CHAPEL HILL — A community debate about the busy Estes Drive-MLK Jr. Boulevard intersection has spawned a write-in campaign for mayor and Town Council days before the election.
Mt. Bolus Drive resident Tom Henkel is challenging incumbent Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who doesn’t have any other competition this year.
His neighbor, Will Raymond, said he heard people are going to write his name on the Town Council ballot. While he would be honored to serve, Raymond encouraged voters to write the name of any person who might do a good job and listen to residents. He will write in Henkel’s name for mayor, he said.
“I invite everybody who wants to send a message to the council about the Central West process to vote,” Raymond said.
There are nine official candidates for four open Town Council seats: Council members Sally Greene and Ed Harrison, and challengers George Cianciolo, Loren Hintz, Gary Kahn, Paul Neebe, Maria Palmer, Amy Ryan and D.C. Swinton.
Henkel and Raymond live just south of the Central West Focus Area, one of several areas identified in the town’s 2020 Plan as ripe for development. A committee of residents, town and business representatives has been working since December to map a growth plan for roughly 96 acres east of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The Town Council is expected to consider the committee’s final draft report Nov. 25.
Henkel, a retired physics professor from New York, moved to Chapel Hill with his family about 15 years ago. He is a solar energy consultant who started his business, Henkel Solar Inc., last year. Henkel also is a retired U.S. Navy commander.
Chapel Hill needs choices, Henkel said. He’s a fiscal conservative and a social liberal, who would like to see a change in how the town develops, he said. The Central West committee’s plan lacks financial information, storm water and other studies, and it is not ready for adoption, he said.
“We’re going to have to develop, but we can’t put a Southern Village type of development in this space,” he said.
The town can save money by using local experts instead of outside consultants, and by more strongly emphasizing energy-efficient buildings and reducing the town’s carbon footprint, he said. Tax increases, service cuts and other changes also must be considered carefully, he said.
Raymond, a three-time council candidate, is a software consultant who has lived in Chapel Hill since 1988. He has been active in writing a citizens alternative plan for the Central West area and also is a member of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board of directors.
The current community discussion is leaving residents frustrated and disappointed, Raymond said. There have been too many meetings, scheduled at awkward times for working folks, and the suggestions residents have made have not been incorporated, he said. The council’s recent meeting was in too small a room, and residents who did get inside only had two minutes to speak, he said.
“(Town officials) have forgotten their place is to serve us. It’s not our job to serve them,” he said.
Raymond previously served with several town and community groups, including the Chapel Hill Technology Board, Horace Williams Citizens Committee on Carolina North, the Downtown Parking Task Force, Sustainability Visioning Task Force and Friends of Bolin Creek.