Town Council does not notify neighborhood or consult with it

Carrboro’s town government is infamous for raking private developers over the coals with many time consuming requirements, including notification of surrounding property owners and public hearings. But the Carrboro Town Council has never bothered itself with such procedures when they have been making plans to use the open green space on Fidelity. From our perspective the Council has seemed to regard these 5.5 undeveloped acres as their private land piggy bank, and they have repeatedly gotten deeply into making plans to use it without having given timely notification to nearby residents:  in 1989, 2016, and again now in 2023. At their February 7 meeting, their second serious planning meeting for this space, one member advocated expanding the Davie graveyard into this green space on an ASAP basis, without mentioning providing time for public engagement at a meaningful stage in the process. This precious irreplaceable centrally located land does not belong to the seven council members! It belongs to all residents of Carrboro, and those who live nearby are especially deserving of being informed in a timely fashion and for being given an opportunity for input. So the notification and public hearing requirements should be much stronger than those for private developers. Even if the Town belatedly provided such an opportunity this spring, the timing of such an invitation would already be unfairly late, since many of them have already moved toward deciding to expand the graveyard based upon discussions in their October 11 and February 7 meetings. At those meetings, the possibility of this open space being preserved for a park did not receive more than 2% of their discussion;  those meetings were concerned almost entirely with the interests of the tiny fraction of our community who are demanding expanding the Davie graveyard, without being willing to accept a new graveyard five minutes out Jones Ferry.

The only way our neighborhood learned about the graveyard expansion plan was by accident, when in October 2020 a low level town employee erroneously told the author of this website that some dirt moving in the Fidelity meadow was being done to prepare that space for some imminent graves. Notification to our neighborhood from town government about the planning process now well underway still has not been given. In contrast, a few years ago the Planning Director bragged about using 13 methods to inform the community about one stage in the planning process for the 203 Greensboro project, which is now under construction. An elaborate community consultation process is about to be planned for the question of paving along Bolin Creek.

One council member did suggest that we participate in the twenty year Comprehensive Planning process in November 2021. We then worked hard to get participation this process by our neighborhood. As a result, we obtained two things:
*  An indication on p. 125 of the adopted Plan of “further exploration” of the “ongoing community issue” regarding whether to establish a park here or to expand the graveyard.
*  A motion passed 7-0 on November 16 instructing staff to look into the possibility of buying rural land to launch a new graveyard.
Fifteen months later, in spite of this promise by the Comprehensive Plan and after two serious graveyard planning meetings having already taken place, we still have not received any serious “exploration” (or even notification) by the Council of the pending graveyard-expansion versus park creation decision. Fifteen months later, the town staff still has not reported to the Council on the costs of buying some beautiful nearby rural land out Jone Ferry for a new graveyard. A rough estimate could be obtained in less than one afternoon.
When the mayor recently was asked to press staff to soon finally provide this long-overdue information to the taxpayer who had originally proposed this exploration, his response sounded arrogant to the listener:  “I’m not aware of a reason the Town Council needs this information before the next work session is scheduled.” Well, what about the citizenry, who are paying the staff’s salaries? We need this information well in advance of the Council’s next work session for our public education efforts.

Work Sessions are the council’s meetings where they essentially decide how they will proceed. The public is not allowed to speak at these meetings. After the council members have decided how they will proceed in a work session and have “baked it in”, they instruct staff to invest much time and effort into formulating formal specific plans. Only then is a public hearing conducted;  by then it is usually much too late for the public to have had significant formative input. So it is imperative that we have all of the easily obtained information in the weeks ahead of their next work session concerning this open green space, so that we can distribute it to our supporters for the arguments they will necessarily have to make on the prior Tuesday evenings.

The Council’s discussion on February 7 on expanding the Davie graveyard illustrated how they have prematurely started down the expansion road without having given significant consideration to the creation of a park in the Fidelity open green space;  such consideration would have naturally been given if the public had been fully informed of this pending huge land use decision. In advance of that meeting we had lined up 4 firm votes in favor of tightening the Davie graveyard plot sales eligibility rules with two goals in mind:  to conserve the remaining 102 spaces for the Carrboro families with the strongest ties to the Davie graveyard, and to thereby provide sufficient time for a community-wide discussion on how to best use or conserve Carrboro’s scarce remaining open spaces. Since the discussion that evening was entirely lopsided due to the lack of broad input from the as-yet un-notified neighborhood and town, that motion was defeated 5-2. Now the council will be under intensified pressure from the pro-expansion forces as the remaining plots are depleted, as many of them are sold to non-residents or only for “Future Use” family planning purposes.

In 2016 the Town Council rammed the Google shed down our neighborhood’s throats with essentially no warning onto the edge of the Fidelity woods:  At the time the Zoning Administrator said that the yellow Zoning warning sign had been put up (only 3 weeks before the trees were bulldozed) only as a “courtesy”: He said that the Town was subject to none of the notifications required by private developers, and that the Town can do whatever it wants to do with land it owns without being subject to its own Land Use Ordinance. We did manage to eventually win a public hearing after the land had already been cleared and the ground had been broken during that “ASAP” construction project. At the end of that hearing Councilor Jacquie Gist said “We do owe the neighborhood an apology for not having given them adequate advance notice.” (Seven years later much or most of Carrboro still does not have Google Fiber, including our neighborhood!)

Similarly, as was noted in BH2, the Town did not give significant advance warning to our neighborhood about the proposed sale of the meadow to the Post Office in 1989. That time we never received the true public hearing that we demanded for September, but we made up for it with our November 7 election victory. In 2023 the Carrboro town election will also fall on November 7. If some good challenging candidates for the council emerge this summer, will history repeat itself?

BH4 Neighborhood History completes Background & History

BH2 1989 Victory was previous page