What we need is a park
The Sept. 4 CHN brought us yet another set of development advice.
Some town citizens and council members think it is reasonable to take into account the current level of demand for apartments (fewer than 300 per year) and the number currently in the pipeline (roughly 6,000 – a greater than 20-year supply) when considering new projects.
But Mark Zimmerman says, no, no. That’s not something that we should worry about. Let the experts, i.e., the market, sort it out. Let the town and its citizens worry about what happens if the units are built – whether the use is appropriate for the area, how the traffic will be handled, and how to deal with any environmental impacts. But that’s as far as they should go. Otherwise, we’ll end up like the folks in the Soviet Union and Venezuela. Honestly, go back and read what he said!
Zimmerman really has outdone himself this time. In a town with few places left to develop (either as dwellings or as parks), ever-worsening traffic problems and water-control issues that just seem to get worse, telling developers to have their way with us and let us worry about the consequences later shows a real need for family (residence) planning, STAT! Perhaps he should focus his development energies up in Caswell County, where he is actually registered to vote.
The Ephesus-Fordham area and places close by are facing a building boom in residential and other properties. What we need to prevent further traffic woes, prevent further environmental impacts and generally improve the quality of life in this end of town is a park.
The council’s responsibility
Does Mark Zimmerman even realize that he so blatantly panders to developers that he has moved beyond public relations, beyond propaganda, and into the role of out-and-out shill?
Zimmerman’s recent pro-development opinion piece (“Let Market Sort Out Supply and Demand,” CHN, Sept. 4) criticized the Chapel Hill Town Council for attempting to ascertain the saturation levels of apartments in the area as part of its decision-making process concerning the size, scope and approval of such projects now and in the future. Expressing that market forces as interpreted by developers should be the lone factor in determining development, Zimmerman’s retort to a member of the Town Council questioning the saturation levels of the apartment market was that it is a question “you certainly shouldn’t even try” to answer.
Anytime you have someone advocating that our government officials not ask certain types of questions of any special-interest group or groups looking to profit off the town, watch out; you’re about to be taken for a ride.
While Zimmerman admits that “it’s natural to wonder if we’re risking being overbuilt,” he dismisses this inquiry on the part of elected officials by stating, “Such concerns should not be a factor when the Town Council considers applications for new apartment projects. Evaluating supply and demand should be left to the market and the developers risking their money on the investment.”
TRANSLATION: Don’t worry your pretty little heads, Town Council, the developers have this.
Sure. Why not? Go ahead, Chapel Hill Town Council, abdicate your responsibility to anticipate and secure the means to meet the future needs of the town. I’m sure the desire on the part of developers to maximize current profits will logistically and morally supplant any trivial concerns you might have about properly managing growth in the town and its extraterritorial jurisdictions.
Zimmerman goes on to say, “When government intervenes in the process of anticipating needs and allocating capital to meet them, bad results follow. One only has to look at the economic disorder inflicted when the market was superseded by the Soviet Union’s Gosplan or the Venezuelan Planning Ministry to understand that.”
Just ... wow.
Comparing the Town Council honoring its responsibility to the community by questioning developers and staff as to market saturation of a particular kind of development to the strategies and tactics of the former communist superpower’s economic-manipulation agency or the policies of a Venezuelan government in a monetary death spiral as oil prices ravage its economy is beyond absurd. That takes propaganda to a whole new level ... even for Zimmerman.
So yes, Town Council and Mayor Pam Hemminger, please keep sticking your noses in where developers and their surrogates don’t think they belong. Keep asking those questions until they are red in the face with indignation.
Leaving the questions of responsible growth solely to those with a motive to maximize profits? To quote Mr. Zimmerman, only “bad results follow.”
Note: The length limit was waived to allow a fuller response to the column.
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