Chapel Hill: Opinion

Jessica Anderson: Running to protect what makes Chapel Hill unique

By Jessica Anderson

Jessica Anderson
Jessica Anderson

A little over five years ago, my husband and I were living in Washington, D.C., contemplating a move back to North Carolina. As a newlywed couple with plans to start a family, the future was filled with exciting possibilities.

In the midst of all of this uncertainty, there was one thing we were very sure about: the type of place where we wanted our children to grow up. We knew that this place had to have:

▪ An exceptional public education system.

▪ A culture where academic, artistic, athletic and professional achievements are all highly valued.

▪ Ample numbers of green spaces, parks, trails and other places to exercise and play.

▪ A socially progressive environment where people from different backgrounds and different walks of life feel welcome to live.

For the above reasons, it soon became obvious that moving to Chapel Hill was the right choice for our family.

To this day, we’ve never regretted our decision. And we don’t want to in the future.

That’s why I’m running for Town Council.

Since moving back to the area, I’ve talked to so many people – young and old, residents and visitors – who, like me, are concerned that recent Town Council decisions are eroding the qualities that make Chapel Hill unique.

They are seeing a once quaint Southern town starting to embrace the type of unimaginative development that has taken over other college towns.

They are experiencing longer commutes due to the traffic congestion caused by poor urban planning.

They are witnessing wasted opportunities to develop our town in a way that adds green spaces, parks, walkability and unique places to shop and visit.

They are seeing a community that used to pride itself on prioritizing affordable housing opportunities for valuable members of our community – those who protect us, fight our fires, nurse us in sickness and teach our children – shifting its focus toward developing luxury high-rises for renters and part-time residents.

And, most of all, they are expressing concern at the lack of a plan to add or invest in new public services to accommodate the large numbers of adults and children that all of this development assumes we’ll attract.

These concerns are not unfounded. And, unless the Town Council listens to these voices and prioritizes our community’s values ahead of outside development dollars, Chapel Hill will no longer be the charming town that we all know and love.

Five years ago, my husband and I chose to move to Chapel Hill because we wanted to live in a town with very specific qualities and values that have, thus far, stood the test of time.

As your Town Council representative – and concerned parent of a 2-year old – I intend to protect those qualities for future generations.

Jessica Anderson is a K-12 education policy expert running for Chapel Hill Town Council. You can learn more about her at www.jessicafortowncouncil.org.

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