SUMMARY MINUTES OF A SPECIAL MEETING
OF THE CHAPEL HILL TOWN COUNCIL
MONDAY, MARCH 21, 2005 AT 7:00 P.M.
Mayor pro tem Edith Wiggins called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.
Council members present were Sally Greene, Ed Harrison, Cam Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt, Dorothy Verkerk, and Jim Ward.
Mayor Kevin Foy was absent, excused.
Council Member Bill Strom was absent, excused.
Staff members present were Town Manager Cal Horton, Deputy Town Manager Florentine Miller, Assistant Town Manager Bruce Heflin, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, Town Information Officer Catherine Lazorko, Parks and Recreation Director Bill Webster, and Deputy Town Clerk Sandy Cook.
Item 1 – Proposal to Commit Funding for a Multi-Jurisdictional Purchase
of Property Adjacent to Erwin Road and Pickett Road
Mr. Horton noted that earlier this year, we had the opportunity to work with Orange County, Durham County, and the City of Durham to pursue the purchase of property on Erwin Road at a point where a portion of the property would be in Orange County and another portion in Durham County. He said the property had been identified in the past as desirable for purchase in part by Orange County, noting that part of the land adjoins the New Hope corridor area.
Mr. Horton said that based on the Council’s discussion we had attended some preliminary meetings with our counterpart managers. He stated that with the Council’s encouragement we had put forth a proposal to attempt to build interest and let the others know of the Council’s interest in potentially acquiring the land. Mr. Horton said what was proposed at that time was that the Council would consider making a $100,000 contribution to the purchase of this larger tract of land, 40 acres altogether.
Mr. Horton commented that at this point Durham County was taking the lead in putting together an overall proposal. Now, he said, there was an opportunity for the purchase to go forward with participation by the Town of Chapel Hill, Orange County and Durham County. Mr. Horton said we hoped that the City of Durham would participate in the purchase as well, although that is not as likely to occur.
Mr. Horton stated that the County of Durham had requested that the Council determine what its level of participation might be by April 1. He stated that the Council did not have a regular business meeting scheduled prior to April 1; therefore, the Council had been requested to conduct this special meeting for consideration. Mr. Horton noted that Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Bill Webster was familiar with the property as well as adjoining property, and was available to answer any questions the Council might have.
Terri Tyson, Vice-Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, urged the Council to contribute to the purchase of the property. She noted the land would be used to preserve open space for public access in a highly populated area, and to create a possible regional park. Ms. Tyson said it could be a successful cooperative effort by four local governments to achieve a goal that would benefit many.
Ms. Tyson said the land was very close to the New Hope Corridor trail system. She noted that the Penny property that does actually connect to the property would be preserved if the purchase was successful. Ms. Tyson said a major entryway into our County was very close to this property, and we have all heard the importance of keeping the entranceways to our towns and counties beautiful, uncluttered, and undeveloped if possible. She commented that preservation of the area as open space would achieve that goal.
Ms. Tyson stated that recently a law was passed that allowed Town Open Space bond funds to be used to purchase land outside the Town limits. She said this would be an ideal use of the funds since many Town residents travel close to that corridor each day. Ms. Tyson said it was perfect timing for this law to be passed, adding that the Triangle Land Conservancy of which she was a member supported the purchase of the land for open space.
Ms. Tyson urged the Town Council to designate Open Space bond funds towards this land purchase, adding she believed it would encourage Orange County to also support this park. She said that together, local governments and residents could work to preserve a wonderful area.
Ms. Tyson said that as Vice-Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, she had introduced a motion at the Commission’s March 16 meeting which was adopted, to support the Manager’s recommendation that the Council indicate its intent to provide $100,000 of Open Space bond funds for the purchase of this land. She said that time was of the essence with the early April deadline fast approaching, and thanked the Council for considering this worthwhile purchase.
COUNCIL MEMBER HARRISON MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNCIL MEMBER HILL, ADOPTION OF RESOLUTION R-1.
Council Member Verkerk commented that the Manager had said there was some reticence by the City of Durham, and asked that he speak to that. Mr. Horton replied that representatives from the City of Durham had expressed concern regarding the ability to allocate a significant sum of money to this particular use in the middle of the year. He said part of the explanation related to budget planning and another part related to their objectives for parks being more clearly focused in the downtown and more heavily developed areas. Mr. Horton said he would not presume to speak for the City of Durham and he did not believe they had taken a final action.
Council Member Verkerk confirmed with Mr. Horton that the property was not on the New Hope Corridor but was adjacent to it.
Council Member Verkerk asked if it would isolate this parcel if the Penny property was not obtained. Mr. Webster said that a portion of the property was included in the New Hope Corridor plan, noting it was the 11 acres located on the Orange County side of the line. He stated the recent development in the proposal to acquire the property that was directly relevant to the New Hope plan was the Penny family’s offer to sell the 25 acres if the purchase goes through. Mr. Webster stated that was critical to the implementation of the New Hope Corridor plan.
Council Member Hill said he had been present at a recent meeting in Durham attended by a Durham County Commissioner, representatives of the Triangle Land Conservancy, some neighbors, and a City of Durham Assistant Manager. He said one of the attractive aspects of the proposal was that given the conservation easement and the purchase from the Penny family, almost 150 acres would be preserved in perpetuity for a cost of a little less than $13,000 per acre.
Council Member Hill said the bulk of the money would go to Duke University and Crosland, Inc., but the important piece of the purchase was that if the local governments step up the Penny family would be willing to sell their property very cheaply and a conservation easement would be placed on the remainder.
Council Member Hill said that at the meeting the Assistant City Manager from Durham had voiced the concern that Mr. Horton had mentioned, as well as concern that developers would “shy away” from Durham for fear of getting developments approved if this one were to be stopped. He commented this was a political question, and he found it difficult to believe that $100,000 was that big of a problem for the City of Durham.
Council Member Hill stated he believed the funds could be paid over a three-year period. And, he stated, a large portion of the funds would potentially be reimbursed from stream conservation funds that were available. Council Member Hill said this was a good thing for us to do, and in the name of intergovernmental cooperation he hoped that by the Town helping out that it would be reciprocated in the future.
Council Member Harrison said he had worked for a long time on issues surrounding the New Hope Corridor, noting he had worked on the original studies for the Corridor. He said he had a series of opinions on this going back to January, adding his opinions had evolved due to the changing circumstances. Council Member Harrison said that under ordinary circumstances he would not agree that the best way to spend our funds was on open space outside the Town limits, or the New Hope Corridor for that matter. But, he noted, what had changed since January was that Duke University was willing to sell and put payment at a three-year period, and the Penny family’s offer to sell. Council Member Harrison noted he had recommended the purchase of this land in 1989 in his report to the Triangle Land Conservancy, and that the Triangle Land Conservancy and Orange County had been attempting to purchase it since that time. He noted that finally, the Penny family had an offer on the table and he hoped they would have an option worked out in the next few days.
Council Member Harrison said another change since January was that the grants that were available, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Environmental Enhancement Program and possibly others, were more real now than before. He said especially worthy of note was the significant citizen effort that had just begun in January and had moved along impressively, including involvement by some Chapel Hill citizens. Council Member Harrison said the biggest battle in terms of getting this to happen would be the City of Durham, and believed that Orange County and Durham County would have some interesting closed sessions on this.
Council Member Harrison said he had made his motion because to make this happen, Chapel Hill needed to “get the ball rolling” tonight, adding it would not happen until one local government made the pledge. He said that circumstances had improved so that he was much more comfortable with this than he was before.
Mayor pro tem Wiggins noted that if Council Member Strom were present, he would be in support of this effort. She said he had just sent word that he was at the airport waiting for his luggage, and would arrive as quickly as possible.
Council Member Ward asked for someone to explain the federal or State grants that might refund or reimburse some of the funds to Chapel Hill, and if it was something that we could realistically anticipate.
Council Member Harrison noted that one would be an application to the Triangle Land Conservancy, but he did not know who the others might be.
Mr. Webster said he did not know who would actually make the application, but one grant source was part of the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, funded through real estate transfer taxes, and another being the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. He said that in both of those cases, he believed this project would have some favor because it was multi-jurisdictional which both of these agencies prefer to see. Mr. Webster said that whether or not they would actually fund it, he did not know. He reiterated that it was “more attractive” when more than one local government was involved.
Council Member Ward echoed previous remarks regarding the advantages of moving forward with the land purchase and cooperating with other jurisdictions. He said the ability to leverage this property with the acquisition of the Penny property both were attractive reasons to go forward.
Council Member Ward expressed concern that the City of Durham had not shown more interest, and would like to hear how other Council members felt about tying the Town’s funds to any contributions coming forth from Orange County and Durham County as being one of the stipulations we would attach to our support. He said another technicality would be a refinement of the resolution in the “Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved” paragraph to add the words “up to” just before the $100,000, so that it would read, “…to provide up to $100,000 to be used….” Council Member Ward said that would create a threshold amount, and asked that it be included in the resolution.
COUNCIL MEMBER WARD OFFERED A FRIENDLY AMENDMENT TO AMEND THE RESOLUTION BY ADDING THE WORDS “UP TO” PRIOR TO $100,000. COUNCIL MEMBER HARRISON ACCEPTED THE FRIENDLY AMENDMENT.
Council Member Hill said as far as tying it to Durham City and Orange County, he did not believe it was necessary because if they failed to participate, the purchase would not happen. He said the only way we would put funds into it was if someone else came up with the remainder of the money. Council Member Hill said in some ways it would be a “bad” idea, noting this was something we were willing to do because of this project. He said if Durham City did not put up the $100,000 he would not be surprised if one of the other participants did so. Council Member Hill said he would not hazard a guess as to what the City of Durham’s motivations were, but he did not see the necessity of tying our funds to others. He reiterated that if the other jurisdictions do not come forward with the funds, the Town would not be out any money.
Council Member Hill said he was only interested in getting their attention in the hopes of increasing the chance that they would contribute financially.
Mr. Horton said one possibility was that if such a proviso were attached, it might make it difficult for someone else to step in as a replacement to Durham City. He said he could imagine a circumstance where Durham City would not be willing to put in the relatively small amount of money suggested for them, and if we had attached a proviso that said only if Durham City was a participant would we put ours in, then someone else may feel that there was no purpose in filling that gap. Mr. Horton said he recommended that such a proviso not be included.
Mr. Horton said he was compelled to offer his assessment that we would never get any of this money back. He said he did not believe there would be any recovery of funds, but it would be a long-term good investment for the community. Mr. Horton reiterated he did not believe the Town would be reimbursed through any source.
Council Member Harrison said that what Mr. Horton had just noted was the reason he had accepted the friendly amendment from Council Member Ward of limit the funding to not more than $100,000, because we needed the flexibility of how much would be contributed.
THE MOTION AS AMENDED WAS ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY (7-0).
A RESOLUTION INDICATING THE COUNCIL’S INTENT TO PROVIDE $100,000 TO BE USED FOR A MULTI-JURISDICTIONAL ACQUISITION OF 42.83 ACRES OF PROPERTY OWNED BY DUKE UNIVERSITY ADJACENT TO ERWIN ROAD AND LOCATED WITHIN BOTH ORANGE AND DURHAM COUNTIES (2005-03-21/R-1)
WHEREAS, a 42.83-acre tract of land straddling the Orange-Durham County line was the subject of a recent subdivision application in Durham County referred to as Erwin Trace; and
WHEREAS, Durham County requested a delay to provide time to review the merits of potential acquisition of the property by the government; and
WHEREAS, this reservation expires after April 8, 2005; and
WHEREAS, the proposed subdivision involves issues related to the Joint Planning Agreement that has been executed by Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro, and issues related to land management in the corridor of New Hope Creek; and
WHEREAS, the Council believes that the property would best serve the needs of the community as open space or a public park; and
WHEREAS, the Council seeks to assist in the acquisition of the property; and
WHEREAS, the City of Durham, Orange County, Durham County, the Erwin Area Neighborhood Group, and other agencies are possible partners in the proposed acquisition;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill that the Council indicates its intention to provide up to $100,000 to be used for the purchase of a 42.83-acre tract from Duke University that is located at the point where Erwin Road crosses from Orange into Durham County, if an agreement can be reached with the other interested local governments for its purchase.
This the 21st day of March, 2005.
The Special Meeting was adjourned at 7:19 p.m.