Isn't that convenient?

In its effort to develop four neighborhood conservation districts at once, the Town of Chapel Hill is looking for some outside assistance. They didn't have to look very far. Recently retired Chapel Hill Planning Director Roger Waldon has been hired as a consultant on the project.

It's true the Town needs outside assistance to be able to do 4 NCDs at once. And clearly Roger understands the NCD rules - he helped create them. But I don't buy the logic that having worked on the previous Northside NCD qualifies one to work on future efforts. The Northside NCD process was not managed very well. Although a lot of people worked very hard on it, and some good regulations resulted, the process generally lacked clear vision and leadership. I would hate to see it repeated.

Also, this budget switcheroo is kind of weird:

[Town Manager Cal] Horton said the town would pay for Clarion's work through the cost savings from holding the planning director job vacant for six months. He therefore wouldn't add any funds to cover the fee of up to $50,000 in the 2005-06 budget.

It took nearly 1½ years to craft the NCD for Northside. Horton told the council that, if the Planning Department did all the work itself for the four other neighborhoods it likely would take at least two years to complete all the districts -- and that would be a challenge, he said.

Residents wanting the NCD's have pushed the council to take on more than one district at a time, contending the character of their neighborhoods could be altered drastically if they had to wait several years for new development rules.
- Chapel Hill Herald, 6/17/05

Anyway, Waldon will be meeting with the Planning Board (which I'm on) next week. I look forward to hearing his ideas on improving on the previous NCD process. We already know that future efforts will involve a lot more work by the Planning Board, whee!



I believe that leveraging the expertise and knowledge that Roger has gained makes sense. I believe the situation that the planning department has more work than they can handle and are stressed. I am more concerned about the town council's opinion that a dedicated committee for each neighborhood is not a necessity. Both the Planning Board and the citizens who worked on the Northside NCD felt that the Northside committee helped resolve neighborhood issues and smooth the transition to the new overlay zone. The only council member who activley supported this view was Mark. The others seemed to say that the town can trust roger to assure that there will be consensus and that we can also trust neighborhood hoa's. I think both these points have obvious flaws and the first order of business for the Planning Board will be to continue this discussion with Roger.

Mr. Waldon has done much for the Town and I hope he does well in his new consultancy but not at the expense of the Town taxpayer - this deal stinks.

The Town Manager shouldn't have recommended this not only because of the appearance of impropriety but definitely because we don't need to create incentives for other "skilled" staff to bolt to private companies with the solid assurance their previous management will hire them back at a higher cost to the Town's taxpayers. While it no appears, in retrospect, somewhat predictable that Town management planned to hire Mr. Waldon's expertise (based on the TM's statements over the last couple months), I really thought that the use of the "swinging door" wouldn't happen here because of the Council's stiffened resolve to avoid further private/public backroom dealing (see: ACS, RLCs - Ward, Wiggins, Verkerk, Harrison).

And why preserve the current dysfunctional fiefdom management style by wielding largesse to previous employees and their private concerns? It doesn't make sense.

This also underlines our Town's current management's problems with back channel deals and over-reliance/mis-use of consultants in general. Consultants are costing us more and more but leaving us with less and less. Even deals like the recent offer of a "free" website makeover will end up costing us more over time than developing internal expertise or hiring appropriately trained staff.

This deal, like a number of others in recent history, doesn't pass the sniff test. I hope the Council reconsiders.

This would be illegal in the federal government, but I'm sure the Town lawyer has it covered.
There should at least be a waiting period before retirees get to come back to work for the town---even if they're nice guys.
It seems abusive to me to have a recent retiree come back to work on a program that he helped develop, especially if that program was not handled well the first time.
How hard did the council look for cheaper, better alternatives to this quick hire?
For the record, which council members live in which neighborhoods seeking protection? I think it's a legitimate question.
Are these members so fearful of infill that they jumped at this solution too quickly? I think so.
This seems like a rather ridculous waste of tax payer money when there are pressing social concerns facing Chapel Hill.

It may be minor to some but for consultants it's a major point; the Town didn't hire Roger, it hired Clarion Associates. Former Planning Director Waldon is in their local office and will be the project manager. Check out their web page at

Ruby, and Mark K., and Cam H., and Sally Green,

Except for the last, all of you both OPers and Chapel Hill Council or Board members. Sally Green has posted here, and she leaned on the Green in her campaign, so I include her here.

On the zoning itself, isn't incremental infill in these neighborhoods exactly the right environmental thing to do? (And it won't cost you $20 million, unlike that downtown project.)

If any of you can reconcile blocking relatively slow infill there (again, contrast the parking lot plans = superfast infill) with environmentalism, I'd be glad to see your case. If not, should I presume political expediency on this issue of most long-term consequence? (I'm left to wonder why you moved to hold your positions in the first place.)

Frankly, I see Cam Hill as more of a no-growther, send-it-out-to-30-minute-commutes-er, than an environmentalist. But his response is also most welcome.

NCDs are in no way about stopping or slowing infill. If they were, I would be completely against them. Like the rest of our Comprehensive Plan, they aim to manage growth so that it happens in an intentional and healthy way, for entire community's benefit.

For example, the main thing the Northside NCD did (besides the duplex thing, which I did oppose) was to restrict the floor area of new houses. Hopefully this will lead to a greater number of modest-sized homes and away from the recent trend of dormitories masquerading as duplexes and single-family homes.

Fred, technically you are correct that the town didn't
hire Roger directly, but we alll know that they
wouldn't have hired Clarion if Roger weren't there --
it was his expertise they were seeking.

I don't know how I feel about this, but I would like
to know whether other consultants were considered,
whether there was a public request for bids, and finally,
whether Roger''s and Clarion's work is being obtained
at a higher per hour rate than Roger earned while
he was Planning Director. In other words, is indeed
the town now paying more for the same services?

Joe, understand, but as a consultant who does a lot of work as a sub-contractor, the distinction is terribly important, especially when it comes to earnings. If the firm gets $50K for a project, the consultant doing the bulk of the work may receive less of that than most people would believe. Project work and hourly work as a sub produce very different income streams.


I'll admit that I just don't get this NCD designation. Maybe to you it's not about preventing infill, but to others I think it is. Certainly, it is about preventing infill with anything other than single family homes.

If NCDs are really all about 'encouraging harmonious, orderly and efficient growth and redevelopment of the Town', then every neighborhood should get NCD status. I don't understand why these four neighborhoods deserve special treatment.

Quite honestly, it bothers me that one of the stated purposes of NCDs is 'to reduce conflict and prevent blighting caused by incompatible and insensitive development, and to promote new compatible development'--- you could go anywhere with a purpose like that.

It also seems to me that we already zone for use, intensity and dimension and I would hope that most neighborhoods are adequately protected by our current zoning laws. It's only when the Council grants exceptions that neighborhoods are threatened. Does the Council have so little faith in its ability to say no to applicants seeking zoning exceptions that they feel like they have to rush this NCD process at unnecessary taxpayer expense?

This question reveals my ignorance about zoning, but can you zone ‘compatible' home styles? Is that what NCD really comes down to—aesthetics? Could we amend our zoning laws with some statements about aesthetics?

Again, my main objection to all of this is the speed at which the Council feels like they have to move. I personally don't see imminent deterioration in Coker Hills, Greenwood, or Morgan Creek. Perhaps someone can tell me what the urgency is.

Mary, The section of the Land Use Ordinance that addresses Neighborhood Conservation Districts can be found at:

You want to begin reading section 3.6.5, page 55 of 77.

My guess is that the neighborhoods in question want the NCD to "provide residents and property owners with a bargaining tool for future development." In other words, they want to prevent new McMansions. Part of the planning process will be the creation of design standards in which the neighbors can designate height, building size, setbacks, and all the other design minutae followed by big developments to control against any kind of deviation from the norm (see p. 58 of 77). The cynical side of me says they want to maintain the status quo and we won't see any infill in those areas. Another side says they purchased homes in neighborhoods where they have the right to protect 'neighborhood character.'

It's hard not to be cynical. I really don't want to add, 'Protecting the rich from the very rich' to my progressive agenda...

I encourage you to review Tim's comments above and/or the tape from Wed's meeting for further information regarding my opinion.
I share Ruby's perspective, NCDs are about setting rules for managing growth, not halting it. That, in part, is one of the reasons I support a Committee appointed by Council rather than relying solely on the Consultant and the existing Home owners association to determine what the NCD will look like. I believe the whole town has an interest in neighborhood preservation. While homeowners should probably have the loudest voice, other perspectives should be at the table from the beginning of the process, and should not be forced to sit on the sidelines until the first public hearing.


As a fellow consultant, I would say that the distinction between awarding the project to clarion, rather than roger, is a legal technicality. OK, we all agree its probably legal. Now, is it right? As I mentioned, I think leveraging the town's long term investment in building Roger's capability and knowledge is not a bad thing. There has been no evidence offered that any other consultants were considered. Businesses usually have a process for single-source providers, and govenment may too. In reality, it's probable that no othre consultant would have the expertise that Roger had, but should the town have looked? Well, apparently, Raleigh and other communities have been doing ncd type processes for years. On a larger scale. Maybe there was someone out there with new ideas for streamlined processes? Who knows? This string is spending a lot of energy second-guessing a decision that has already been made. Implementing that decision demands a process to be ironed out among staff, Planning Board and Clarion --I would be interested in hearing more of y'alls opinions on the perceived value of community committees, with named members who work for the duration of the project, vs gathering community input through a series of public meetings. Thanks, Tim

Mark, I completely agree with what you say above.

I like what the Village Project has to say about obstacles to smart growth:

'We must not underestimate or dismiss the obstacles: powerful interests that profit from the status quo; government officials who might pay lip service to the goal of healthy growth, but don't enact policies to achieve it; opponents of sprawl who pursue no- or slow-growth at the expense of healthy growth policies; those who support compact growth in theory, but not where they live; and the belief that limits to growth will prevent landowners from realizing maximum profits from their property.'

Tim, I see your point about not rehashing decisions that have already been made. But there needs to be some accountability when the Town makes important decisions without any public discussion. The town web site "makeover" is another example of this that comes to mind. We didn't hear of it until the deal was done. Does that make it OK? What if it happens again?

I appreciate you asking for input here on the proposed process, but since the idea has only generally been floated by the Planning Board, I don't think most people even know what's being proposed. Maybe someone can write a guest post about it...

As it seems that the NCD process is gathering steam, I see a new issue emerging that Mary alludes to above-- namely that those who may have a role in developing NCD regulations believe NCDs do not exist simply to halt growth, while some of the vocal proponents of NCDs seem to envision the primary purpose of NCDs to be just that.

The reconciliation of these diverging expectations will be critical to reaching any outcome.

The big questions are still out there:
Where SHOULD growth go in Chapel Hill?
More specifically, where SHOULD multifamily housing go in Chapel Hill?
What types of housing stock would enhance the characteristics people already like about their neighborhoods?

Ruby, Tim, excellent points.

This is another in a series of deals that highlight the dysfunctional nature of current Town Management. What about Maximus? Heck, inspite of evidence of compromised competence to the contrary, "we" selected them and what did we get? Some real swell slaps on the back about what a great job the guy that strong-armed their appointment, at a cost of $80K to us - the taxpayers, was doing. Oh, and we also got a quick reheat of their earlier trash collection ideas, omission of IT as a driver for cost reductions, followed by some rather tepid and stale incremental suggested improvements (especially compared to some of the rather bold proposals citizens and the Council's budget "Star Chamber" made). On the basis of their recent reports and previous work with the Town, non-withstanding the Town Manager's desire to work with his "guys in Havana", we need to wait a couple years before even considering Maximus for another consultancy.

This NCD consultant deal stinks and should be investigated. The pish-posh about Clarion is nonsense - I'm not sure why Fred tried to make the distinction.

So, the Town Manager's current allies (Wiggins et. al.) on the Council need to cough up some reasonable explanation of why their buddy shouldn't be shown the door for continued lapses in judgement. Wonder if that'll happen before election season?

Here's the proposal Waldon submitted to the Town:

Clarion Associates website is:

Will, it was stated: "Recently retired Chapel Hill Planning Director Roger Waldon has been hired as a consultant on the project." Clarion was hired and Roger works for them. I'm sorry that the legal distinction does not seem to matter to you and others. As a consultant, it always matters to me as to who signs the contract and who has the primary liability.

Note the opening of the proposal signed by Roger:

"Pursuant to your request, Clarion Associates has prepared a proposal for consideration by you and the Chapel Hill Town Council, for preparation of materials needed to establish Neighborhood Conservation Districts for four Chapel Hill neighborhoods."

Will, wasn't the vote to hire Clarion unamious? Are you suggesting that the entire Council is not behind the Manager?

Fred, I think this is what lawyers call a "distinction without a difference."

Well, the distinction sure matters to me. Once I was the sub on a project and the client failed to pay in a timely manner, but I still received my pay from the prime. Another time I was the prime and it cost me money to use the legal system to get my money. Thus, the distinction matters. Of course Clarion was hired because of the talent and expertise of Roger; no one has said otherwise, but who is "responsible" (read Clarion) is a major point and it should be for the Town down the road.

I don't know. This just doesn't look good. Did Waldon and Horton plan this NCD consultant job before Waldon ever left the Town? It's a pretty tight schedule. Waldon retires on June 1st. Horton requests a Clarion proposal on what date? Waldon has a proposal out on June 10th.
Really, I have nothing against the personalities involved in this; but I hope this wasn't all worked out before Waldon ever retired. If so, it seems like a clear conflict of interest.
Are conflicts of interest not a big deal? (That's a serious question.)

I continue to have mixed feelings about this contract.

We are talking past each other. I'm not concerned with how much money Roger personally receives from this contract -- that's none of my business. Neither is the relationship between Roger and Clarion.

However, as a citizen and taxpayer, it is my business that
the town receive high quality and high quantity services for the money it spends. When Roger was planning
director, we could estimate the number
of hours of his time that 50K would buy, based on his salary, fringes and overhead (office, computer, etc).
I would like to know how much of his time and expertise
we now get for 50K. In other words, are we paying
less, more, or the same amount for the same services?

If this is in fact a project contract, the $50K is for the deliverable that is due by March 2006. When Clarion costed out the bid, they estimated the hours for all personnel involved (Roger plus Clarion associate Leigh Anne McDonald), the cost of subs (Swanson and Associates for example) and the total overhead. Typically, when a contract is hourly based, they can end up costing more, so there is usually an hours cap clause.

That is why it is incorrect for some to imply that Roger is receiving 50K for this work. That's just not how it works.

What's interesting to me is that our entire Council voted for this; did they have additional info that convinced them about doing this? As stated in today's CHN, "The Town Council unanimously approved the contract Wednesday night. Mayor Kevin Foy acknowledged that might raise questions of favoritism. But he and Horton say Waldon is not only the best man for the job, he's the only man for the job."

Without more details on the time estimated by Clarion/Waldon to complete this contract, no one can tell whether this work could be done more cost efficiently by a consultant or by town staff. While there may be some revolving door type issues with this specific contracting agency, there are a lot of benefits to using consultants, such as deferring work on other projects while staff undertakes what seems like it will be a time consuming project.

Here's some imaginary dialogues one might have expected to have taken place in the recent past:

RW: Hey CH, it's been nice working for the Town the last 21 years. I feel that there's a lot I've contributed but....
CH: But?
RW: Well, C has offered me a swell position. I'm going to take it.
CH: Hey, that's great RW. We'll miss you but I understand. When do you leave?
RW: I'm leaving June 1st.
CH: Great, that gives you a fair amount of time to bring your staff up to speed on any open issues. Be sure to close the books on any ongoing projects if you can. What do you think is the most important project you're working on - something that only you have the critical expertise to finish up?
RW: Why that's easy CH - it's the NCD process.
CH: Yep, you are "the only man for the job". I know we're going to be understaffed when you leave but, please, as the only expert on the NCD process, make passing on your unique expertise top priority.

Sometime, maybe a week or two later, the conversation resumes:

CH: RW, how's the handoff of the NCD work going?
RW: [Unintelligible]
CH: Hmmm, let's make sure that the Town isn't left in a lurch.

OK, now we're at the point in this imaginary scenario where RW is on the threshold of leaving his post for C.

CH: RW, I guess you closed out most of your on-going projects. I'm worried that the NCD project hasn't been passed on, what shall we do?
RW: How would RW respond? I know that some employees bailing out might say - "Hey, I'm moving on - it's your problem" - but RW isn't that type of employee. Even if he was, it would scorch his chances of getting any future recommendations.
CH: Well, that's too bad, we'll just have to work something out. Har, it's a shame we didn't train any of your crew me bucko!

Finally, we're at the point when RW leaves and takes the reins of his new job.

KF: CH, how's the NCD project going?
CH: Well, KF, with the loss of RW we don't have anyone capable of carrying it on.
KF: [boing] Does KF act surprised that CH dropped the ball on this? Does he wonder why none of RW's staff hasn't been trained to cover? Does he get a creepy feeling he's being manipulated into endorsing some future tainted deal? Does he feel despair as he's crowded into a corner?

Now, what character in this govern-play steps forward and suggests hiring C, where RW now works, to get RW's unique expertise?

MYSTERY CHARACTER: C we need RW's expertise, what's the deal?

When faced with this decision do any of KF's fellow chorus members ask how a critical employee, with unique expertise, wasn't asked to pass on that expertise? Or if the request was made that somehow it wasn't executed on? Was there a loud gnashing of teeth or clenching of nostrils from this chorus when the odor of this deal came wafting their way? Did the chorus cry out in dismay when the only option presented was to reel RW, through C, back into the fray at a politically unacceptable cost?

CH: [To chorus] There's only one man for the job!
[MYSTERY CHARACTER turns to the chorus and bops them with his decision-stick. They all go glassy-eyed and nod in agreement]

Where's our chorus' polit-hero? Whom from that noble-fold will be bold enough to challenge the frightening regent's favoritism?

That's the imaginary part. Here's the reality, at least based on my experience.

In a small organization, you're going to have employees with unique talents and expertise. A wise manager will proactively cross-train, as best as possible, remaining staff so that if something happens to that keystone, the "arch" (or in this case, the NCD project) doesn't fail catastrophically. Lacking proactive measures, when these key employees give notice, again, a smart manager, as best as possible, makes sure relevant details of their projects are documented, plans are put in place to develop the remaining staffs competence and timely meetings are held to make sure the ongoing handover is on target.

Fred and others on OP with extensive consulting backgrounds will probably have experienced times when a critical employee leaves without passing on their expertise. At that point, management might try to hire, temporarily - maybe even for six months, the employee back as a consultant to finish the handoff process.

Now, one could argue that the four NCDs are really end-products of a process and after their "production" the "unique" expertise required to "manufacture" them is no longer needed. In that case, Roger and company will produce the NCDs (with staff) using an unique process not relevant or pertinent to any other planning process.

I find that difficult to believe.

Even if the the endpoint is a standalone product ,a manager with a modicum of experience will still insist that some expertise, in some fashion, is passed on.

To sum up:
we have a supervisory employee
that has worked roughly 18 months on the Northside NCD
developing an unique expertise
that he didn't pass on to his remaining staff either during those 18 months or subsequent to his announcing his departure
who has a boss that either did ask him to pass on that expertise or didn't,
a boss that dropped the ball by either not attempting or not monitoring the handover of relevant expertise,
a boss whom has forced his employers (the Council and the Town's taxpayers) into a minor Faustian bargain that smells of slightly wilted ethical standards.

That's a sickening sum and a management failure. It's a shame and kind of sucks for Mr. Waldon to have to start out his new career on such a wobbly foundation.

Maybe the silver-lining in this cloudburst comes from the Council clarifying the Town's "swinging door" policy. Maybe it'll remind the current Town Manager of his Caesar's wife-like duty to avoid future appearances (or realities) of impropriety.

The points you make about cross-training are all valid but it is easier said than done, especially if your staff is already significantly stretched. Taking time out to cross-train one or more individuals means other projects get put on hold (both for the trainer and trainees). While we may recognize that this activity is the more important one, particularly for the long-term health of the institution, we have become a society that looks for short term results and fixes. This is occurring throughout both the public and private sectors and does not bode well for our ability to compete. You can readily see this in the private sector with their fixation on the quarterly numbers. While the public sector isn't quite so obvious, the fixation on near-term budgets and near term results have the same effect. And as one who has long ago adopted the cross-training approach I can't begin to tell you how demoralizing it is to spend many, many hours cross-training someone only to have them leave to join a better-funded institution that appreciates their excellent training and can, at least for that moment in time, pay a significantly higher wage for that training.

George, you're absolutely correct about how difficult cross-training (even a little) can be and, I would add, doubly so in an organization that both doesn't value it and doesn't make it part of their normal practice. Yep, it doesn't bode well for our Town that when an employee of 21 years leaves (which seems anticipatable) with a critical project undone, the only option put forward is to hire him back in some fashion.

George, I've come to believe that the "fiefdom" structure of management that seems to be the current practice of our Town's manager both introduces a systemic dysfunction in the efficient production of Town services and leads to conflicts like we're seeing with RW.

Part of the reason for my imaginary dialogue was to make the point that after RW's 18 months of NCD participation, the only candidate for carrying on the NCD process in a cost-effective manner (as espoused by CH) was RW. Where was the B-team all this time? How true is it that the $50K spent on Clarion is better than training an internal replacement (yes - one that might leave also) and moving forward (we do have until Sept. timeframe)? And, more generally, how long shall we wait for a new management style at the top to replace the current dysfunctional one? Will the taxpayer have to continue to "labor" so to speak under the current regime until CH retires?

Hey, after looking at my anticipated tax increase - increases acerbated by the current top management-style - it seems way too long to me.

I simply find it very hard to believe that Roger is actually "the only man for the job." As Tim points out, Raleigh has dozens of NCDs under their belt and I'm sure they're not the only ones. If I had been told that there was only one consultant in the world that could execute the plan that the staff presented to us at the Planning Board two weeks ago, I would have vehemently opposed it (after laughing really hard).

It's difficult to understand why the Manager and the Council didn't at least attempt to convey the impression that they had looked at other alternatives to compare to Clarion/Roger's proposal.

Will and George, this has nothing to do with expertise. The staff says they can do NCDs themselves, just not 4 at a time.

By the way, anyone interested in hearing how Roger plans to approach this task, please join us at the Planning Board meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7 in the Council Chambers where Roger will be meeting with us.

Ruby, I guess I put too much stock into the reported comments of the Town Manager. So, there's no special expertise required - just a heavy deadline that could be met with current staff or some other, possibly cheaper, entity?


Hey, on another youch - did anyone note that there was a proposed increase in Stainback Public/Private Real Estate's pay? The %7.3 increase is roughly twice the recently passed blanket boost in Town pay, but, hey, we're dealing with a mega-project here ;-)!

The Fees portion of the Contract (Section IV) states that SPPRE's fees for Part 3 will be billed at an hourly rate not to not exceed $50,000 without prior written authorization from the Town of Chapel Hill. The contract states John Stainback's hourly rate is to be increased from $270/hour to $289/hour to adjust for two years of inflation and increases in the cost of doing business. In addition, direct expenses are billed at cost. A 9 ½% allocated expenses fee is applied to the professional fee to cover indirect costs. We propose no changes in the fees for this portion of the contract. A reference to a firm partner no longer associated with the firm would be deleted.

Ummm, I guess I'm unusual in thinking we're solidly in the middle of major economic downturn and should act accordingly. I wonder how many Chapel Hillians are still waiting on their private-sector %3.87 or %7.3 pay increase?

I am a little frustrated that the Planning Board's recommendation (PDF) has been distorted and minimized by the staff's report to the Council. Some of the things we suggested include:

"...the Planning Board would like to be involved in the process of selecting the consultant."


"...committee meetings... should be a focus of the process for developing NCDs in order to provide consistency of thought and decision making. The concept of just using neighborhood meetings feels inadequate."


"The Board suggests researching solutions from other communities."

I am really disappointed by the lack of vision of the Town staff and by the Council's failure to challenge them to rise to this occasion. I am also starting to regret our gentle and diplomatic approach to this question. Had I known what I know now, I would have voted differently. I don't like feeling duped.

I strongly encourage interested parties to come to the Planning Board meeting on Tuesday (6/21) to hear what "the only man for the job" has to say about his task.

Too much conspiracy theorist activity on this question. My viewpoint - (1) there are instances where hiring consultants is perfectly appropriate - this may be one of those instances for the Town, I don't know; and (2) engaging a firm that has the benfit of Roger's knowledge of our community should result in a better project outcomes, which again is good for us.

These are two separate issues.

I for one have no problem (and am pleased) that the Town is engaging a firm which has the benefit of experience and knowledge of a person like Roger.

Gosh, in reading this again, it seems to me that folks are getting hung up in the process; nitpicking that (e.g. excerpts from minutes, who's paying Roger's salary...). Lets get on with the work and arrive at a recommended solution to the issues, PLEASE. Lets look at the forest a little.

Mr. Clapp, where's the conspiracy theorist?

Former town employee joins consulting firm which is awarded a contract a very short time later based on the employee's "unique" expertise on the strong rec ommendation of his friend the Town Manager with little Council comment and an acknowledgement by the Mayor of an ethical appearance problem. A longtime member of the planning board tells us that the claim there's "one man for the job" is specious and supports her claim with specifics. Further, I challenged the management style that led to what appears to be the inevitable hiring of Clarion and called it dysfunctional which not only complements the planning boardmember's comments but is quite obvious on the face of it.

If you've been paying attention, this isn't the first "friendly" hiring of consultants by the Town Manager. Given that, it's a continued problematical pattern which deserves even higher scrutiny.

Mr. Waldon's NCD "experience", which you cite, is interesting. After sifting further through the Northside NCD experience and reviewing the omission of a generic process based on general precepts (elements required of any NCD not elements required of a very specific NCD with unique characteristics) - especially when contrasted with Coker/Greenwood - I wonder how extraordinarily relevant Mr. Waldon's NCD experience is to the continuing NCD development process.

Finally, if you had attended lastnight's meeting and seen Clarion's presentation, you might also be asking what is so special about this firm and its proposal that made the "swinging door" problem irrelevant. The planning board seemed to spend more time on what they didn't want based on the Northside experience than on what they did want. In fact, at several points in the discussion, where an experienced consultant might've channeled the discussion, Mr. Waldon suggested it was "up to you" (I'm particularly thinking about the notification of residents of affected neighborhoods).

Does this add up to some kind of X-wing conspiracy for you Mr. Clapp?

I stand by my very simple comments, which were intended to encourage our local leaders to keep this work simple and move ahead/progress; not as some have tried to do, tie the Town Council's shorts together.

In response to the question you pose to me regarding the identity of conspiracy theorists in the crowd, one Reference for you........

Posting 10:47am 6/17/2005 by WillR.

My Comment - your posting attempts to imply some sort of pattern of abuse of power as evidenced by this consulting engagement, and you did it through your gratuitous attack on our Town Manager and including ACS/RLC claims that lack any backing of facts, which you then aim at Town Council.

Mr. Clapp, you stood side by side with Ward, Wiggins, Verkerk and Harrison reading your diatribe on Mark Kleinschmidt as part of the vendor's PR campaign bearded by their Astroturf organization. Don't you recall that event? You know, the one where the PR/Astroturf guy reportedly hid out in Townhall during the shameful display. Maybe it was legal collusion but it certainly was improper and the four still need to apologize to the citizenry for their actions.

As far as the Town Manger, he's appears to be a nice enough guy but his management style, maybe appropriate for another time, maybe effective in a "good ole boy" milieu, sucks by today's standards. We're short fireman. We have disgruntled employees. The transport workers are up in arms. We've had significant increases in taxes to cover foreseeable expenditures - expenditures which a little proactivity might've reduced considerably. We went years without a proper (and independent) review of the budget (something most businesses do quarterly). We have had an ultra-conservative approach to using both tried-n-true management techniques and technology to drive cost out of the delivery of services all the while maintaining his silo approach to management - a style which promulgates continued inefficiencies.

With that and more he's rightfully earned that criticism.

WillR -

I answered your question in the first instance about where the conspiracy drift came from, and you are now off on a rant.

1. You need to get your facts straight more often. On this ACS/RLC issue as an example you are just imagining things, or worse, making them up for political influence. For example, you have made ridiculous claims about some sort of relationship I must have had with ACS simply because I supported the retention of Red Light Cameras; childish. The same can likely be said of what you charge of our Town Council on the matter. I guess I need to get with the program after all: (a) it must be so because you say it is so, or (b) you will browbeat anyone who disagrees with you.

2. You don't have enough objective information, nor are you in a position regarding our Town Mgr. to dismiss him out of hand. You may have an opinion, that is fine. But again, just because you say it is fact does not make it fact.

Since you have all of the answers, run for Mayor of Chapel Hill? Heck, just make it Emperor!

1. You appeared at a PR event created and sponsored by ACS's AstroTurf organization and read your bit about the RLCs. What other linkage have I infer d? The four members that appeared, by their presence, endorsed the PR sales spin of the vendor. Further, two of the Councilmembers endorsed/sponsored both that event and the subsequent one the next day at the Library.

2. I've had a number of years to observe specific actions of the Town Manager. Out of hand implies I have no basis for criticism, yet in the last few years, I've looked into a number of management issues in some detail and drawn my conclusions based on standard business practice.

Oh, and Emperor is not an elected position.

That's it? Enough said.

A Chapel Hill Herald editorial on this matter is available here:

Long story short: The whole squabble is unnecessary because the council has gotten way out ahead of itself and the town's Comp Plan in wanting to do four NCDs at once.

Amazingly, I agree with you, Ray. I am feeling more and more that we are dooming ourselves to failure by trying to do the impossible - that is 4 NCDs at once. As they say "Pick two: you can have it done right, cheap, or fast."

I think the Town should slow down and not rush through NCDs. The consequence of doing it poorly could be worse than not doing it at all.

Great editorial. I hope it has some impact on the Council.

One can only wonder if this morning's ruling by the Supremes will ever happen here in order to improve the downtown:

"A divided Supreme Court (5-4) ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights."

I hope not.

One could imagine it happening in the future though -- particulary the residential area bounded by Franklin, Cameron, Merrit Mill and Mallette. I can't help but think this will be an area targeted for future large-scale development. And maybe it should be, but there has to be a better way than the taking of private property for the benefit of other private interests, as O'Conner said in her dissent: "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Hasn't this already happened locally when homes were sold under duress for the new UNC parking lot on Cameron/Merritt Mill? I know there are similar issues down around Southport and then there's the threat of the Navy's OLF. Individuals who feel powerless against big govt/big business will have less hope of holding out even if there isn't an official condemnation. I've been very torn about the NCD concept, but this Supreme Court ruling may be a tipping point for me.

I would still like to hear how an NCD overlay is not counter infill/high density growth.

Factor in the recently passed TIF-enabling Amendment One and you have a real recipe for disaster. What's better than having your property seized for private development? Why having it seized with bond monies you're underwriting.

As TIFs are more and more implicated in private seizures and with another crazy SCOTUS decision I wonder if the legislature will revisit Amendment One.

Terri, the reason NCDs aren't anti-"infill" is that their whole point is to manage future growth, to ensure that it happens in a healthy and beneficial way. If the point was to stop all change and freeze neighborhoods in amber, then down-zoning might be a better tool.

I have noticed a lot of people using this word "infill" lately like they used the word "density" 10 years ago. This is not a dirty word, infill is a very necessary and important part of not sprawling out into forever. We simply cannot (nor should we) cease all change in this community once we reach the urban services boundary (USB). People will continue to want to live here, and as long as we plan for that growth, it has the potential to be a good thing for our community. For example, how else are we going to get enough critical mass for a grocery store downtown, or fixed-guideway transit?

Infill doesn't mean tearing down your house and building ugly apartments on it. It means filling in the spaces that are not being utilized. I think the whole point of something like an NCD is to ensure that when that change happens, it does so in a way that maintains the character and health of the neighborhood.

I understand the concept of infill Ruby. What I don't get is how the NCD protects neighborhoods and helps manage higher density growth. With the exception of Pine Knolls, the neighborhoods currently seeking NCD status have fairly large lots with plenty of room between homes, making infill a possibility if the goal is to increase density within town boundaries. Are the HOAs from those neighborhoods seeking NCD status as a means of maintaining their large lots/privacy (preventing infill/change)? Or are they simply wanting to maintain some degree of design/size consistency when existing properties are remodeled or torn down and rebuilt or when new homes are built on existing lots (managing change)? Are the expectations of the HOAs aligned with the expectations of the planning board/council?

Terri, this CT case is about private development. UNC, as a state entity, is in a different category.

Mark K., I hope you're right, but I agree with your target area.. Unfortunately S.D.O. didn't have the fifth vote to support her becoming the majority position.


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