OP Live Candidate Forum: Carrboro Board of Aldermen

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Kirk Ross's picture

Welcome

Good evening,Thanks for participating in this election forum and for stepping up and running for office. I guess for me the biggest difference between forums over the past few election cycles and this year is that the economy is in much better shape. The times are not without their peril, especially given the stalling state economy, but the town and our area seems to be on the rebound.So, here’s Question One — While things are finally looking up, Carrboro is not without its challenges. Name one or two of things you see as top priorities and how you think we can find solutions.

Kstolka's picture

Question 1

Increasing quality jobs to address the lack of middle class employment opportunities and addressing affordable housing that people can afford to grow old in.  In order to attract quality jobs for our residents, we need to tout our educated workforce and quality of life that companies seek for their employees as well as create deeper bonds to UNC to help graduates obtain experience and opportunities to start their own businesses.To address the affordable housing crisis, we need to devote more town efforts to bring together stakeholder groups  to increase our coop housing developments and other non traditional housing. 

Top Priorities

If I had to pick just two priorities, I'd say the first is strengthening and expanding Carrboro's tax base by promoting our vibrant local economy and our entrepreneurial, professional services and creative class niches.  One way we can do this is by furthering the work of the Local Living Economy Task Force, advancing its recommendations.   Another thing we can do is engage in the discussion and visioning of a Carrboro Arts and Innovation Center, as proposed by the ArtsCenter and others.  Finally, we can expand the Revolving Loan fund we established for entrepreneurial ventures and start-ups. The second would be to persist in environmental conservation and protection, and to pursue alternative energy options for the Town of Carrboro. Some ways to do this include:

  • Ensure Carrboo protect, onserves and reserves a high-quality water supply
  • Maintain a commitment to comprehensive recycling, including curbside and multi-family homes
  • Pursue mid- and long-term solutions for municipal recycling and solid waste

 

Jacquelyn Gist With so many

Jacquelyn GistWith so many it is hard to pick oe or 2.We are facing a leg. in Raleigh which is activley working to decrease our ability to provide the type of government and policies our community wants.One specific example is the pending decrease in our ability to protect our environment,we may soon not be able to have environmental regualtions stronger then the state or feds.Following Damon's lead the BOA and town staff are working to tighten any "loop holes" in our environmental regualations before the GOA meets again next year. This is very important.Other ways that the GOA has decreased our ability to respond to the needs and values of our community include our no longer being able to ban handguns from paly grounds,greenways and parks and our right to offer a full range of health care options to our female employees.Another major challange,an on going one,it how to maitain our sense of place andcommunity as we welcome and recruit new businesses and build new homes. I think we are doinf a fairly good job of this but it will always be a challange.Supporting and recruiting businesse like FleetFeet,which come to CArrboro because of our unique sense of place is a good start.Continuing to support our exisitng businesses through our new branding procees is another.I am currently  working with 2 interns who are developing an interactive map and app to encourage support of local businesses. Design guidelines and neighborhood buffers also work to preserve our sense of place. 

Two top priorities

A top priority for me is the continuation of work in economic development that is rooted in local ownership and import substitution by implementing some of the action items described in the local living economy task force recommendationsA local living economy:o   Strengthens Carrboro's, vitality, tax base and walk-abilityo   Keeps money re-circulating locallyo   Reduces environmental impactAnother top priority for me is Confront Climate Change. I will continue work on reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions.o   Creating a year-by-year plan integrated with Carrboro's 20/20 vision for achieving the target.o   Coordinating and integrating the plan with initiatives by non-governmental community entities such as Solarize Carrboro.Both of these issues are broad and encompass much; a specific example of how these two issues intersect is with parking and the need for balancing the goal of more dense development where appropriate downtown with the reality that Carrboro is laid out with bottlenecks north-south and east west. We are going to have a parking study that will allow for us to have a point of departure for meeting downtown and citizen needs for parking comparing where demand stands today with ways in which to ramp down parking needs without affecting our local businesses through a change of citizen habits.  We could meet parking reduction goals similar to how we have done with lanfill waste and recycling  (i.e. single occupancy vehicles, more bus ridership, more handicap parking, etc..).

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FYI

Al Vickers has not RSVPed and we are not expecting him to particpate in the forum. 

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Kirk Ross's picture

Question 2

One big concern is the state of the town’s aging infrastructure. There have been several messy and expensive failures over the past few years. What should the town do to stay ahead of updating its infrastructure?

Kirk Ross's picture

Sure

A couple that stand out are the sewer lines on Main Street, which knocked several businesses out of commission and led to costly repairs; and the failure of the roadbed under Weaver Street.

Kstolka's picture

Question 2

It is difficult to anticipate potential failures of aging infrastructure other than continually monitor it for signs of failure. It would be better to fix it rather than fully replace something, but it will still require significant resources to replace. We need to utilize our existing water sewer connections when new developments occur to ensure they are not extended in an inefficient way. In terms of roadbed failure, we need to redirect heavy traffic off of our town maintained roads and make more space for walkers, cyclists, and transit users.  Few of our town maintained roads see the traffic that Weaver street receives. 

Jacquelyn GistThe June 30th

Jacquelyn GistThe June 30th floods were a result of an intense amount of rain fall in a short period of time which overwhelemded our strom water system.As we face Climate Change not know what to expect the only certainy is unceratiny.I have asked town staff,as Sammy has also done,to do several things including examining our exisitng infrastructe for flaws,I also want thhe town towork with HOA's and property owners to clean out culverts  and improve detention ponds.Those are the easy steps.I have also ask the town to work with OwASA to determine if our current pipes and system need to be enlarged to deal with increased rain intensity In additon to upgrading storm water we need to continue upgrading our sewer systems,in the older parts of town we have pipes as old as the building.Making a low/no intrest loan fund available to property owners helps to ease the burden,we also have some limited monies to help individual homeowners with sewer issues. 

Infrastructure

I feel that the town has been doing a good job at keeping up with its capital infrastructure needs through the Capital Improvement Program.  The latest most visible project was Weaver Street Reconstruction, this was pretty smooth.  The fire station was also built and I wouldn't have called that messy nor an expensive failure.The recent floods are an area that a lot of folks are now talking about and may be a place for us to look at.  We must recognize though that we are entering a time that one author calls "the long emergency," climate change has put us into another planet.  Author on climate change Bill McKibben suggests that we call Earth: 'Eaarth'.  Building pipes to keep up with these changes will be costly and we should pass the tab onto the large corporations that are most responsible such as Duke Energy a company that still does business as usual, externalizing costs, burning significant amounts of greenhouse gas producing coal and natural gas.The sewer lines  on Main Street serving many iconic businesses are an example of how the town can support private business infrastructure --businesses that are vital for the economic vitality of our downtown.  I proposed that the quarter cent sales tax, a portion meant for economic development, that was approved by county referendum recently be used; Carrboro requested help to the county to fix this issue in our downtown ( I believe in economic development that supports locally owned businesses), the county has helped us significantly with this cost.We should continue with the capital Improvement program process, if there are projects that we see needing to be implemented sooner then later these can be weighed against other already identified projects and prioritization can occur thereafter.

Infrastructure

Yes, it's true there have been limitations to Carrboro's infrastructure, highlighted by the recent floods.  16-inch sewer lines are simply not adequate anymore and will be less so as we see weather events and run-off continue to increase in scale.   We need to figure out how to retrofit to accomodate new development and redevelopment where current capacity is limited and older lines exist.  It will have to be a cooperative effort if we want to mitigate the financial impact of making upgrades, and to mitigate the financial impact of NOT making upgrades.  We need to work collegially with OWASA, neighborhoods, and developers to assess needs and determine cost-effective but forward-thinking solutions that endure through larger distasters.   I also believe we need to develop a comprehensive intergovermental stormwater management plan to addess larger interconnected issues of stormwater management.   I'm especially concerned about the effects of aging infrastructure on low-income neighborhoods and other vulnerable areas of our community.

Kirk Ross's picture

Question 3

Let’s talk planning. There’s a lot of flux downtown. Some of the projects stalled by the flagging economy are finally coming online and some others approved and planned years ago are a question mark. Is the town’s current downtown strategy — free parking, height limits, traffic flow and so on — a good one or should it be revisited?

Kstolka's picture

Question 3

 The towns current downtown strategy needs to be updated. The flow of traffic downtown is a constantly growing problemFree parking is not "free", it is a town subsidy that we only lose money on. Now that Chapel Hill instituted parking, we need to form a cohesive parking strategy. Two to three hour limits are fine, we just need to hire a parking enforement officer to make sure people don't park in a space all day. The fines we receive will more than pay for any costs of the persons salary. The new parking garage should be set up to accept payments for those that park over 3 hours. Businesses can also do a lot more to notify their customers that they can arrive by other means besides a car.  The flow of traffic downtown is getting progressively worse. As you sit on the Weaver street lawn, you usually see a line of cars sitting idle on East Weaver street. Addressing the free parking situation will reduce car traffic according to many studies. This will also help reduce CO2 emissions and make it a more pleasant experience for those that frequent our downtown. 

Downtown Strategy

I'm interested in a number of ways to strengthen our work and achieve our vision.  First, master planning.  I think we need to develop a small area plan for downtown that ensures downtown livability.  This includes human scale design that protects buffers between downtown commercial and residential zones; pocket parks and other open spaces; and streetscapes and infrastructure that includes adequate parking while encouraging greater pedestrian, bike and transit modes.Second, I think we need a master parking plan that does enable free parking to continue by building partnerships between businesses and the town to organize parking options, create adequate signage, and set appropriate expectations of those who use their cars.  I'd love to see car sharing and other alternatives embedded in our cooperative agreements and policies.Finally, I do think it's time for a gut-check to ensure our policies are supporting our downtown vision and strategy as well as they could be.  We can and are engaging the business and residential community around issues like traffic, parking and affordable housing and commercial space downtown.  We can do more and I will do my best to make sure we do.  

Balancing downtown development challenges

As I mentioned in the first question there is a need for reconciling two goals that we have for our downtown.  More density to maximize multimodal transportation and not overwhelming our infrastructure (roads and parking).As we increase our density there are presumptive requirements for the amount of parking.  I think we need to consolidate our parking in a few areas of town to prevent a sea of parking with buildings interspersed.  And there are many other measures that are described in the last parking study, we need to take a serious look at these.  One measure described there is enforcement of parking time.  This is something that we have been warming up to as many UNC park and ride lots are for fee and folks are catching wind of free parking in downtown and no time limit enforcement in Carrboro.  Then there is the issue of our east-west and north-south bottleneck.  As we implement parking studies measures the goal is for more people to use alternative modes of transportation.

Jacquelyn Gist I hear from

Jacquelyn GistI hear from residents,visitors and business owners that free parking is one of the reasons our downtown is thriving-that is not to say that parking is not still a problem,the opening of the parking deck will ease that problem but not solve it.Charging for parking though should be our last resort-paid parking is blamed for some of the problems facing downtown CH.The new hight limits have happened,I still believe that 5 stories works in some parts of town-such as the hotel and Arts Center area but not others. We have a neighborhood protection overlay zone with set back and step back requirements that needs to be revisted because it it too convoluted.Decreasing hights next to residential areas while perhaps increasing them in others could be a new balance that works for us.Traffic flow is a problem during some hours.2 solutions have to do with persauding other entities to take action.In the mornings much of the traffic snarls come from folks driving less then 2-3 miles to get to UNC and fight over a place to park-not a system anyone would have designed,but one that we have.With the exception of people with young children,older parents at home ad those with health or mobilty issues I would like to see UNC not give on campus parking to those who live on bus lines.Instead those without permits could have access to free cars to use in emergnecies and be granted ffree one campus parking 2 days a month. Ihave proposed this for years-hope springs enternal! We also need to work with the schools to encourage more parent to have their children ride the bus to school,or walk or bike in order to lessen traffic jams. 

Kirk Ross's picture

Question 4 — Planning, the Sequel

Having spent a good deal of time at the legislature in the past few years, I can tell you there’s a real chance that next year there will be a movement to end almost all municipal Extraterritorial Jurisdictions (ETJ).That, coupled with the changes in recent years making annexation extremely difficult, is going to have a big effect on Carrboro. How would you respond to that move? And if it is successful, how should the town handle a transition to turn zoning and permitting in the current ETJ over to the county.

ETJs and Annexation

I didn't realize the plan is to ban extraterritorial jurisdictions, I thought it was that they were not going to allow for any new ones.If they do ban extraterritorial jurisdictions we can do like we currently are with the county on the transition areas.  The county technically manages these, but it is done in consultation with the towns, the towns have significant say. I'll add that I hope this serves as foder for municipalities across teh state, both conservative and liberal, to stand up as a united front to the insanity of this current legislature. 

Re; Rogers Rd. is an added concern

This is especially concerning in relation to current negotiations on getting sewer to the HIstoric Rogers rd. neighborhood to the extent that Chapel Hill's participation is contingent on them creating an ETJ for the neighborhood; by doing this Chapel Hill will be able to legally expend their portion of funds that they are responsibile for.

Jacquelyn Gist Thanks for

Jacquelyn GistThanks for keeping updated on all of the damage coming from the GA this summer Kirk,I heard of this from you.We are lucky that although not always perfectly aligned the county and the towns share many of the same values when it comes to landuse-we are not in the same position as say Ashville.I would hope that our staff and boards will be able to work together to keep many of our exisitng zoning regulations in place.Most important will be the continued protection of our watershed..a goal I am confident the majority of the commisoners share.This is not to say that te transition will happen without tension,the ETJ is central to how our ordinace funtions.The staff and boards need to start now working on a transition plan in order to be prepared and iron out differneces before hand in order to have the best thought out process  

ETJ Transition

We are all interdependent--Towns, County, unincorporated areas.  The best approach is not to see the loss of ETJs as a problem, but rather to show the greatest concern for the people that live in the affected areas.  We need to make sure residents have a voice in any transition, and continuing the conversations and relationship-building we have started is really important.  When I initiated and acted as liaison to the New Horizons Task Force, it really created a model for transition--whether through annexation or other kinds of transition.  Community engagement is key.  And clearly starting conversations with Orange County now will be very important in the event the state continues to challenge local government authority in this way.  Our planning staffs need to talk.  Our boards need to talk.  We need to come together to prepare for any event that affects us mutually, and affects people that live and work in Orange County.  Ultimately, I always want people outside the formal boundaries of Carrboro to feel connected to Carrboro and to participate in our cultural and civic life.  That's what matters.   

Kstolka's picture

Question 4

It will be in the best interest of the town and county to continue planning the ETJ zones together until that transition occurs. This way, we can manage and prevent further sprawl outside of town and the states action will not affect our long term plans. 

Jacquelyn Gist Hard to

Jacquelyn GistHard to answer without seeing the rest of the budget and the impact of any state actions. I hope to be able to say yes,as a state empoyee I know what it's like to go without increases.I would like to be able to our employees at least a 4% raise and increase the % we pay of dependent health care 

Kstolka's picture

Q #5

I am not a current Board member, but if I had a say, I would increase our employees salaries and ensure our future growth accomodates a standard of living raise that ties to the rate of inflation. 

Raises

I hope so.  A baseline COL would be 3%, but we need to review salaries in context with a real cost of living and comparable salaries in high-cost counties like Orange.  I'd like to see revised salary ranges, not just a blanket % increase. 

Employee raises

The town employees got a raise this year after a few years of having a freeze. I am for town employees getting another raise this year as the economy is supposed to be improving.  I would also be for them getting a larger raise then what the index would call for to make up, or start catching us up, to the level of pay that they would be at had there not been a freeze or for what was lost during the freeze.

Raising taxes

Carrboro has done a really good job at not raising taxes and keeping up with services.  I agree with Jacquie that we are likely not to increase our taxes this year given that trend.  The county likely will.

Kstolka's picture

#6 Taxes

I don't think Carrboro will raise property taxes as they are already too high. I do believe Orange County will increase property taxes this year.  We need to keep focusing on developing sustainable mixed use properties that increase our commercial tax base and help out the county as a whole. This includes collaborating business recruitment efforts with Chapel Hill. Nothing will be accomplished if we dont work together to better our fiscal future.  

Taxes

I think Carrboro will try to hold property taxes harmless again, but Orange County needs to meet demands of aging school infrastructure.  The jury's out, but I wouldn't be surprised if they raise them.

Kstolka's picture

Smith Level

I would anticipate a month after the official completion date ( June 2014), as there are always hang ups with predicted completions. 

Jacquelyn Gistyes,my step

Jacquelyn Gistyes,my step daughter lives off of Smith Level and I also attended a neighborhood event off Smith Level 2 weeks ago.I wish I knew for sure when it will be done,it is DOTs hands,hopefully by summer

Smith Level Rd.

Many years of negotiating with DOT, Town of Carrboro holding to not wanting more lanes, the DOT agreed to a compromise that still allowed them to expand the right of way, this in exchange for building the sidewalks and bike lanes that are badly needed there.  To answer your questions, I drove through a couple of weeks ago and saw all the trees that they brought down and how much bigger the gash has gotten.Not sure what the expected ending of construction is, but we can check in with staff to get that update. 

Smith Level

Well, the HOA recently invited me and Jacquie to a barbeque and we had an opportunity to listen to their concerns about the pace of the project.  We told them we'd look into the timeline, but so far no answer from DOT.  So I'm curious too, Kirk!  Couldn't be finished fast enough for me.

Rogers Road

The best thing to do is to stay the course and continue to demonstrate leadership and accountability to the community.  The Town committed 14%, or $900,000, of the cost of improvements, including the community center and infrastructure.  Kudos to Michelle and Sammy for their leadership on the Task Force.  They helped navigate and move the dialogue forward. We need to keep showing that leadership, and I will help make sure we do.

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