Up on Monday's Town Council agenda is the next iteration of the advisory board reorganization process. I have generally supported reworking the advisory board structure to ensure that the work of citizen board members is meaningful and provides Council with the type of input they need in order to make decisions. Making advisory boards' role in development review clearer for developers, and citizens, isn't a bad idea either. But the proposal the Town Council is considering Monday night isn't ready for adoption yet. While I think the committee descriptions are reasonably sound in a broad sense, it isn't clear to me that the proposals have been fully vetted by the existing town boards to be sure that all current board responsibilities have been captured and assigned.
And the proposed board compositions seem way off in some cases. For example, the new Housing Advisory Board, which (among other duties) replaces the Public Housing Advisory Board, is defined as follows: "one (1) Public Housing Resident, one (1) Town of Chapel Hill Renter or Rental Property Owner, five (5) Town of Chapel Hill Homeowners, one (1) For-Profit Housing Development Professional, and one (1) Non-Profit Housing Development Professional." On the public housing side, this would cut public housing residents' representation from three to one compared to the old board. It would remove representation from the Town of Carrboro. It would set up a 5:1 ratio of homeowners to renters. And it is even designed in a way that, should a rental property owner be appointed to the rental seat, there would be no spots on the board at all for renters of non-public-housing properties. Given the fact that 52.4% of households in Chapel Hill are renters, this does not seem like the direction we should be going when setting up a board to advise us on housing, particularly given the town's recent focus on affordable rentals.
Other board composition changes being proposed are also in need of some thorough discussion and modification before the ordinance is enacted. The town held meetings this summer on the advisory board restructuring, which were designed to get citizen input on the charge and scope of work of the new boards. But from what I understand board composition was not discussed. I also thought that holding these meetings all at the same time and day of the week, during the middle of summer when many people (including the vast majority of students) were not in town was not the best way to get broad input. The town's attempted use of GoToMeeting for remote participation was also glitchy from what I've heard.
It seems like there's a next step for continuing in the process, and that we should move forward by entering a next phase of consideration and review. There has been some good work done to date, by citizens, staff, and council members alike, and I hope that we'll continue to build on it. But adopting an ordinance to codify the changes as they've been suggested so far, as proposed in the memo from the Council Committee on Boards and Commissions, isn't the right next step. Granted, the ordinance is written to be effective July 1, 2014, but I hope the Council does not enact changes that clearly need some tweaking before they are implemented.
Check out the materials and let us know what you think.