"Our backyards." The Carrboro Citizen has an excellent editorial about locating the IFC shelter and the Carrboro Library.


Thanks for sharing, it's good to see some push back against the all-too-common "not in my back yard" attitude (note that people who say that are never literally talking about their own back yards, which would be a very different story).I respect that people want to protect their own interests, but the extent to which a person's "rights" extend beyond his own private property and behavior is often vastly overstated.  Carrboro and Chapel Hill have more than enough laws meant to direct development in a specific way -- at a certain point complaining about this stuff is noting more than entitled selfishness.

On another note, I noticed in the paper that the IFC alluded to a possibility of moving the 17 emergency beds to a different location before the current new site comes up for approval. Anyone know anything about this that they can share?

Barbara,Chris Moran has always said that the IFC would prefer not to have emergency beds in their transitional facility IF  they could find someone else to take on this responsibility (e.g., various church congregations or the County or another institution).  And Chris has also stated that he would be continuing to look for such a solution as the IFC's SUP application moved forward. I don't have any more information than you as to whether he has been able to find such a solution.

That makes sense.

I've read this editorial a few times now and have been thinking about it.  I guess because it is an editorial, it is opinion and I shouldn't expect it to be even handed.  That aside, there is one statement in it that I would like to understand correctly and perhaps get a reference for.  It is " Carrboro has become the densest town in the State and Chapel Hill is not far behind."  Is it the meaning of the word "town" that I am missing?  I've been in a number of cities in NC that seem more densely populated than Carrboro.  Or is it a result of having little in town but residences, so the formal population density is greater but residents meet many of their needs elsewhere?  This still seems far fetched to me because a few blocks of high rise buildings could house the population of Carrboro.

I've often heard that Carrboro has more people per square mile than any other NC municipality, but Jim's comment made me go look it up. I found the stats on this page at the NC Office of State Budget & Management.But unfortunately, that list is sorted by the total population. So I put it into a spreadsheet (Google Doc)  and sorted by 2009 density. Here are the top 5:

  1. Carrboro
  2. Cary
  3. Chapel Hill
  4. Raleigh
  5. Boone  

Cary's a bit of a surprise! 

Jim, it's partly because of Carrboro's anti-sprawl development rules, but it is also partly because of all of the apartment complexes along and near the bypass.  It is a bit surprising at first, but what you have to realize is that while downtown Raleigh may be denser than downtown Carrboro, suburban areas of Raleigh more than compensate for the downtown density.  In Carrboro, we simply don't have as much in the way of suburban subdivisions.  Even areas of Carrboro that would be called suburban are mostly higher density than more typical NC suburbs.  For example, people refer to Lake Hogan Farms as being suburban, but in truth parts of it are quite densely developed.

What this discussion shows is that people mean many different things by the word "density," and that different people interpret it different ways. When urban planners describe density, they usually mean population per square mile for residents, jobs per square mile for employment, or some combination thereof.   If someone says that Carrboro is the densest town in North Carolina, they are referring to population density, and they are correct.  Prior to the annexation of the northern transition area, Carrboro was truly in a class by itself in terms of population density, at nearly 1000 residents per square mile more dense than its nearest Triangle counterparts, Cary and Chapel Hill.When Jim remarks that he has seen other cities in NC that seem to be more dense than Carrboro, he is most likely talking about cities with skyscrapers in their downtowns, which tends to be an indicator of job density.  (i.e. downtown Raleigh) If you are talking about employment density, or combined density (jobs plus housing) then yes, downtown Raleigh is much more dense than downtown Carrboro.But here's a fun fact- parts of Carrboro have higher population density than downtown Raleigh.  See for yourself. Click below for the NY Times website, go to the "View More Maps" toolbar and choose the purple gradient Population Density map.The part of Raleigh that looks the densest to the casual eye (Census Tract 501) tops out at about 3400 people per square mile.  Carrboro south of Main, west of Greensboro, and along the 54 bypass (Census Tract 10703)tops 6600 people per square mile, and the downtown core and north Greensboro St neighborhood gets to about 3000 people per square mile.http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/mapCruise your mouse around the suburbs of most any NC city and you'll see that the density of those tracts is almost always in the 1900-2400 range unless there is a significant amount of multifamily.Mark is right that until the NTA was annexed, Carrboro lacked any significant amount of this low-density suburban fabric compared to other suburban areas like Cary, north Chapel Hill, or north Raleigh, and that the lack of a large, homogenous suburban fabric contributes significantly to Carrboro's higher density.  But then again, our closer-to-downtown neighborhoods also have a considerable amount of multifamily housing, even if it is low-rise.  The mill village is a reasonably dense single-family neighborhood. The NC 54 apartments are also quite dense.Mark and I will have to agree to disagree on Lake Hogan Farms being dense. There are some places where the houses are very close to each other because they built large homes right up to the lot lines, and it looks crowded because of that. (check out Fields Circle in Google Maps) However, the overall suburban pattern with larger homes, winding roads and random green spaces lowers the net density considerably, and despite the houses being close together, there still aren't remotely that many households per acre out there compared to other parts of town.A prominent land use lawyer-blogger in Austin has come up with what I think is a more math-heavy but fundamentally intuitive way to measure density that he calls Weighted Density. (click for methodology)Using the NY Times maps, if you take the three Census Tracts which make up Carrboro but do not significantly expand out into rural Orange and use the Austin blogger's method, then the Weighted Density of Carrboro is about 4,220 people per sq mile.The NYT census tool above is really amazing.  I encourage everyone to explore it.  You can see the racial composition of your census tract, and change since 2000, housing, income, and educational attainment stats, too.

Thanks, Ruby, Mark and PatrickI haven't looked at the NYTimes maps but I did look at the Austin weighted density approach.  It does seem to give a more intuitive result but I guess whether that is so depends on your intuition.  I assume that the numbers Ruby gets from the State use the legal boundaries of the cities to determine the denominator of the density while for the results of the Austin website "urbanized area" is used as the denominator.  While I am sure "urbanized area" has a precise definition (which I don't know) it is more arbitrary and by adjusting that definition I am pretty sure you can get lots of different numbers.  The legal boundaries of cities are well defined, if also arbitrary.  I was thinking the number that would really be helpful for understanding density (in my opinion) would be a density using, either current definition for the denominator but substracting from it (the denominator) the land that is available (or currently used) for other than residential purposes (particularly commercial or business).  I don't know what you do with land that supports residential use, like parks, reservoirs etc. and I suppose in the extreme even some stores.  I guess we really should be talking about urban land use footprints for residence but what should we do with distant reservoirs that support urban areas and I suppose allow urban areas to be dense?  Excuse my rambling on this interesting (for me at least) subject. It seems to me that if only land used for residential purposes was used for the denominator Carrboro would not be the densest city in NC because so much of Carrboro is residential.

I'm the Austin blogger mentioned above.  Thanks for the link. "Urbanized area" is not arbitrary at all.  I used the Census classification.  The Census Bureau uses a very precise and detailed methodology to define urbanized area.  Oversimplified summary: it defines urbanized area as a group of city census blocks with a minimin density of 1,000 ppsm.   They must be contiguous (that definition itself and the exceptions are quite complicated). The Census Bureau methodogy takes up a couple of  densely written pages in the Federal Register. Intuitively, the urbanized area is what would appear to an airplane passenger at night to be "the city." The definition of metropolitan areas is the arbitrary definition.  Metro areas consist of groups of counties; it isf often the case that portions of one county have a significant tie to the central city but another part of the county does not. 


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