The Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a text amendment that allows the Inter-Faith Council to apply for conditional zoning to add a community kitchen to a downtown pantry that serves the homeless.
"Conditional zoning is a flexible tool that allows you to take an application on an individual basis; allows you to have meaningful conversations with citizens in a legislative capacity," said IFC's attorney LeAnn Brown, during public comments. "We thought the CZ tool would be the perfect opportunity for us to work on the project in a Carrboro way."
Citizens packed Carrboro Elementary School for the public hearing, which lasted three hours and forty minutes, to allow for more than forty citizens to speak. The IFC wants to move its current kitchen from 100 Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill to 110 W. Main Street in Carrboro, where its food pantry is operated.
That request prompted a series of public hearings since last year; and a group of around sixty local business owners to sign a letter expressing concern over the plan.
On Tuesday night, Alderperson Jacqui Gist expressed disappointment that many of those business owners were not present to speak. She said she heard that many had been threatened with boycotts for opposing plans to move the kitchen to Main Street.
"I think that's really, really sad," she said. "I would encourage all of you, whether you're for or against our moving forward, to go to Carrboro businesses tomorrow, and tell them that you respect them, regardless of their stance on this."
Neal's Deli owner Matt Neal was one of the signers of that letter. Neal told the audience Tuesday he probably wouldn't have signed it if he'd had as much information as he does now. He reiterated his support for IFC's work, and defended some of the other business people that signed the letter as well.
"People who run the businesses in Carrboro support the IFC," he said, "even when, sometimes, they rush into a situation where they sign a letter because they have concerns."
At the request of Alderperson Sammy Slade, the board struck language from the amendment that required an organization serving free food should provide extra security measures. Members of the board called that language "offensive."