2015 is only three weeks old, but it’s starting out with a bang.
Our stellar transit system needs $80 million in upgrades. Our local law enforcement agencies are embroiled in a dialogue on racial profiling. And the first form-based code development in the Ephesus-Fordham area is underway.
In the midst of all this, my New Year wishes may seem trivial, but here they are.
First, I wish for the phrases “NIMBY” and “usual suspects” to be eliminated from our community dialogue. Both phrases have become pejorative labels for anyone who disagrees with the view that development is going to solve local affordability challenges. I almost wrote the “majority view” but after re-reading the Chapel Hill Town Council’s email archives for Central West, Ephesus-Fordham, and Obey Creek and the recent column in this paper on the Lloyd Farm property in Carrboro, the majority view of those who take time to make their views public is opposed to the type of dense, suburban development being proposed by developers in southern Orange County.
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We can debate whether majority is determined by those who care enough to make their opinions known or the private communications Maria Palmer claims elected officials have received. But whether it’s the majority or minority view, dismissing dissenters through labeling is a practice unworthy of this community.
Similarly, my second wish is for local decision makers to more publicly value the role of long-term residents. We all know that change to this community is inevitable; it’s necessary for any healthy community. Not all long-term residents are opposed to the significant change inherent in the number, size, and location of developments currently proposed for southern Orange County, but that’s where compromise comes in.
The conservative approach to growth dominated this community for decades; the recent shift to all-out embracement of growth has some of us spinning. The challenge is to find some degree of consensus between those residents who want full-steam-ahead and those who are more cautious. I haven’t heard anyone say “stop all development,” but I have heard that judicious planning involves considering how external factors might influence current trends.
For example, shopping malls are dying all across the country. How might that trend impact local decisions to add four or five new retail centers? Just as the Chapel Hill Town Council is considering how the financial challenges of the transit system might impact perimeter development at Obey Creek, so should all of our local governments consider the future of retail before planning an economy that is significantly dependent on mixed-use retail, especially the type of national retail that could cause the demise of locally owned small businesses and place additional burdens on our already underfunded social services.
Third, I hope the county and towns will continue to seek partnership and consensus around the management of solid waste and recycling now that the landfill has closed and previous revenues are no longer available. A number of different financial models are under consideration, some of which will be opposed by the same residents who threatened legal action over the 3R fees of a few years ago. That group of residents uses convenience centers for both solid waste and recycling and feels it should not have to pay for curbside recycling. But we all pay for some services we don’t use.
The larger issues that the Solid Waste Advisory Task Force, currently composed of elected officials but due to incorporate citizen participation in the near future, must address are whether the recycling program can or should be financially self-supporting and whether there is a viable local solution to managing solid waste disposal.