Sally Greene | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Sally Greene

Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Sally Greene
Full legal name, if different: Sarah L. Greene
Date of birth: Oct. 19, 1955
Home address: 406 Morgan Creek Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: sallygreene.org
Occupation & employer: Research attorney specializing in appellate briefs; adjunct professor of law, UNC
Home phone: 932-7285
Work phone:
Cell phone:
E-mail: sally@sallygreene.org or sally@ibiblio.org


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.

My principal issues when I ran for Council in 2003 included housing affordability, neighborhood and historic preservation, environmental preservation, and what I saw as a need for an honest conversation about homelessness. Since then I have chaired a task force recommending an inclusionary zoning ordinance; worked to create five neighborhood conservation districts; and successfully advocated for putting 92 acres of public land into permanent conservation. I am chair of the executive team overseeing the county’s just-completed Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. Among other ongoing Council initiatives that I support, these are projects that would especially benefit from my continued leadership. My roles as community leader also includes membership on the steering committee of the Orange County Drug and Family Treatment Court, the steering committee of the Morgan Creek Valley Alliance, and the board of advisers of Preservation North Carolina.

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

I see that four years ago I identified myself as a “liberal progressive,” and I’ll stand by that. Twenty years ago this fall, I moved to Chapel Hill to begin graduate studies at UNC. (I left a career as a corporate lawyer to get a Ph.D. in English.) I chose Chapel Hill for a number of reasons, not all of which were academic. I was attracted to the notion that Chapel Hill had established itself, through the work of Frank Porter Graham, Howard Odum, and others that I had not yet even heard of as a beacon of progressive thought and leadership—in a time and place when both were badly needed. I believe that there are “Chapel Hill values”—inclusiveness, tolerance, open and participatory government, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship and environmental justice—and I have been proud of my Council work in support of those values. My past achievements certainly reflect those values; to the list in question 1 above, I’d add my advocacy for the change of the name of Airport Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a cause I was happy to embrace, a project that taught me more than I could have expected about the history of race relations in Chapel Hill and the need for continuing attention to racial justice in our community. (See my talk on this topic: http://sallygreene.org/kiwanis.htm/.)

My motivation to run for a second term has everything to do with unfinished agendas on issues that I care about and am, as a result, deeply invested in: the homelessness initiative, the project to enact an inclusionary zoning ordinance, further work on conservation (I’m on a Council committee, along with Jim Ward and Ed Harrison, to consider further town properties to put under permanent easement), and tree protection (the planning board is working on a strengthened ordinance, and as liaison to that board I have been working with their subcommittee), for example. In these and other issues I continue to be impressed by the high quality of public discourse in our community; the experience of deliberation of the issues is always enlightening, educational, and rewarding. The very way the government does business in Chapel Hill is fully aligned with my political philosophy. I see that four years ago at about this point I turned to Virginia Woolf, and so I will quote what I wrote in that questionnaire, for she still speaks wisely.

With respect to all of these issues, and to every issue, I favor a process of decisionmaking that is open to the negotiation of all perspectives. This bias toward deliberation comes, in part, from my understanding of the political philosophy of Virginia Woolf, on whom I wrote a dissertation and published a book. Woolf’s imagined community is a complex mix of difference, not bound by common belief but united in a common sense of shared humanity. This perspective invites tolerance and mutual respect.

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

The topic that comes to mind is panhandling regulation. I see that that’s what I said four years ago, but it remains a live issue, unfortunately. I see also that I have made good on my promise to address the problem in other ways: I’ve worked with the Downtown Outreach Work Group of the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission to create a constructive approach to responding to the needs of people on the street. Engaging the Franklin Street business community as key stakeholders, the work group has adopted a sensitive and proactive approach that connects people on the streets to the social services that they need. Since April, under an arrangement with the Inter-Faith Council and the OPC Area Program, workers from the PATH program of Housing for New Hope of Durham have been performing interventions on Franklin St. and beyond. Within three months, they had talked with 100 people and gotten 10 people off the streets and into services.

But within the Franklin Street business community I still occasionally hear the wish that we would make the regulations against panhandling even stricter than they are. Once again I would oppose such a move, and once again I expect my position would be unpopular with some.

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?

I trust that the answers to 1-3 above provide something of a running start on this answer. I’d add that I think my political instincts are reliably in favor of positions that support outcomes that are socially just and morally responsible. I believe the Airport Road/MLK Jr. Boulevard issue is an example of the way I respond to issues as they arise. It was apparently out of my work on that issue that I was invited to moderate a panel that was held last January on the UNC campus, part of a series that took a historical look at the student activism in Chapel Hill during the height of the civil rights movement. I moderated a panel on the 1963-64 demonstrations that attempted to persuade the town government to pass a local public accommodations ordinance (which the town refused to do, not once but twice). Once again this was a responsibility that created a great learning opportunity for me. Among other things, it strengthened my determination to be a political leader who takes special care to attend to the needs and concerns of African Americans and others who have historically suffered discrimination.

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.

The town and the university must work cooperatively in approaching the questions of how to develop the Carolina North property. To date there has been a great deal of cooperation. The work of the Horace Williams Citizens Committee, which preceded the chancellor’s Leadership Advisory Committee and remains the Council’s adopted set of baseline assumptions, sets forth an expectation that Carolina North shall incorporate “basic sustainability principles” including ecological integrity, conservation of energy and natural resources, and a consistently applied balance of social, economic, and environmental values. UNC’s vision for Carolina North, which you can see on its web site, is that of “a model of sustainability—a campus that is socially, environmentally, and economically sound.” That language comes directly out of the final report of the Leadership Advisory Committee, on which the Council was represented. For a project of this magnitude, with such a great potential impact on the quality of life of everyone (including university employees) who lives in Chapel Hill, coming to early agreement on fundament assumptions is critical.

Further work remains to be done along the lines of basic assumptions. The Chapel Hill Transit Partners, which include UNC, have embarked upon a long-range transit master plan that anticipates the development of Carolina North, but this plan is not yet be completed. Fiscal equity planning is a key issue, yet the fiscal equity program cannot be outlined until more is known about the specifics of the development. The environmental impacts also need further study. Carolina North, if properly planned, has the potential not only to raise UNC’s profile as a premier research university, but also to be the catalyst for a mass transit system that would be the envy of many small cities, as well as a model in other ways including environmental stewardship.

The town will have an important role in shaping the development of Carolina North through its zoning process. I believe that the working assumption of the Leadership Advisory Committee was that a new zone would be created for the property (the same way that the main campus has a zone of its own), and that the contours of that zone would be worked out once the university had completed a master plan for the first substantial phase of the development. An alternative that has lately been discussed is a negotiated development agreement, a planning tool that holds much potential. It is premature to get specific about the details, since we don’t have a master plan before us. The fact that UNC is departing from this understanding that the master plan would come all at once and is instead bringing forward a single building, the Innovation Center, is a matter of concern. Another matter of concern is the status of the airport. I do not believe that any plans for development on Carolina North are consistent with the airport’s remaining open. Yet the Innovation Center is being brought forward with no promise to close the airport.

I remain optimistic that we can work through these difficult issues and reach a point at which we the town and the university can work cooperatively on a new zone for Carolina North. The details of that zone must ensure that the development reflect the “basic sustainability principles” that the community demands. There is too much at stake to do less.

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?

The northwest area is indeed important to think about, because it has some of the last undeveloped tracts of land of any size left within the town. Realizing that we should not allow the area to keep being developed in a piecemeal fashion, I supported the temporary moratorium that the Council established on development in this area. I also supported the direction that the Council gave to this task force: Develop a vision statement; prepare recommendations on regulations, design standards, and appearance guidelines appropriate for a transit-oriented development; recommend pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements. The work of this group resulted in a thorough and well-considered report: see www.townofchapelhill.org/index.asp?NID=1314.

This report was recently presented to the Council for consideration, possible revision, and implementation. It is now being reviewed by our advisory boards. I look forward to continued discussions and a productive outcome.

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?

The question primarily addresses the Northside neighborhood, the historically black neighborhood directly adjacent to Greenbridge (some would say Greenbridge is in Northside). Concerns over potential gentrification (as well as the related problem of transformation of old cottage-style houses into mini-boarding houses for student rentals) prompted the Council to designate Northside as its first Neighborhood Conservation District in 2004. As a planning board member I served on the committee that recommended the terms of that zoning overlay district. The process revealed the inherent tensions in working with a lower-income neighborhood where the land values are escalating for reasons beyond the homeowners’ control. Although the zoning overlay district ended up with a ban on duplexes, the committee’s decision on that specific question was not unanimous. Some members accepted the economic realities and were not willing to impose what might be a limitation on the resale value of their property either on themselves or on their neighbors. Most members, though—and I was among them—saw the restriction on duplexes, together with the limitations on house size, setbacks, etc., as reasonable measures to keep the physical character of the neighborhood intact. We also believed, correctly or not, that small houses by definition would remain more affordable than larger houses, and that a modest limitation on resale value was an acceptable trade-off for maintaining the economic diversity of the neighborhood. Today, resale prices of some homes in Northside are topping $300,000, which would have seemed very high four years ago. Such a price certainly puts a lower-income family wishing to move into the neighborhood out of the market.

Gentrification, of course, is a national problem, a consequence of supply and demand in places where the demand is high. I don’t mean by that observation to trivialize the problem, only to suggest that the answers are not easily found. The opposite—a neighborhood where no development is happening, where property values are steadily dropping, sending people into further poverty—is certainly not a better situation. The Council has done and will continue to do anything within its power to support the social and economic health of Northside and adjoining areas, anywhere that this problem is happening. Particular to Northside, however, gentrification alone is not the issue. We still have issues with drug traffic and crime. We have recently installed a police substation in Northside, but my understanding is that the results on the street are not clearly being seen. The Council is prepared to expend considerable resources on helping Northside be the proud neighborhood it should be and in the past has been, but it will take more than additional police on the street to give the young people who live there the hope and self-confidence and other tools that they need to escape the vicious cycle of drugs, crime, and poverty. This is a community issue.

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?

Relative to many other places, Chapel Hill has had considerable success over the past few years in negotiating permanently affordable housing units in development projects. The Orange Community Housing and Land Trust, founded in 2000, has 218 housing units either built or approved (many more in the pipeline). Our rules, however, are not completely regularized, and they have too many exceptions. One of my campaign pledges in 2003 was to work toward a true inclusionary zoning ordinance. Toward that end, at my suggestion the Council appointed a task force, which I chaired, made up of a broad cross-section of interested parties: developers; nonprofits, including the Land Trust and other organizations that might potentially produce, own, or manage the affordable housing; real estate, homebuilding, and planning professionals and academics; and interested citizens. We even had a group of UNC law students help on the difficult issue of how to handle condominium fee for affordable units in an otherwise “unaffordable” HOA environment. This energetic group spent more than a year studying other inclusionary zoning ordinances and drafting an ordinance with a great bit of detail in it. This draft is now in the hands of a land use planning consultant who is helping us with certain details before we bring it to the planning board and Council for public hearings. I expect that to happen this fall.

The way inclusionary zoning ordinances work is through developer incentives. In exchange for being required to produce X percent of affordable units, the developer in exchange gets certain development rights above those in the underlying or prior regulation. This incentive may be in the form of additional units, or it may be in the form of targeted relief from floor area ratios (effectively, the amount of buildable square feet). An inclusionary zoning ordinance starts from the premise that if the developer is going to be required to lose money on certain units because of government regulation, that same regulation needs to have a provision by which the developer can make up the difference. This new approach would build upon our current approach when a developer asks for a rezoning. Typically, the rezoning is so that the developer can build at a greater intensity than otherwise allowed. In exchange for permitting the denser zone, we have the ability to require affordable housing. But cases that do not involve rezonings, our results are less dependable. An inclusionary zoning ordinance would both increase the production of affordable housing and regularize the process. I look forward to working out the details as we bring the ordinance forward for discussion and potential enactment.

On public housing, the issue is not only reduced federal funding: it is a major change in policy at the federal level. Since its establishment under the Federal Housing Acts of 1937 and 1949, the model for public housing was simply, but importantly, to provide safe and livable public housing for low-income families. Over the years, a federal subsidy program evolved in response to the reality that many families could not pay the full amount of the rent. The subsidies were to make up the difference between public housing rental income and operating costs.

Starting in fiscal 2007-08, public housing agencies that receive HUD funding must engage in a process of conversion to “project-based accounting and asset management.” In essence, this change in policy requires public housing agencies to refocus their objective from housing the poor to making a profit. Under the new calculations, Chapel Hill’s housing program would not receive the amount of money it needs for management and overhead costs.

Public housing is a priority for the Council. This year, to make up the deficit left by HUD, we made an appropriation of the General Fund. We oppose the federal move to require public housing programs to turn a profit. Until there is a more favorable climate at HUD, I will support finding ways to fund future shortfalls, rather than participate in such a system.

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?

As our 2007 Data Book accurately says, “With rapid population growth in Wake County, expansion of the Research Triangle Park and Airport areas, and increasing development just outside Chapel Hill’s borders in Durham and Chatham Counties, it is impossible to understand Chapel Hill’s dynamics without this regional context.” Our long-range transportation plan projects that Chapel Hill’s population will grow from its current 58,000 to 69,000 by 2035. Transit issues, regional land use planning, and air and water quality are all critical. With the pace of development in Chatham County, we have an increasingly urgent need to engage in joint planning with its board of commissioners. The Council is well represented on the Triangle Transit Authority, and I strongly support its efforts to regroup in the face of a lack of federal funding. See www.ridetta.org/Regional_Rail/Overview/3-07LatestTransitNeeds.htm.

The TTA ought to be in a position to have at least some effect on the quality of land use around its proposed transit stops: these are places where housing should be concentrated. A positive outcome of Chapel Hill’s influence on regional development would be to see our neighboring jurisdictions embrace mixed-use development in support of mass transit, as we are moving to do, and embrace environmental standards in all new development, as we are also moving to do. Because of jurisdictional limits, largely our influence is to lead by example, but there are perhaps more direct steps that we can take.

For example, since 2003, the Chapel Hill Town Council has met once with the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. We need to do it again. We need to work actively to engage their cooperation in planning issues. At a minimum, we need a relationship with the Board that resembles our relationships with the city and county of Durham. From a discussion at a recent Orange County Assembly of Governments meeting, it appears that we may have some leverage with Chatham through OWASA and its intake site on Jordan Lake. If Chatham or Pittsboro were to take water from the lake, without OWASA’s generosity in sharing they would have to build their own intake facility. We would need to be very careful in going down this path, because it is the clear will of the community—it was the reason for the imposition of very restrictive land use rules in western Orange County around our own present and future water sources—that OWASA should never have to use Jordan Lake water. It would have to be clear that OWASA’s own use of the Jordan Lake reservoir was not intended. But with that as a steadfast ground rule, perhaps OWASA could do our southern neighbors this favor in exchange for certain commitments to joint land planning.

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?

In a recent legislative session, Chapel Hill gained authority to require contributions from developers to help pay for the town’s bus system. The idea first came up in discussions of what is now called East 54, the University Inn redevelopment project. The traditional method of requiring developers to pay for new roads in exchange for their right to develop is a logical way to proceed when a town needs new roads. The nexus between the two is perfectly clear, and both the developer and the town stand to gain. But Chapel Hill’s horizontal growth is constrained (for good reasons) by the urban services boundary. There just aren’t that many more opportunities for new roads. On the other hand, we have a highly successful fare-free bus system that has over 6 million riders a year, and the numbers are increasing. East 54 is a perfect example of the appropriateness of shifting from a requirement for roads and infrastructure to a requirement for supporting the bus system: the project requires no (or very little; some on the back side, where, eventually, a transit stop will go) road widenings or other road infrastructure upgrades. This is a project that will redevelop a developed parcel to greater density—something we are seeing with greater frequency. It is already on a major bus corridor. The logical assumption is that the residents of the housing units, and the people who work and shop at the retail and office locations in the development, will ride the bus. The development will have a direct and substantial impact on bus ridership. (And a welcome one, since greater ridership can be leveraged for more federal transit dollars.) The same will be true for other redevelopment projects in downtown Chapel Hill and along other major transit corridors—and these are the types of development the Council is encouraging.

The legislation, Session Law 2006-103, provides specific guidance for the substance of the ordinance that I expect the Council will consider soon. As a preliminary matter, it allows us to decide, in appropriate circumstances, to ask for a partial contribution in the form of actual road widening or construction, and a partial contribution in money. (We have that flexibility in our parks and open space requirement as well.) See www.ncga.state.nc.us/EnactedLegislation/SessionLaws/HTML/2005-2006/SL2006-103.html.

The law says, “The payments are [to be] calculated to be reasonably equivalent to the cost of the public transit system improvements required to address the impact of the new development.” The money paid is to be used for “capital improvements that will improve public transit service to the new development” or for “roads or other transportation infrastructure improvements that will serve the area of the new development.” “Improvements” can include buses and bus shelters.

At the moment, our planning staff is studying the ordinance in order to prepare a report for us. I look forward to discussion and passage of this important new planning tool.

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?

As chair of the executive team with authority for overseeing the implementation of the 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness, I am grateful for this question. (The full plan is online at http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/homelessness/.) The plan is very much concerned with assistance to the transitionally homeless and those at risk of homelessness, but the 10-year goal is explicitly for ending chronic homelessness. A goal to end all homelessness in 10 years would, unfortunately, be unachievable. Ending chronic homelessness, however, is achievable. One supported housing unit at a time, in other places it is being done.

An important feature of the 10-year plans that have been emerging in cities and counties across the country is the level of direct involvement of government entities. For many years, the solution was left to religious groups and other nonprofits. As I learned in July at the annual convention of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, http://www.endhomelessness.org/, there is a new spirit abroad. Orange County can be proud that it has organized a plan in which all four government entities are active participants: at the national conference I heard of cities in which plans were being organized in the face of indifference, or worse, from their the mayor and/or council. Our plan has the strong backing of the Town Council. Mayor Foy and I both were on the steering committee that created the plan. We believe that the resources and the community will exist to make an enduring difference over the next decade, indeed to provide sufficient housing and services so that there are no more “chronically homeless” living for years at a time on our streets.

Monitoring of the plan will essentially have two components: (1) client-level indicators and (2) system-level indicators. For the client level, I’d direct your attention to p. 50 of the plan document. Critical to the ability to assess such key elements as service use, effectiveness, and cost data is the ability to manage client information across service providers. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has mandated that organizations that receive its funding have in place a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). This is an unfunded mandate, which adds a level of difficulty, but according to Stan Holt, a member of our executive team and the homeless specialist for the Triangle United Way, “Orange County is about as far along as anybody” in the state. We are using the state system, the Carolina Homeless Information Network; people are entering data, and now the task is to assemble enough baseline data to start to measure the indicators. Certainly, collecting and assessing this kind of information is essential as the plan goes forward.

System-level indicators will be measured, at a minimum, through an annual benchmark report required by the state Department of Health and Human Services. This report assesses the level of public support across a spectrum of categories from elected officials to hospitals to law enforcement officials to housing authorities to neighborhood groups; it also measures levels of funding for housing targeted to homeless people, gaps in funding, employment supports targeted to the homeless, numbers of homeless people in shelters and their length of stay, and more. We have a completed document for 2006. This tool is a good one for helping us keep the community engaged—which is critical.

I note that your question asks how will the town monitor the plan; please bear in mind that the plan is a countywide effort with oversight responsibility given to the executive team. My leadership of that team provides an important link to the Town Council, which is and I trust will remain keenly interested in the plan’s success.

The first hurdle is to overcome the cynicism and skepticism that says “it can’t be done.” Experience is showing that it can. We know what works. We know that permanent supportive housing (“housing first”) works for the chronic population. We know that rental subsidies and other methods of prevention work for those who are at risk of falling into homelessness. We know that once people become homeless, the faster they are rehoused the more likely they are to stay housed. We know that even homeless people, even disabled people in supportive housing, thrive when they have employment. We know that shelters provide essential short-term housing. We know that targeting resources effectively works. As Rep. Barney Frank said at the homelessness conference, “The notion that the richest society in the world cannot provide decent housing for every one of the people who live here is simply unacceptable.” See greenespace.blogspot.com/2007/07/frank-talk-on-homelessness.html.

Goal No. 5 of the 10-year plan is intended to help us overcome hurdles to public understanding and support. It is to “increase public participation in ending homelessness.” Strategies include increasing the numbers of volunteers working directly with the homeless, increasing positive media support and improving the public relations presence of service providers, and showing concrete results to the community. Even though the executive team, at this writing, has not yet put out its call for applicants for the job of plan coordinator, programs are getting off the ground and already showing real promise. Through a contract with OPC and the Inter-Faith Council, street outreach workers from Durham’s Housing for New Hope have been working Franklin Street and other areas of the county since April. In the first three months, they engaged with about 100 people and got 10 of them into services. The funding for this program will soon be supported by a program being launched this fall by the Chapel Hill Downtown Commission, “Real Change from Spare Change,” a campaign that will encourage people to direct their money to a fund to pay for the outreach workers, rather than directly to street people asking for money. Additionally, on Oct. 25, Project Homeless Connect Orange County will take place in the Hargraves Center. Exactly what it sounds like, it is an event at which homeless people will be given direct access to services that they need to move them more quickly into stable situations, including, potentially, jobs and actual housing. This project is funded in part by grants from Triangle United Way and the Stroud Roses Foundation (an early example of leveraging the existence of the 10-year plan) and in no small part by the town: in addition to being at a town location, the town manager is allowing town employees to donate paid work hours to the project.

These are exciting developments that show great promise of engaging the public in understanding that homelessness is a problem that we all can, and must, work to solve.

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?

Since I previously served on the Planning Board and have served as Council liaison to the Planning Board during my first term in office, I am a careful observer of our planning department. I believe that the planning staff is fairly consistently underfunded. This past year as one of our belt-tightening moves we refrained from hiring an additional inspections officer. We could really use that position. Without compliance with our ordinances and land use decisions, we might as well not have gone to the trouble. In the next budget cycle, if I am reelected, I will advocate again for this position within the budget, arguing that we have put it off for too long. I suspect you will get different answers from others who are more familiar with different departments. As to overfunding, in my years on the Council we have worked very hard during budget season to bring our expenses in line with reasonable expectations from the taxpayer’s point of view. For the past two out of three years, we have succeeded in bringing costs down so that there was no increase in the tax rate. Maintaining such a close watch on the budget is one of our most important responsibilities.

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?

Although the purpose of Jordan Lake upon its creation in 1983 was primarily flood control, today it provides drinking water for Cary, Apex, Morrisville, Chatham County, and the Wake County portion of Research Triangle Park (source: NC Conservation Network). The entire reservoir has “impaired” status under the Clean Water Act. The state Environmental Management Commission is charged with creating regulations under the Clean Air Act to reduce nutrient inputs, whether from point or nonpoint sources. During 2003-04, the Division, offering results from a process of modeling the nutrient levels to determine the amount of reductions that were needed, met with stakeholders to establish recommendations for a conceptual strategy for reducing nonpoint source discharge. The results of this process were translated into draft rules that were presented to the Water Quality Committee in October 2005; but stakeholder concerns led to a discussion that extended into 2006. The Commission moved into a public comment phase in March 2007.

Along with Ed Harrison and Bill Strom, I have taken the lead on the Council in advocating that the state continue on its course to enact strict nutrient management rules. At our request, in June the Council passed a resolution generally supportive of the move to strengthen the rules. On July 12, Ed and I spoke on the Council’s behalf at the public hearing that the Commission held in Carrboro. Almost along among municipalities and counties in the Jordan Lake watershed, and in contrast to our own OWASA (but joined by the Sierra Club, other advocacy groups, and many private citizens), we encouraged the enactment of the proposed rules. At the same time, however, we petitioned for an extension of the comment period in order to allow us to offer more detailed comments. Perhaps no other jurisdiction has the same concern that we do: we want assurance that our existing watershed development rules, which may well be stricter and more protective than some of the provisions in the proposed state regulations, will not be compromised. For as we said in the attached comments, which the Council resolved on September 10 to pass on to the state, “In recent years, the Chapel Hill Town Council has made one of its highest priorities the protection of water resources in our jurisdiction.” This set of comments—which mentions, among other things, our creation of a stormwater utility and our 2002-03 wholesale revision of our land use management ordinance with the inclusion of “profoundly upgraded stream protection provisions”—well reflects the Council’s commitment to helping to protect the water quality and quantity of Jordan Lake.

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