Chapel Hill: Opinion

Your letters, April 30

Jacobs thoughtful

I would like to encourage Orange County citizens to vote for Barry Jacobs for county commissioner in the upcoming primary election.

Mr. Jacobs is a long time resident of the area, and during his previous years on the Board he has proven himself to be a thoughtful and dedicated public servant. Recently, Congressman David Price said the following about him:

“The citizens of Orange County have been well served by Commissioner Barry Jacobs for the past 16 years. He works hard to respond to the needs of a diverse county; and is a leader on issues of public education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and social justice.”

Those sound like very good reasons to keep Jacobs in office!

Kris Bergstrand

Chapel Hill

Marcoplos gets water

Having served on the Orange County Planning Board along with Mark Marcoplos as well as Earl McKee, I am writing to express my observations on differences (related to environmental protection and sustainability issues) between the two candidates for Orange County Board of Commissioners.

During discussions related to development issues, Mr. Marcoplos has encouraged implementation of policies to support sustainable growth and protect natural resources. In particular, during ongoing discussions regarding the importance of maintaining strong local standards for stream buffers, Mr. Marcoplos has voiced support for keeping local, protective standards while others, including his opponent, apparently neglect to recognize the value of maintaining such buffers that help prevent pollutants from degrading local waters.

Having participated in discussions on these and related topics (as a scientist with expertise related to water-transport and flow dynamics), I find it is critical that policymakers recognize the value of taking preventative measures to protect local water quality and sensitive natural areas. Mark Marcoplos’ service on the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) Board of Directors, including two terms as chair, as well as his familiarity and expertise related to progressive building techniques have brought valuable input and knowledge to discussions in support of sustainable growth and preservation of natural resources.

Mary Becker

Orange County

Re-elect Brooks

The Register of Deeds office is not well known to the public, but it is vitally important because it is the place where our most important property transactions occur – the deed to your home and the mortgage on it are both registered there, giving you valuable rights and responsibilities. The holder of this office should be a workhorse, not a showboat which is why I endorse incumbent Deborah Brooks for reelection as the Orange County Register of Deeds.

I am an Orange County native, have practiced law in Orange County for more than 30 years, and have served on the faculty at UNC for about the same time. I have known Deborah since first meeting her on the staff of the Register of Deeds back in the late 1970s. Over the years, Deborah worked her way up in this important government agency, and was elected four years ago, becoming the first black female Register of Deeds in Orange County history. She has always been helpful, knowledgeable, and thoroughly professional. The voters wisely entrusted her with this essential county job, and she has been more than equal to the task.

Deborah is widely respected by ordinary citizens as well as the real estate professionals who interact with her office. I urge my fellow Orange County citizens to reelect Deborah Brooks as the Orange County Register of Deeds in the Democratic primary on May 6.

Don Stanford

Chapel Hill

The council’s agenda

Last week, I went to what was supposed to be a public hearing about the town’s budget and the form-based code development plan for Chapel Hill. The place was packed. After five hours, they told folks who were there to speak about the Ephesus-Fordham area and code to go home. There was no more time for public comment.

Funny, I was under the naïve assumption that our elected officials’ responsibility was not only to listen to constituents but also to base every decision on the health, safety, and welfare of its constituents. Now it appears that the Chapel Hill town manager, the mayor and the Town Council instead have an entire agenda we must simply accept.

Early in the evening, when budget was being discussed, I heard several impassioned stories from citizens who work long hard hours but can’t afford to continue living in Chapel Hill. CASA has helped to provide many families on a tight budget an opportunity to stay here but current affordable housing units are dwindling in the face of more upscale developments. I could sense the fear affordable housing will be cut to a crumb.

Those voices raised legitimate concern given the council’s previous approval to demolish hundreds of affordable houses at Glenn Lenox, leaving fewer than 100. Current affordable housing in the Ephesus-Fordham area could be replaced with seven-story buildings if this form-based code is approved. And the code will give developers a much freer hand and the citizens no voice.

This town has always had a reputation as being the hardest place for developers to get things approved. Perhaps that wasn’t the best plan. But now, with this form-based code proposal certain to get approved regardless of the hundreds of citizens who oppose it in its current language, the pendulum will swing to a free-for-all easy street for developers. Less concern will have to be paid to affordable housing or environmental concerns.

Jesse Helms wanted to put a fence around this “liberal” town years ago. We’re no longer the zoo; we are the few. And the momentum to weed out diversity of income base is really unsettling.

Callie Warner

Chapel Hill

Plan needs work

When is public participation NOT participatory?

The answer is when you live in Chapel Hill and the mayor and town staff have choreographed the perfect public hearing designed to prevent the public from speaking.

This is what happened at the April 21 Ephesus-Fordham public hearing. The list of speakers was long. I signed at the top of page 5.

Roger Stancil began his presentation after 9 p.m. Then came others on the staff explaining minutiae such as blank walls, window sizes, placement of doors, and car and bicycle parking ratios.

Several people called out questions for clarification, which the mayor quickly stopped by explaining we would have time to speak. Yes, but, we never get questions answered during our 2-3 minute “speeches”.

Many of us left sometime after 10:30 p.m. when Lee Storrow asked/stated that it seemed we would not get to hear from the public before the mandatory closing time of 11:15.

The crowning insult was Maria Palmer chiding us for leaving, saying that we should stay because this was informative and she was learning from it and we should too. She should already know this material! I did not hear one new thing up to that point and greatly resent being lectured to by Councilwoman Palmer, who had already inappropriately berated Councilman Czajkowski earlier in the evening. The citizens who attended the meeting were informed. They came with the purpose of expressing concerns that this plan is not complete and more work needs to be done before it is approved.

Plain and simple this was a carefully orchestrated effort to shut down the public. Perhaps this is because the mayor thinks he’s heard it all before. Touché.

Janet Smith

Chapel Hill

Brooks is best

It’s right to have competition in the race for Register of Deeds. It’s right for voters to have choices. Yet it’s hard to see how either Ms. Stephens or Mr. Chilton, interested and innovative as they might present themselves, could exceed the outcomes of the incumbent, Ms. Deborah Brooks.

Ms. Brooks is a self-made professional, competent, caring, and committed to serving Orange County. She’s spent over 30 years mastering critical job elements, overseeing multiple staff on complex operations, and interacting with countless customers, including realtors, surveyors, historians and families. She’s modeled high performance and ethical standards consistently, and presented budget proposals and project initiatives ably to county commissioners and county management. She was mentored by previous long term register, Ms. Joyce Pearson, who recognized Ms. Brooks’ motivation and leadership qualities.

Responsible voters should carefully consider the merits of each candidate, but based on public evidence, it’s more than right to re-elect Deborah Brooks to the office of Register of Deeds.

Gwen Harvey

Orange County