. The developer gets more.

No word from the Carrboro Developer Service Department on who will pay for the public parking garage needed for yet another dense growth limited parking jewel.

PILOs are the social engineering tool de jour in Carrboro for attracting “the right kind of people”, i.e., those who agree with the Boa, and reducing the reality based population in Carrboro. But if you’re not a stenographer, then the nuts and bolts of PILOs portends fatter profits for developers… with ordinary citizens, aka financial mules, getting the screws.

After the Boa passes the The Butler CUP building permit, Alderman Gist is reported by the Chapel Hill News to say, ”What I'm sensing now is 'community as commodity'. People build community and then other people come in and profit from the community that others created and built.” However, one is touched by Alderman Gist's concern with protecting Carrboro residents with which she agrees, it must be balanced by her lack of interest in protecting the neighbors of intrusive developments such as Pacifica or Winmore. In those cases, her sense of concern was dominated by her not liking or agreeing with those financial mules who also built their communities in Carrboro.

No word from Mr. Dowling on the real “bad people”, those who can afford housing in Carrboro without his assistance.

Comparison of One Acre Carrboro Development
Roberson Square The Butler
Total area ~90,000 sf ~ 140,000 sf
Business area ~32,000 sf 22,170 sf
Residential area 32,437 sf ~80,000 sf
No. residential units 18 57
Average size 1800 sf 1350 sf
Parking area ~40,000 sf 25,563 sf
Parking spaces 65 136
ho/september_2008.txt · Last modified: 2009/11/16 12:52 by editor
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