Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

Bill Strom

Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Bill Strom
Full legal name, if different: William B. Strom
Date of birth: May 26, 1956
Home address: 714 Greenwood Road, Chapel Hill, NC, 27514
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.stromforcouncil.com
Occupation & employer: Former Dairy Industry Executive and Business Owner
Home phone: 919-933-2711
E-mail: billstrom@nc.rr.com also stromforcouncil@nc.rr.com




1. What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

I’ve been involved in public service in Chapel Hill since the mid-1980s in a wide range of activities from small projects such as leading the effort to build Chapel Hill’s first dog park to chairing the $60.6 million 1997 countywide bond referendum that provided our first affordable housing funds, seed money for our Lands Legacy Program, and got us caught up on school construction.

I’ve had wide-ranging engagement with issues affecting our community, both as a public official and as a private citizen. To whit:

AWARDS: Winner of the 2005 Leadership Triangle’s Goodmon Award for regional leadership by an elected official; 2006 winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club.

POLITICAL PARTY AND EXPERIENCE: Democrat; elected to Chapel Hill Town Council in 1999 (two four-year terms); Triangle Transit Authority Board of Directors (2002-Present); Metropolitan Planning Organization (2002-Present); Chair, Chapel Hill Library Building Committee (2006-Present); Co-Chair, Rogers Road (Greene Tract) Small Area Planning Task Force (2006-Present); Intergovernmental Parks Work Group (2000-Present); Orange County Economic Development Commission (1993-99 & 2007-Present); Lead Delegate to UNC’s Leadership Advisory Council (2006-07); Member of Chapel Hill’s Horace Williams Citizen Advisory Committee (2004-06); Delegate, Triangle J Council of Governments (2002-03); Director, Orange Water and Sewer Authority (1996-99); Member, Democratic Party State Executive Committee (2006-Present); Member, Council Committee on Energy, Environment & Sustainability (2003-Present); Chair, Council Committee on Downtown Economic Development Initiative (2002-Present).

CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS: Orange-Chatham Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, NAACP, ACLU, Friends of Bolin Creek, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, Foster Parent and Volunteer for Lab Rescue of North Carolina and Independent Animal Rescue of the Triangle, former board member of Volunteers for Youth, and Affordable Rentals Inc. of Orange County.

As a Town Council member, I’ve led the effort to fundamentally change the way the town creates its capital improvements budget (by significantly extending the time horizon, looking farther into the future), and to change the way the town charges fees and collects revenue from developers. Now, we charge fees that are based on what it actually costs the town to staff and perform its role in the development process, from permitting to inspections. Our previous fee system, in effect, rewarded some developers over others.

In all things regarding development, my philosophy is that growth should pay for itself. Taxpayers should invest in long-term strategic planning, but developers should pay the direct costs of current planning that arise from permit reviews and inspections.

Finally, my life experience as a successful businessman means I bring a host of skills to the Council that dedicated progressives and social activists – among which I count myself – don’t normally have. I can discuss and make decisions about business, commerce and development without having to defer to the expertise of the other interested parties. I’ve been on that side, and I know what’s true about business and what’s not.

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am a pragmatic progressive who believes that communication, research and creativity can lead to success in an otherwise fractious political system. I have demanded more of developers and yet still gained their support for my re-election. I worked in a committee of Council members and UNC administrators to provide substantial effective protections for Chapel Hill’s neighborhoods and ecology during UNC’s major expansion on the main campus. I have moved planning and funding the expansion of Chapel Hill Transit as well as Fiscal Equity and Diverse Housing Options into the center of the conversation around Carolina North.

My leadership and focus on environmental issues has resulted in Chapel Hill’s new enabling legislation, allowing us to require an additional 20 percent energy efficiency factor of new developments. This is a great help in our effort to implement our carbon emission goal (CRed) of reduced per capita carbon footprint of 60 percent by 2050. In my role as Chapel Hill’s board delegate to TTA I have been successful at revamping regional routes, resulting in our successful express bus services between the downtowns of Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham, as well as hourly service all day long between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. Additionally, with full board support, I have put fare free on the table for study at TTA.

3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

All principled stands appeal to some voters and not others. I was on the losing side of an 8-1 vote earlier this year on whether the town should appoint representatives to UNC ‘edge’ committees to review plans for the new Innovation Center at Carolina North and for the renovation of the Law School on the main campus. I took major flak in the press for being “uncooperative,” but based on my experience negotiating with UNC over the years, I was concerned that the town participating in these efforts would circumvent the standard special-use permit process, which has proven to be effective in ensuring that only the right kind of development gets done in Chapel Hill.

I was also concerned that UNC was more interested in using these committees for public relations purposes than out of a genuine desire to glean public input. Given that UNC has since changed the site of the Innovation Center—with little notice, and without ever convening either committee—I am comfortable with the stand I took, regardless of what consequences it may have this fall.

I’ve also taken the stand that the Rogers Road neighborhood and the county need to come up with a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of where to site a waste transfer station. At a recent Assembly of Governments meeting with Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County present, I forcefully asked that the Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism be allowed to make a presentation demanding that the county reopen the search process. I’ve gotten out ahead of many of my elected colleagues in speaking out on this issue and may have ruffled some feathers by doing so, but I think that taking a stand for fairness for this neighborhood is imperative.

During my first term, I had the experience of taking a principled but controversial stand--for instance, voting for extending domestic partner benefits to Chapel Hill town employees--and realizing that the backlash wasn't as bad as I anticipated. It rarely is if you stand on the side of what's fair. Progressives have a lot less to fear from public outcry than we often think, the Fox News Channels of the world notwithstanding. People recognize fairness.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

This idea of a just community is an integral part of my thinking as a Town Council member. It’s what political philosopher John Rawls called an “infrastructure of justice”--one that makes sure everyone gets a good education, opportunity for work, recreation, political life, and the liberties and basic living standard available in our society.

There are ramifications for social justice in everything we do, from the budget to land-use planning. My record is one of both voting for justice and speaking out for it, whether it’s for equitable wages or affordable housing, the rights of the homeless or the challenges facing low-wage workers. Like Rawls, I believe we should make decisions, even from our positions of relative privilege, with the idea that tomorrow might find us with nothing, and that if that happens we’ll need the help and support of the social structure we’re creating right now. I will continue to think and act that way.

5. Carolina North could transform the look of Chapel Hill, as well as set precedents in town-gown relations. What zoning regulations and building standards should the city implement on the project? Explain the optimal process by which the town could work with UNC on this and future projects.

Carolina North is one of the biggest issues ever to face Chapel Hill. It is proposed to be six times the size of The Streets at Southpoint mall. UNC is very powerful with its well funded Citizens for Higher Education PAC, an alumni newsletter to promote its new development proposals, a contract with Capstrat for public relations, and a community outreach staff.

That said, the town has put itself in a great position to influence the university's plans because the Council is unified in its support of the Horace Williams Citizens Committee report. Initiating the HWCC was a proactive move by the town, which makes it clear what standards the development will be judged by.

If UNC's plan reflects the values expressed in that report, features such as exceptional design, environmental innovation, green building, neighborhood protection, open space preservation, improved public transportation and additional housing will all be hallmarks of Carolina North. These are the things I called for as head of the Chapel Hill delegation to UNC's Leadership Advisory Council and as an original member of the Chapel Hill Citizens Committee on Carolina North.

When I joined local leaders in a visit to Madison, Wisconsin, last fall, we were struck by the seamless integration of the campus with the rest of the community. Unfortunately, the university's recently submitted plans for an Innovation Center that would cover 85,000 square feet on seven acres of land have a remarkably suburban quality to them and do not reflect the vision laid out in the HWCC report. Chapel Hill deserves better, and I will make sure that we don't settle for anything less than the best from UNC as we move forward on this and other projects related to Carolina North.

At the same time, I am optimistic about the Chapel Hill Transit Master Plan and the Fiscal Equity Study that are under way, and I think that UNC has the potential to create a visionary, unique environment at Carolina North. My goal is for Chapel Hill to have the best public transit system for a town our size in the nation, and collaborating with Carrboro and UNC, we can get there. I am serving as one of the town’s representatives to the Chapel Hill Transit Master Plan Committee, and my experience at TTA has been a great help in our efforts to develop a progressive and innovative approach to transit.

We need to negotiate a new zone with UNC for Carolina North that is centered around encouraging transit use. I also hope UNC will agree to overlay districts like are included in our Land Use Management Ordinance that will include things like creek setbacks and stream buffers. I am grateful that the legislature has created the Development Agreement tool for us to use – so that we can by agreement with UNC protect all the hard work we have put into land use planning in Chapel Hill.

With a project of the magnitude of Carolina North, it is very important for the Council to have members who are experienced in negotiating with the university and who have shown themselves to be tough in advocating for the town’s interests while also being fair. My record shows that I meet that standard.

6. Along those development lines, growth in northwest Chapel Hill is an issue important to the town’s citizens. What is your plan for growth in that sector? How will it be achieved?

Growth in the northwestern part of town is one of the most important issues facing Chapel Hill. I was happy to play a lead role on the Council earlier this year in convening the Northern Area Task Force to take a wide view at development in the area so that future growth will be more effectively planned. I also took a strong stand in support of a moratorium within the study area while the NATF met, since it’s a lot easier to do long range planning without the sounds of construction ringing in your ears.

I support the report of the NATF, and I am interested to hear the comments our town boards and commissions add to the report as they review it over the next few weeks. My vision for the area is that it be bustling with activity, with residents able to meet many of their daily needs by walking or bicycling to stores within the area. I want new development to reflect the principles of transit-oriented design, with dense mixed-use projects that promote the use of Chapel Hill Transit while also protecting the quality of life in existing neighborhoods and the watersheds.

Additionally, I want development there to reflect the best values of Chapel Hill. There should be a variety of housing types with adequate affordable housing available in any new development. All projects should reflect the newest advances in green technology. There should be sensitivity to existing green spaces and waterways such as Booker Creek.

There are several actions that are key to making this vision a reality. We will need to clearly state our vision before the moratorium ends, to ensure that when applications start coming in, applicants understand the kind of development we want to promote. We’ll also want to integrate the principles of the NATF report into the comprehensive plan. Finally, we need to ensure that needed infrastructure such as transit improvements are in place before new development comes online.

As I said at the council meeting last week when this report was presented, due to the leverage the town holds through our conditional use review process, we ought NOT rezone any part of the Northwest Study area ahead of an application. By holding back on this action – while clearly stating what our vision is – the town can implement its negotiated review process and secure affordable housing, off-site bike and pedestrian improvements and payments to Chapel Hill Transit in exchange for considering high-density mixed-use projects.

I look forward to continuing to play a lead role in enhancing the quality of life in our northwestern part of town.

7. While Greenbridge has been lauded as an environmentally friendly housing development, there are also concerns that it threatens adjacent lower-income neighborhoods. What do you think the town’s strategy should be in regards to gentrification?

I think the revitalization of downtown and particularly the west end of Rosemary Street is one of the most important accomplishments of this Council. It will have a great positive impact on the quality of life in the Northside neighborhood. But we need to make sure that we folks don’t get priced out of the places they’ve lived for many years, and we’ve taken several positive steps to deal with that issue. In addition, when we approved Greenbridge, careful attention was paid to the interaction of the design with the nearby neighborhood. We sure didn’t want to turn our backs on anyone, and by placing neighborhood-scale retail, a public plaza, and office space along Rosemary Street, I believe we were successful.

In the last four years, we enacted Neighborhood Conservation Districts for both the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods. New regulations creating maximum floor-area ratios, limits on house size, banning duplexes, and limiting front yard parking in both of those neighborhoods came out of processes driven by the residents. These rules will help prevent tear-downs and keep the neighborhoods from being overrun by temporary residents who don’t value their history and character.

We also need to be proactive in taking measures to ensure that folks’ property tax bills don’t rise too high. I am proud that the Council has not raised taxes three out of the last five years. Beyond that, every year I talk to Speaker Joe Hackney and Rep. Insko about expanding the number of people eligible for the homestead tax credit, which helps to ease the tax burden for longtime residents with limited incomes. Right now, people over 65 making less than $25,000 a year get a 50 percent break on their taxes while those with an annual income under $37,500 get a 25 percent break. I would like to see the minimum threshold eligible for a homestead exemption increased at least by 25 percent, and the age requirement dropped. There are communities such as Arlington County in Virginia that have opted to cap their percentage increase in tax revaluation years at 10 percent. While this would obviously be a very difficult pill for the N.C. Legislature to swallow, I intend to discuss this approach this year as we set our agenda for legislative initiatives.

Towns and communities evolve, but they need to maintain their sense of place and historical values. I hope that longtime residents of Northside will find the revitalized West Rosemary Street to be a central focus of civic life for the neighborhood, much as it was when they were children. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to move toward that vision and will be proactive in ensuring our progress downtown is a good thing for our historic neighborhoods.

8. How should the town incentivize affordable housing? As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?

When I was first elected to the Council in 1999, there was a mindset around town that the private sector couldn't build affordable housing. Over the last eight years, we have changed that mentality and now have the fastest growing land trust in the whole country. Orange Community Housing and Land Trust has 125 units already online and 200 more on the way, based on projects approved and in the queue, according to Robert Dowling, the Executive Director of the Land Trust. Our town is definitely headed in the right direction on this issue.

We have also worked closely with Habitat for Humanity and EmPOWERment to maintain and enhance our stock of affordable housing. We've been particularly effective at steering federal housing support money into Habitat projects. We'll continue to build on those efforts in the next four years.

As federal funding for public housing has been cut, we’ve made it clear that we will make the investment to keep the quality of our program. We are operating more than 300 income-based housing units, with more than one-third of residents living rent-free. This is in the face of federal efforts to make public housing more market based and thus more expensive and less accessible to the families who need it the most. We’re spending general funds to maintain our public housing program because it’s the right thing for our progressive community to do.

We’re not managing slums, either. The council has set the standard that our public housing should be nice enough that anyone in town would be comfortable living in it, and we’ve stuck by that standard by continually investing in upgrades, maintenance and modernization, such as air-conditioning all our units.

In addition to creating new affordable housing, it is important that we ensure that taxes don't get so high that folks can't afford to continue to live in their homes. I have helped lead a Council that has had no tax increase for three of the last five years. I've also advocated every year to raise the limits on the homestead tax credit. This would help ensure that long term residents of our community can stay in their homes as long as they want. I think that our new economic development director will help us increase the commercial tax base and, by extension, lower the burden on individual homeowners.

I am excited about the work that has been done by a Council committee in crafting an inclusionary zoning ordinance, which will serve to formalize our community's affordable housing regulations. I think there is a great potential for it to help us secure affordable units from developers even when they are not asking for a rezoning. I do think we need to make sure that the new ordinance does not give up too much flexibility with the process because we have been very effective in negotiating significant concessions on affordable housing from developers as a result of our conditional use zoning process. I am looking forward to hearing public input on this proposal and hope that it will allow us to increase the amount of affordable housing available in the community.

9. The town’s comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. What are the most important issues in regional planning? What results are you looking for? How would you achieve them?

egional planning has been one of my biggest priorities as a member of Town Council. I was honored in 2005 by Leadership Triangle with the Goodmon Award for regional leadership by an elected official. I was the first elected official from Orange County to receive this honor.

Now that the voters of Chatham County have elected county commissioners who believe in planning, it is important for us to engage with them to create a legally binding joint planning agreement. Since state laws incentivize annexation and sprawl, we need to create agreed upon boundaries and utility service zones to put a stop to out-of-control growth. There are some major quality of life issues at stake along the 15-501 corridor in northern Chatham County and southern Orange County and it will take working together to solve them.

Transportation is another huge regional issue. There was an 89 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled from 1990 to 2003 in the Triangle, and a 70 percent population increase projected from now to 2035 will just exacerbate this problem. It’s no wonder that we’re the third most sprawling metro area in the country. Through the Metropolitan Planning Organizations, we’ve partnered regionally to create a Special Transit Advisory Commission. Hopefully the STAC will come up with some new ideas for dealing with transportation issues that will de-emphasize roads and put a proper emphasis on public transportation solutions. In any case, the STAC needs to identify corridors the region can support for dedicated guide way transit of some form – AND – identify how we are going to pay for building the system. I believe the future of this region from a social, economic and environmental perspective depends on our ability to implement a robust public transportation system.

I’ve been a strong advocate of regional public transportation during five years of service on the TTA board, serving as Treasurer and (starting Oct. 15) as Vice Chair. One accomplishment I’m proud of is helping to create express bus routes at the morning and afternoon rush hours between Chapel Hill and Raleigh, as well as Durham and Raleigh. These buses were packed to the gills for more than a year after the new routes were established so we expanded them over the summer and ridership continues to increase. The success of these new routes is taking hundreds of cars off of I-40 every day and offers many people a way to significantly reduce their carbon footprints.

We’ve also enacted express service from Hillsborough to Chapel Hill, which had not been connected by public transportation at all previously. I have been working to get TTA to increase ridership by adopting the fare free program that has been so successful for Chapel Hill Transit and will continue to work toward that goal.

10. The council has debated obtaining contributions from developers to help pay for the operating costs of the town’s free bus system. What are the pros and cons of such a plan? What formulas should be used to assess the fee amounts? What transportation needs could be met with the additional funds generated by these fees?

During this year’s legislative session, we obtained the ability to get money from developers to help pay for the operation of the town’s bus system. This is a great step forward for the town and I see no downside to it at all. It is important to integrate transit and land-use planning and as new projects are built, we need to be able to add capacity for Chapel Hill Transit. While I look forward to hearing more public discussion about formulas, I have no doubt that it is logical to get some help in building our system from developers who are profiting so much from the great business climate in our town.

Chapel Hill is part of an exciting Community Carbon Reduction Project that aims to reduce our carbon emissions 60 percent from their 2005 level by 2050. If we keep on doing everything we’re doing now we’ll only realize a 6 percent reduction. That’s why it’s so important for us to enact policies as a council that discourage driving and encourage use of public transportation, biking and walking. The Council has eliminated minimum parking requirements in new developments as one step in that direction. But a significant improvement of the transit system will be imperative to reaching those goals.

I hope that increased transit monies from developers will help us move closer to my vision of a town where Chapel Hill Transit is a viable option for everyone in their daily lives. I want service to be so regular that folks don’t need to carry a schedule around with them and I want our service hours to be expanded. As we continue to expand we’re also going to need more equipment and increased funds will help with that. Finally, the NextBus system that tells people at certain stops when the next bus is coming while also providing that information online has been wildly successful since starting in Chapel Hill last year. On a per-person basis, it’s being used more here than anywhere else in the country. Increased funding will allow us to roll that service out at more bus stops around town.

Chapel Hill can be very profitable for developers, and it is incumbent on the Town Council to ensure that every new project has some benefit that increases the quality of life in town. The planning department is currently drafting ordinance language for the council to apply to development applications, and I look forward to discussing the range of assessments we can apply for transit later this fall.

11. The 10-year plan to end homelessness began earlier this month. How will the town monitor progress on the plan? What accountability measures are or should be in place? What are the hurdles to accomplishing it? How can the town overcome those obstacles?

The Town Council made a big decision earlier this year when we decided to fund the Partnership to End Homelessness steering committee in our budget. That was a move that showed our commitment to working on this problem. It’s unfortunate that due to national politics and the state budget, local governments are being put in a position where they have to spend a lot of money on this problem, but given the lack of external funding, it is the right thing for Chapel Hill to do. I am proud that we stepped up to do this.

One of the biggest hurdles to accomplishing our goal of ending homelessness is ensuring that we have public support for our efforts. Since municipalities are not charged with social service provisions, it is important to have buy-in from our citizens in the belief that this is a good use of town resources. One thing that made choosing to fund the Partnership easy was the steering committee rightly deciding to focus on chronic homelessness. Many of these folks have really been harmed by the breakdown in North Carolina’s mental health system. Since chronic homelessness is visible to most Chapel Hill residents, that will help in building community support for our efforts.

Aggressive panhandling makes some people feel unsafe, and that is why we have rules against it. In our progressive community, we should emphasize prevention over punishment. The tremendous work being done by the Partnership to End Homelessness is a great help. While being homeless and being a panhandler are not the same thing, there is a lot of overlap. The work we’re doing to root out this problem in Orange County will accomplish the desired goals of getting folks who want help the services they need, and off the streets.

Other obstacles we need to overcome are the ability to show progress in working toward our goals as well as the difficulty in working with a broad partnership. We need to track client and system level indicators. This is important because the Partnership will need to come back to the Council for funding every year and it is vital to show that progress is being made to ensure that needed resources continue to be poured into this issue. Fortunately, we already have some demonstrated successes with bringing Path social workers into downtown in order to connect the homeless with the services they require. Working with Carrboro, Hillsborough, Orange County, the IFC and the Department of Social Services is quite an undertaking and we need to be diligent in making sure that everyone stays on the same page and continues working toward common goals.

12. What important town departments or agencies have been, in your opinion, chronically underfunded? What have been the ramifications of that shortage? If elected, where would you find the money to more fairly fund these areas? Conversely, what town departments or agencies have been overfunded?

I think the most underfunded town department is Parks and Recreation. Some of our facilities have been neglected and don’t reflect the pride we should have in Chapel Hill. We need to set baseline standards for the conditions of community facilities. The turf is in bad shape at Cedar Falls Park. The baseball infields at Homestead Park are substandard. Other problems include unsafe and inadequate lighting in several public parks and crumbling, unmarked parking lots. We need to make improvements in all of these areas. One solution I’ve begun to pursue is to have the people responsible for parks maintenance report directly to the head of Parks and Recreation rather than Public Works.

The Land Trust has clearly demonstrated that it needs additional funds for staff and maintenance. While it is not a town department, I fully support funding it to address these needs. Our Land Trust model is still evolving, and as we learn from our experiences, it is important to respond to newly identified needs. Currently, developers seeking council approval for projects that do not require a rezoning can choose to make a payment in lieu to satisfy the town’s affordable housing goals. I support inclusionary zoning to change this, but until that is in place, I believe the payments ought to be used to support Land Trust programs. They work, and they deserve our consistent support.

We’ve done a great job over the last four years of making sure that no department is overfunded. Every year, the council’s hands-on approach to budget review aggressively forces all of our departments to cut some of the fat out of their budgets. It takes a great deal of time and effort, but it has paid off. Funds that we can pull back and roll into the following budget year go a long way toward reducing the need for tax increases.

Over the past several budget cycles, we have been looking two and three years out in order to understand the context of our budget decisions. This, too, has been an effective approach to reducing excess in departmental spending.

I have been concerned recently about the allocation of police resources. The traffic division, in particular, seems to serve an important need in our community, but it appears isolated from the primary public safety mission of the police department – community policing. I have asked the new police chief to justify this structure in the upcoming budget year, and he has agreed. I don’t expect to drop positions as a result of this review, but perhaps some reorganization will result.

This year, when the town manager proposed a small (1.9 percent) tax increase, I asked our staff to dig deeper into the budget to find a way we could get by without raising taxes while also maintaining the quality of service we provide our citizens. They were able to do that, and it’s an important example of how the Council has taken leadership in making sure the town government lives within its means. Our record of having no tax increase in three of the past five years reflects our accomplishments in this area.

13. Chapel Hill is participating in the Jordan Lake Stakeholder Project to help manage this resource, which is polluted and threatened by growth and development. What is Chapel Hill’s responsibility in mitigating these threats? What policies should Town Council enact to help protect water quality and quantity in Jordan Lake?

I am proud to have helped lead the Town Council toward passing a resolution in support of the proposed rules to clean up Jordan Lake. We are one of only two local governments in the Triangle and the Triad to express our support for the rules. We need more stringent regulations, and while complying with them may be expensive, the costs of not dealing with our problems now will be much more expensive in the long term--both financially and in the toll it will take on our water quality.

As always, when dealing with the state and the diverse interests of governments in the large lower section of the Cape Fear watershed, which drains into Jordan Lake – consensus is going to take a long time. Point-source nutrient loaders such as central wastewater dischargers are worried their ratepayers will be unfairly burdened by the staggering expense of removing nitrogen from their discharge. They make the point that the environmental science surrounding this issue is unclear, and that upland protected reservoirs are having similar trouble to Jordan Lake. Non-point-source dischargers such as municipalities are concerned about administration and implementation costs with little payback for their communities. This is an important policy area, and we will all be better off when it is sorted out and the responsibility is divided up. I believe this is significant investment for governments to make, and we can’t sweep it under the table with endless process. The Chapel Hill Council’s decision to send comments to the Environmental Management Commission supporting the 2011 deadline raised some eyebrows, but I feel comfortable with our decision to keep the pressure and spotlight focused on investing soon in a solution to water quality issues in Jordan Lake.

Closer to home, our top goal on water quality issues moving forward should be getting Bolin, Booker and New Hope creeks off of the state’s impaired waters list. The Jordan Lake rules would be a great step in the right direction and I hope the leadership Chapel Hill has shown on the issue will help to sway the EMC and ultimately the legislature to enacting strong new regulations.

Chapel Hill has shown leadership on water protection issues. Our Land Use Management Ordinance has the most comprehensive stormwater regulations in the state, with strong controls on the rate, quality and volume of water. I learned a lot about stormwater while serving on the OWASA board during the 1990s and applied that knowledge while helping to the lead the Council through the writing of LUMO. I look forward to the new Chapel Hill Stormwater Utility’s Master Plan, and believe it will provide a clear strategy for environmental investment for our town.

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