Category: News

Carrboro Board of Alderman

Carrboro town hall lies in wait for needed renovation

In the past 60 years, buildings have come and gone in Carrboro. New technology has been developed. The population has increased by a factor of 11.

But in that time, the town hall has stood waiting for the same change and development that occurred all around it.

Now, when the building is finally scheduled to be renovated, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen is having second thoughts.

At the February 21 Board of Alderman meeting, town leaders failed to approve a new capital improvements plan, which would fund the $6.2 million needed for renovations to the town hall.

Town leaders expressed concerns about the overall cost of the plan, which they say is significantly higher due to the addition of town infrastructure for the first time this fiscal year.

“It’s is not a surprise because we’ve asked for those things,” Alderman Bethany Chaney said. “But it does give you pause when you realize how much things cost and it’s hard to make choices when we have so many priorities and demands.”

The town hall, which sits at 301 W. Main Street, has been rendered partially unusable due to a failure to meet certain property codes. Chaney said the closure of part of the building means the town staff no longer have adequate space. Chaney also said the current boardroom is too small to accommodate all the people who attend some of the town’s larger public hearings.

The town hall renovations were proposed in this year’s capital improvement plan.  The plan lays out what the town needs to spend from the current fiscal year until fiscal year 2021-2022.

The plan also recommends funding an additional $14.3 million in office space above the planned southern branch of Orange County library at 203 S. Greensboro Street. Town manager David Andrews said town leaders are still deliberating about how much additional space they will need.

“(The library) can be built up to as high as five stories per the zoning so we are looking at building some office spaces on top of the library, and going up another two, or three or four floors depending on what our needs are and what we can afford,” Andrews said.

This year’s plan calls for roughly $51 million total in capital spending, $9.7 million of which have already been appropriated. Last year’s plan only requested $49.3 million.

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist said she was alarmed by the cost increase.

“With some of these numbers—well I haven’t been that scared since Trump’s last speech,” Gist said in the meeting.

Gist also expressed concern with the possibility of the town having to raise taxes on residents to fund the capital improvement plan.

Chaney believes that it is likely town residents will see tax increases in the coming years, regardless of whether the town funds the improvement projects.

“The inflationary cost is increasing at a rate that the growth of our current tax base so whether or not we move forward on the projects I’m afraid that we are going to see tax increases in the next two to three years,” Chaney said.

The projects also faced funding challenges, Chaney said, because public buildings don’t generate property taxes, so they can’t be paid for sustainably without other revenue streams.

“When you are trying to build a building you want to have somebody paying for it, through the property taxes or otherwise,” Chaney said.

In previous meetings, Alderman Randee-Haven O’Donnell also expressed concerns about a drop in funding from the state and federal governments, which could affect the town’s ability to fund projects in the capital improvement plan.

“We do not know what tomorrow will bring and where our economy is going,” Alderman Randee-Haven O’Donnell said. “When you overlay that uncertainty on top of basic questions about county funding not to mention North Carolina and the legislature you really have to be careful.”

While the aldermen debate the costs, the town hall still stands on W. Main Street waiting to be fixed.

“All those projects are vital projects. Whether they could be delayed a year, or two or, three—every time we delay a project the costs increase and that’s just increasing the bottom line.” Chaney said.

“It’s just not adequate. Frankly, it’s a little shameful.”

Carrboro Board of Alderman

Carrboro leaders stand up for women’s rights

By Ari Sen 

After teaching for 39 years, Randee Haven-O’Donnell knows there are some things that can make geology, ecology or water chemistry wait for a day.

So when Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools sat empty Wednesday because of the “Day Without Women” protest, she held off on the science, instead deciding to discuss sexism with her seventh and eighth grade Durham Academy students.

“For me, my goal is to be front and center with my students and to say to them, as I did (Wednesday), ‘I am here to be with you and talk about this,’” Haven O’Donnell said.

Haven-O’Donnell, who also serves on Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen, believes that even though students may have missed a day of school, the value of the message was more important than what students would have learned that day.

“I think having this out for the day in the very short run it’s a way to make a statement about women that’s important for children to realize,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “I would submit to you that the most important aspect of learning goes far beyond was it going to be measured by any given test or assessment on any given day.”

At the March 7 Board of Aldermen meeting, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle was greeted with a spontaneous round of applause after she read a proclamation declaring Wednesday to be “Carrboro Women’s Day.” Lavelle said she declared the holiday in solidarity with International Women’s Day, which was held on the same day.

“I think this is (a holiday) I’m going to continue,” Lavelle said.  “There is a great emphasis on it, I think particularly this year with the spirit of the Women’s March. I just felt like it was really important to kind of state that Carrboro stands behind the principles that founded that day.”

A movement based off of the “Day Without Immigrants” protest encouraged women to take the day off from work, wear red and refrain from spending money to support the cause of women on the holiday. Because of a high number of predicted staff absences, Chapel Hill-Carrboro city schools declared an optional teacher workday.

Only three school districts in the country were forced to close because of the protests. The closure garnered national attention and was reported by various news outlets including the New York Times. A statement released by school superintendent Jim Causby said the closure was not because of any personal politics, but rather because of a perceived inability to operate the schools properly with the number of staff members absent.

“While Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools values and supports its female employees, the decision to close schools is not a political statement,”  Causby said. “It is entirely about the safety of students and the district’s inability to operate with a high number of staff absences.”

Haven-O’Donnell said even if the school says they didn’t claim to close for political reasons, it is possible that still support the cause.

“The school district does that because they don’t want to be like a weather-vane—depending on what the political mood is you know flip-flopping one way or the other,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “But I think that the school district does not want to be in crisis either.”

Haven O’Donnell believes that Carrboro is the ideal community to support women’s rights because of their recent history of supporting social justice issues. In January, Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools proposed raising their living wage rate from $12.75 to $13.16 per hour—well above the $7.25 state minimum wage.

“This is something that Carrboro does,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “You can see it in life with how we support social justice issues, but even more important than that, (you see it) undergirding the platform that supports women—whether it be wages, salaries, equalization, equity, healthcare.”

Lavelle also said she was open to allowing town employees to take the day of in solidarity with the movement.

“I believe our town employees that want to are able to participate and can take time off to do so,” Lavelle said. “I want people to be able to make a point or have their voices heard.”

Though she believes they understand the issues, Haven-O’Donnell said that she was pessimistic about young people’s support for feminism until the past year’s protests of President Donald Trump.

“When I was in Washington there were million people standing around with me energized to resist,” Haven-O’Donnell said. “This is that extension. It’s not going away. It’s overdue. And I think especially middle schoolers, high schoolers respect people who are trying to fight and people who are strengthening their voice—that’s the way kids are.”

Lavelle said that a new energy has been breathed into the community to stand up for women’s rights and other social issues.

“I’ve seen it everywhere I go. People want to get engaged,” Lavelle said.  “They look to local government for it first to start to try to hear what’s going on to try to shape policy statewide and nationally. There’s absolutely a lot of energy. Speaking especially for our area, our towns—we are always energized, but even more so this year.”

Haven O’Donnell said no matter the age or gender, protest is always appropriate when faced with injustice.

“I think peaceful dissent is always appropriate,” Haven-O’Donnell said.

“Passive resistance is not easy. But it’s effective. And sometimes that’s all we’ve got.”

Carrboro Board of Alderman

Town of Carrboro preempts legal challenge to N.C. body…

By Ari Sen 

Carrboro’s town attorney thinks body camera video should be seen by community leaders.

And he thinks he just might have a way around a new state law that would prohibit such disclosures.

“The statutes say the council of a city runs, or are the corporate officers of the city and that includes the police department. The statutes say that the manager is essentially the chief executive officer and administrator of all personnel in the city,” Town Attorney Nick Herman said in an interview.  “So if you’ve got the police department doing something on tape arguably under the statutes that would empower the manager to be the administrator of the city and he outta be able to see that tape.”

After two years of deliberation and refinement, the Carrboro Board of Alderman passed a measure 4-1 at the Feb. 28 board meeting which would authorize body camera use by the town police department. Body camera video disclosure is governed by N.C. General Statute 132, which went into effect on Oct. 1, 2016.

Under the new law, police body and dash camera recordings are no longer part of the public record and only legal representatives of those in the recordings could request to see the footage from a police department. The police department, however, would not be legally required to allow them to view the footage.  If the footage wasn’t handed over to the representative, they could then request the footage from a superior court judge. For any other person who wants access to the footage, they must request access to it in court from a superior court judge.

The Carrboro resolution was developed in a collaboration between the aldermen, the town police department and attorneys for the town, police department and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Upon request from the ACLU, the town implemented measures in the new policy that places the presumption on disclosing all footage unless the police chief has a legitimate reason not to do so.

The aldermen also authorized four new motions to the policy before it passed on Tuesday night including resolutions striking language that reiterated the general statutes excluding the recordings from the public record and adding language allowing the town to read the new policy in ways that could potentially allow their access to any police tapes.

“My position on that is that we are bound by the statute… we cannot bring a facial challenge to it,” Herman said in the meeting. “There is nothing unlawful about the statute itself, its enactment or what it says. What the fight would be potentially is an interpretation of the reach of the statute—what it means. Some of us believe that the statute must be read in light of other statutes that the manager is empowered to do certain things and empower (the alderman) to do certain things. Viewed that way is disclosure or release may be more expansive than just what’s literally stated in this.”

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government professor Jeff Welty said in a September interview that despite other states passing laws governing body camera footage, North Carolina’s law is unique.

“(Other) states are all over the map,” Welty said. “But one aspect of our law that that’s unique is that I don’t think there is any other state in which there is no way to get access to a recording like this except through a court order.”

Alderman Sammy Slade voted against the policy Tuesday night because he said the state law limits one of the original intentions of body cameras.

“I feel that one of the values that video footage has… is for the public to serve to hold accountable not just the police force but (also) the justice system itself,” Slade said in the meeting.

“A superior court judge is accountable to a larger group of people who vote for him than a Board of Aldermen or an elected body is. Other people participating that have other issues or concerns may not feel the accountability that may happen is as direct”

Alderman Bethany Chaney said that despite objections to the state law she supports the new policy.

“I’m very much in support of this policy,” Chaney said. “I think the two years it’s taken to get here has been appropriate.”

Gov. Pat McCrory said when he signed the law on July 11 that statute is designed to increase transparency.

“This legislation fulfills our commitment to protect our law enforcement and gain public trust by promoting uniformity, clarity and transparency,” McCrory said.

Gov. Roy Cooper opposed the law in his campaign against McCrory, criticizing it as misleading and not transparent.

“Cooper has consistently said he supports the use of body cameras in law enforcement but the law signed by Governor McCrory doesn’t do enough to ensure transparency,” Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement. “Transparency is vital to building trust and respect between law enforcement and the communities they protect. It’s a shame that (the) Governor insists on attempting to mislead voters instead of taking responsibility for the law he signed.”

Herman said that releasing the tapes to the public could potentially expose the town to legal action.

“My view is the manager needs to know about (an incident) immediately and then the manager outta be able to to come in here and closed session and show you the tape and say ‘We gotta do something about this’ because what your lawyers gonna say is ‘We are gonna get the hell sued out of us,’” Herman said after the meeting.  “Now releasing to the public is sticky wicket. There would be at least legitimate arguments about some safeguard about putting this out in the public domain only because take an ambiguous tape—everybody sees what they want to see.”

Local ACLU attorney Susanna Birdsong, who collaborated on the Carrboro policy, also criticized the law in September after violent protests erupted in Charlotte, N.C. over the shooting death of Keith Lamond Scott.

“Under this shameful new law, North Carolinians will have to spend time and money seeking a court order if they want to obtain police footage they themselves are in – and even then, they could still be denied,” Birdsong said in a statement. “The law also prohibits law enforcement agencies from releasing footage in the public interest – as we have seen officials do recently in Greensboro, Charlotte and Tulsa, Oklahoma – without a court order, which is why it has been criticized by police chiefs in Burlington, Fayetteville, and Greenville, and people across the state.”

The Carrboro policy would allow officers to view recordings prior to writing their reports, except in cases of officer involved shootings. In the event of a shooting, the officer would be suspended for two to three days and then would be required to write a statement about the shooting before they could view the tape. The written statement could then be amended thereafter, but the original draft of the statement would be kept.

Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton said he supports the new policy, but it will not be the panacea to police-resident relations.

“My two cents—we’ve got a solid policy,” Horton said in the meeting. “I am looking forward to (body worn cameras) but they are not gonna be the end-all solution, the everything that’s gonna answer every question… but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

Carrboro Board of Alderman

Carrboro hangs in precarious balance after HB2 repeal, NCAA…

By Ari Sen 

For some members of the Board of Aldermen their worst nightmare is a Carrboro without the revenue from Carolina athletics.

So when the National Collegiate Athletic Association threatened to withdraw all of its championship games from the state until 2022 unless legislators repealed House Bill 2, the town leaders took notice.

“I worry that in Orange County, where we do not have the industry or the retail that Durham has. We are really vulnerable,” Alderman Randee Haven O’Donnell said in an interview yesterday. “The economic picture for is rosy if everything were status quo. But I don’t think it is”

A repeal of House Bill 2, House Bill 142, passed in the North Carolina Senate and North Carolina General Assembly Thursday morning and N.C.  Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill, this afternoon.  In addition to repealing HB2, the new law would also place a moratorium on municipalities passing non-discrimination ordinances until December of 2020.

“I know I’ve done the right thing,” Cooper said in a press conference today. “My choice was to do nothing or repeal House Bill 2 and take this important step forward.”

Activists from pro-LGBT rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign have denounced the repeal bill.

“The governor and General Assembly may be turning their backs on LGBT North Carolinians today, but we are not,” Sarah Gillooly, policy director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. “We will continue to fight in court for transgender people to access the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and for equal protection for the entire LGBT community in North Carolina.”

The NCAA has yet to make a determination as to whether to move the championship games. It is still unclear whether the NCAA will consider the passage of House Bill 142 to be a true repeal of House Bill 2.

“Last year, the NCAA Board of Governors relocated NCAA championships scheduled in North Carolina because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities’ ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination-free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events,”
Stacey Osburn, the NCAA Director of Public and Media Relations wrote in a statement last week. “Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state. As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championships site selections for 2018-2022 based upon bids received from across the country.”

Haven O’Donnell said that if the NCAA were to remove its championship games from the state Carrboro would be negatively affected by the lack of tourism money.

“78 percent of the tourism dollars are generated by the Hampton Inn in Carrboro. That’s amazing to me,” Haven O’Donnell said.  “If what happens with the sport at the university I think is not only going to make a difference county-wide—I think it’s going to erode those numbers for folks getting accommodation at Carrboro’s hotels.”

Two of the Alderman, Damon Seils and Bethany Chaney took to Twitter to express their displeasure with the repeal bill and the NCAA’s ultimatum.

“Come on, (N.C. Governor Roy Cooper). We’re looking for high-value democratic leadership not this wet-fish, basketball-starved crap.” Alderman Bethany Chaney wrote in a tweet.

House Bill 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act passed the General Assembly and senate in a special legislative session in March 2016 and was signed by then-Gov. Pat McCrory. Several companies pulled out of North Carolina including PayPal and Adidas and seven states issued a non-mandatory travel ban on the state in reaction to the law. In addition to the NCAA, The National Basketball Association and Atlantic Coast Conference also boycotted the state by removing their respective championship games.  An Associated Press report claims that the failing to repeal HB2 would cost the state almost $3.8 billion in revenue over 12 years.

“I started thinking about that $3.8 billion and a lot of that is local money,” Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle said in Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting. “The extra effect of HB2 is that it’s really, really hurt us.

Seils said in an interview that he was unsure whether House Bill 142 would carry the economic repercussions for the town that House Bill 2 did, but he is worried that it has some of the same characteristics.

“I think there is a case to be made that today’s bill has some of the very same problems that House Bill 2 had in terms of not providing non-discrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians and again making this false claim branding transgender people as sex criminals is what this bill does just like House Bill 2,” Seils said.

“It’s become increasingly clear that (a full House Bill 2 repeal) is not something that the Republican legislature and the North Carolina General Assembly would like to consider. So it looks like this is the best we are going to get for now.”


Carolina Public Press

The Carolina Public Press is a in-depth investigative news service based in Asheville, N.C. For my senior graduation project I had the opportunity to work with the Public Press. My first assignment was to go to local polling places and take photos. The photos were published and can be found here. I also wrote a news story for CPP which is printed below. 


West Henderson High School senior Vivian Rodriguez assists Roy Presley in voting in the March 15, 2016, primary election at Mills River Elementary School in Mills River. Ari Sen / Carolina Public Press.


Carolina Public Press Managing editor Frank Taylor moderated a panel discussion on public land use in Western North Carolina on Earth Day, Friday, April 22, 2016.

The panel consisted of Allen Nicholas, a forest supervisor for the N.C. Forest Service, Gordon Warburton, an ecoregion supervisor for N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and Roderick Simmons, the director of the Asheville Department of Parks and Recreation. The panelist discussed various issues around public land use in North Carolina including community communication, outreach and engagement, endangered and invasive species, debates over recreation land use versus conservation, lack of resources and local vs state control.

“Successful conservation is based on working with local folks,” Warburton said. “Getting local support is very, very important.”

One specific issue discussed was the tensions caused by proposed revisions to the forest management plan, a document that describes how North Carolina’s four National Forest’s will be managed for the following 10 to 15 years. Each park has it’s own plan except for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests which are combined into a single plan. The drafting process for the latest Nantahala and Pisgah forest plan will begin in this month and will be released in the fall.

Even though the forest plan has not even been drafted yet, there has already been controversy over some of the proposed revisions. Members of the Forest Service would like to expand wilderness areas in the latest revision of the forest plan, but this has proved to be controversial for local governments. Members of Macon County’s Board of Commissioners recently refused to support the proposed revisions to the forest and chose rather to affirm a 2014 resolution that would oppose any additions to wilderness areas. Nicholas said that this controversy is all part of the drafting process.

“People can get somewhat polarized… that is absolutely part of the process,” Nicholas said. “When the (Pisgah/Nantahala Forest management plan) draft comes out there are going to be no surprises.”

Panelists were also questioned on possible damage that is being done to mountain aquatic organisms particularly by invasive species.

“We’ve got a series of issues,” Warburton said. “In our reservoirs white perch, alewife hydrilla, bluebacks herring and spotted bass (are under threat). These are issues caused by people moving fish around… it’s sort of like the globalization of our species’.”

Nicholas also stressed the danger of these non-native species.

“Invasives I think are one of the biggest ecological game changers we are going to see in the next 30 to 40 years,” Nicholas said. “There is really no way we can treat the literally hundreds and hundreds of acres that these species dominate.”

Warburton also discussed the dangers of feral animals to the environment.

“We are running into (problems with feral animals) here to,” Warburton said. “It’s a tricky situation. They can have impacts that a normal natural predator would not have.

More local concerns regarding conservation were also discussed in the panel including the recent debate over whether to develop on Collier Woods, a patch of urban forest land on the south side of Asheville. Simmons said that Collier is a prime example of how the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department works with local communities.

“It’s very challenging in terms of how we manage (balancing public concerns). We try to sit down and think what is best for the overall community. We are an environmental community that takes the area’s very seriously in term of the natural environment and how we sustain it,” Simmons said. “Over the past 10 years it has been our intent to plan more on a regional basis. You’ll see that a lot going forward.”

Warburton and Nicholas believe that there is significant public misunderstanding on who owns public land and how it is managed which can lead to tension and debate.

“The truth is we really can’t strike a balance with this stuff,” Nicholas said. “People hold their needs and wants and desires so closely.”

“There are a lot of different public landowners and each of these places have different purposes and missions,” Warburton said. “State parks are more recreationally oriented.”

All the panelists agreed that there was more pressure on public lands to serve multiple purposes for citizens.

“Access is a big thing everywhere,” Nicholas said. “Think of the forest service as a Monroe shock absorber we are constantly contracting and expanding in order to give someone a better ride. There is a suite of things the forest service is tasked with managing.”

The panel was also opened up to a question and answer session from the audience. Persons in attendance asked various questions ranging from how the panelist reach out to underrepresented groups to the general purpose of the forest service.

All the panelist stressed the importance of community engagement in support of their respective organizations. Simmons says that engagement with disenfranchised communities in the Asheville area is of particular concern for the Asheville Parks Department.

“What we are trying to do now is move to more of an engagement process where citizens are determining together as a community what they would like to see as opposed to the staff simply coming back and saying ‘here’s your choices’” Simmons said. “We are starting new initiatives like open city halls and a WordClouds on our website.”

Nicholas has come to view this community engagement as one of North Carolina’s greatest assets.

“One of the opportunities I see in North Carolina is how much people love this place,” Nicholas said. “The truly unique character it has leads a lot of folks to want it to be protected and managed and maintained.”

Carrboro Board of Alderman

Developer’s complaint to cost schools, community millions

By Ari Sen

Ask any high school or college student and they’ll tell you that one late paper or homework assignment doesn’t carry to large a penalty. Ten points off or perhaps the difference between an A and a B.

But one local apartment owner’s late paperwork might have led to proposed legislation that could cost local schools and taxpayers millions of dollars.

The bills, House Bill 406 and House Bill 436, would eliminate impact fees for municipalities across the state. HB 406 specifically targets impact fees for Orange County whereas HB 436 would ban the fees in several municipalities including Carrboro, Cary, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Raleigh and Wake Forrest. HB 436 also applies to Catawba, Chatam and Orange counties.

“It’s probably a good sign in that there’s not a whole bunch of people signing onto these and saying, yes, we support this,” Orange County Rep. Graig Meyer said in a Board of Commissioners meeting.

Despite Meyer’s comments, both bills have cleared their first procedural hurdles by making it to the finance committee of the General Assembly. Seils said they were told it was unlikely the bills would be voted on this week, but they could move to the House floor as soon as next week.

Impact fees are fees paid by developers to the local town or county government that help to fund social programs such as infrastructure projects or schools. Orange County currently receives $2.8 million in revenue from these impact fees, which goes to support both Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools. Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools budget is roughly $144 million for the 2017-2018 school year whereas the smaller Orange County public schools requested roughly $44.5 million for the 2017 fiscal year. Alderman Damon Seils said the only ways the county could make up the lost funding is by cutting spending or raising property taxes by at least two cents.

“If we are looking at a shortfall caused by loss of revenues we are talking about needing to make up that revenue some other way, notably by increasing property taxes,” Seils said.

“Of course the community is not going to support cutting spending—that would be a pretty major hit on the school system.”

Seils said the bills were likely brought on by a single development in Orange County. Orange County Rep. Verla Insko told the News and Observer that the development in question is likely the Chapel Hill complex currently known as Townhouse.

Townhouse apartments are currently owned by A.P. Segar, and are located on Hillsborough Street, roughly a half a mile from downtown Chapel Hill. In 2014 Segar submitted a proposal to update the apartment complex, adding additional recreation facilities and 204 new beds putting the total for the facility up to 850. The complex would also be renamed, changing from Townhouse to Grove Park.

The impact fees increased for some developers recently when the town underwent its re-evaluation process which became active on January 1. After the re-evaluation, Grove Park’s impact fees would rise from roughly $300,000 to more than $1 million.

The Orange County commissioners passed a grandfather clause that would cover Grove Park and other developments from the new impact fees, but only if they were to submit the paperwork on time, which Seils believes Grove Park didn’t.

After the late filing, Segar hired four lobbyists including former lawmaker and attorney Bill Faison. Documents show that Faison lobbied the bills’ primary sponsor, House Speaker Pro-Tempore Sarah Stevens.

“I think you have to look at who benefits from (the bills),” Seils said. “In this case who introduced the bill, who was lobbying for the bill, who benefits if the bill passes.”

Campaign finance reports show that Stevens accepted campaign contributions from real estate and construction companies that opposed impact fees in the past. Stevens also operates S&E Properties, a Mt. Airy real estate leasing and rental company, with her husband.

Both Chapel Hill and Carrboro have spoken out against the bills. Carrboro’s resolution opposing the bill was drafted by the Triangle J Council of Governments, a group of local governments, stakeholders and partners that attempt to solve problems in the Triangle region. Triangle J said the bills could cause up approximately $28.9 million in lost revenue across the region.

“That really affects rural communities that use this revenue particularly for infrastructure and it does not spare communities that are Republican-led or Democrat-led—progressive or conservative it doesn’t matter,” Carrboro Alderman Bethany Chaney said in Tuesday night’s work session. “Everything really is damaged by this bill and we think because the regional impact is so great and our region is interdependent we need to support our colleagues’ cause to let these bills fail at the NC General Assembly.”

Seils feared that the bills represent an attack on Orange County and its values.

“In the case of this impact fee bill it’s pretty clear based on the history of the bill that it was meant to benefit particular people,” Seils said. “It had a very clear motive.”


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