Orange County has three top priorities, Commissioner Penny Rich said, but addressing economic development and a diverse tax base first can generate the money to meet school funding and affordable and senior housing needs.
The county’s current reliance on home owners – 84 percent of county property tax revenues – is unsustainable, she said.
“Orange County needs to approach economic development as multi-faceted and be willing to take risks to create a diverse economic base and to meet the challenges of a changing county,” Rich said. “My goal is to foster programs that assist all types of business at all stages of development with hopes that they come to and remain in Orange County.”
One success was recruiting Japanese candy manufacturer Morinaga in 2014, she said, citing the company’s $48 million investment in a new facility and 90 local jobs.
“I believe this kind of light manufacturing is a perfect match for our (Economic Development District) areas,” Rich said. “It is important for the county to continue to invest in Economic Development District infrastructure and support efforts that increase the attractiveness of Orange County for company relocation, such as the availability of roads, utilities and water.
Rich, 56, is seeking a second term in District 1, representing southeastern Orange County (See map, bit.ly/245bP91). Commissioners Vice Chairman Mark Dorosin, former Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board member Jamezetta Bedford and Southern Village resident Gary Kahn also are running.
Only District 1 residents can vote for District 1 candidates in the primary. Two winners, since no Republicans are running, will be selected March 15. Early voting starts March 3.
See the full interview at chapelhillnews.com:
The $125 million November bond includes money to address about a third of the repair and renovation needs in both school districts. How would you address the remaining needs?
Rich: As we look at prioritizing the repairs and renovations for our schools, it is vitally important to keep in mind that this will push the need for new construction out past the 10-year projections. Funding the remaining needs of our schools will be a two-step approach. First, we will need to review our two-, five- and 10-year Capital Improvement Plans and consider shifting funding currently allocated to building new schools to repairing of older schools.
Second, we will need to consider another bond in five years to cover the needs that the CIP money cannot fund. I have no objection to reviewing the financial strategic plan to see where allocations can be moved to fund school capital improvements.
What should the county’s role be in making sure there’s affordable housing for lower-income and working class families?
Rich: We need to review our land-use ordinances and amend them to be more flexible in allowing cluster housing, Granny flats and micro housing options. Along with this, we will need to re-visit the impact fee requirements. A micro house should not be paying the same impact fee as a 4,000-square-foot house.
2. In 2014, the BOCC began a fund, with a $1 million commitment, that is specific to land banking. The fund is a safety net for mobile park home residents that will be displaced when the landowner sells the property. I propose we continue to add to this fund and expand the scope to land purchase and banking along transit corridors.
3. We should increase the total amount of public dollars spent on affordable housing. We currently spend $891,000 yearly. A resolution to move this number to $1 million passed in 2015. I propose that we begin with $1 million and raise that amount each year. I would invite our partners to help us formulate an appropriate increase based on future needs.
4. Orange County has pockets of land that we can build on, and we are partners with Chapel Hill and Carrboro on the Greene tract. I suggest we keep a large portion of the 104 acres open space and agree with the work of the Greene Tract Workgroup (2002) recommendations to jointly build affordable housing on 18 acres. I would expand this to workforce housing as well as some mixed-use development to support the residents with needed amenities.
How do we pay for this? The 2016-17 budget will be the first for our new manager where she has complete control. One of our priorities identified at our 2016 retreat was to have measurable outcomes. I would like to come back to this question in the future with data showing how our efforts paid off, how many homes were built, how many families we helped and how our energy today will benefit our community tomorrow.
Address: 109 Oldham Place, Chapel Hill
Contact: email@example.com; 919-428-5952
Party affiliation: Democrat
Career: Owner, personal chef and catering company; community relations/engagement manager, Terra Vita Food and Wine Festival
Political activities: Orange County Board of Commissioners, 2012-16; Chapel Hill Town Council, 2009-11
Community activities: Orange County Visitors Bureau Board of Directors, Community Home Trust Board of Directors, Solid Waste Advisory Group, Intergovernmental Parks Workgroup, Historic Rogers Road Task Force, Inter-Faith Council Community Kitchen volunteer, Ironwoods Home Owner’s Association, N.C. Democratic Party (State Executive Committee), League of Women Voters