JOINT PUBLIC HEARING OF THE CHAPEL HILL TOWN COUNCIL
AND THE ORANGE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2000 AT 7:00 P.M.
Moses Carey, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, opened the public hearing at 7:00 p.m.
Town of Chapel Hill elected officials present were: Mayor Rosemary Waldorf; Mayor pro tem Lee Pavão; Council Members Flicka Bateman, Joyce Brown, Pat Evans, Kevin Foy, Bill Strom, Jim Ward, and Edith Wiggins.
Orange County elected officials present were: Chair Moses Carey; Orange County Commissioners Margaret Brown, Alice Gordon, Steve Halkiotis, and Barry Jacobs.
Town of Chapel Hill staff members present: Town Manager Cal Horton, Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, Assistant Town Managers Sonna Loewenthal and Florentine Miller, Planning Director Roger Waldon, Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson, Assistant to the Town Manager Bill Stockard, and Acting Town Clerk Toni Pendergraph.
Orange County staff present: County Manager John Link, County Attorney Geoffrey Gledhill, and County Planning Director Craig Benedict.
Item 1 – Greene Tract – Application for Zoning Atlas Amendment
Chairman Carey emphasized that the public hearing would involve only the rezoning of 60 acres of the 169-acre Greene Tract. He explained that the soon-to-be completed environmental assessment would determine which 60 acres would be most suitable for rezoning. Chairman Carey stated that the assessment would be completed prior to the Chapel Hill Town Council’s next meeting.
Chairman Carey said that after the public hearing the Town Council would refer this item to the Town Manager and Town Attorney. He explained that the Commissioners would refer it to their Planning Board for recommendations. Chairman Carey added that if comments were made in the first public hearing that relate to the second public hearing they would automatically be included in the record for the second hearing.
Chapel Hill Planning Director Roger Waldon explained that the application was to rezone the Greene Tract from its existing category (rural transition) to the materials handling district category. Displaying the Greene Tract on a map, Mr. Waldon explained that various uses were being discussed in conjunction with the Master Plan. He noted that the purpose of the hearing was to rezone a 60-acre portion, which would allow that portion to be used for solid waste management purposes.
Mr. Waldon presented a schedule of key dates for the process:
· Tonight: Joint Public Hearing.
· Feb, 29th County Commissioners meet to discuss “Which 60 acres?”
· March 6th Chapel Hill Town Council meet to discuss “Which 60 acres?” and to consider action on rezoning and to consider action on the amendment regarding buffers
· March 7 Carrboro Board of Aldermen meet to discuss “Which 60 acres?”
· Final Step Action by Board of County Commissioners on rezoning application.
Mr. Waldon said that the expectation is that the Council would have an option to rezone a sixty-acre portion of the Greene Tract. He added that the Council would also have an option to take unilateral action on the buffer regulations for the materials handling district.
Mr. Waldon pointed out that the Commissioners and Council Members had a memorandum that explained that the materials handling district allows a range of uses that are permitted by Chapel Hill’s ordinance. He explained that if the property were rezoned to this materials handling district the property owner could apply for approval of those uses, which do not include landfilling.
Mr. Waldon noted that the Town had received a valid protest petition from property owners surrounding this site. He stated that this dictates an affirmative vote of seven out of nine Council Members to act affirmatively on this application.
Council Member Joyce Brown requested that two documents be entered into the record to be included in the later discussion:
(a) The October 19, 1995 recommendation to the Landfill Owners Group, signed by Gertrude Nunn, Judy Nunn Snipes, Roger Snipes, Ashley Nunn, Irving Nunn, Larry Reid, George Griffin, Joyce Brown, Jacquie Gist, and Don Wilhoit. She noted that this document listed the conditions under which the Neville Tract would be purchased. Council Member Brown stated that the document mentions the Greene Tract, and states that there is a prohibition against any type of dumping or storage.
(b) The November 13, 1995 Council resolution authorizing the Chapel Hill Town Manager to utilize the Landfill Land Reserve Fund to purchase the property known as the Neville Tract.
Chapel Hill Director of Solid Waste Management Gayle Wilson gave the applicant’s presentation. He explained that the basis for the rezoning request was that it was part of the Interlocal Agreement, which is a contract between the three governments to transfer solid waste management responsibilities to Orange County. Mr. Wilson said that rezoning was the only issue remaining before the Agreement could be fully implemented.
Mr. Wilson commented that although the rezoning request was for the entire tract, ultimately only 60 acres would be rezoned. He explained that two surveys (a biological resources survey, and a cultural and archeological survey) had been initiated, and he passed out copies of the completed Cultural Resource Survey by TRC Garrow and Associates. Mr. Wilson reported that the biological resources survey had not been completed. He distributed an interim report, and said that the final report would be available in a few weeks.
Mr. Wilson explained that specific steps had been taken to establish a timeline for providing water services to the Rogers Road community. He added that a draft proposal of that timeline would be available on or about March 1st.
Mayor Rosemary Waldorf asked Mr. Wilson where people would be able to obtain the information about water services on Rogers Road when it is ready on March 1st. Commissioner Carey replied that the information would be available at the County Clerk’s and the County Manager’s offices.
Chapel Hill Planning Board Chair Gay Eddy stated that the Board had voted (6-1) to recommend that the application for the rezoning be denied. She reported that the Board felt the application was premature, uncertain, and vague. Ms. Eddy said that the Board could not see how this piece of property was going to be used, and they could not see how the solid waste goals of the Comprehensive Plan could justify rezoning that land to the materials handling district at this time.
Specifically, Ms. Eddy said, the Board wondered why the Town had been asked to look at rezoning more than 60 acres. They also wondered why the Town was not being told exactly which 60 acres would be rezoned, what would be located there, and why the rezoning was being requested before overall solid waste management plans have been determined.
Commissioner Carey noted that the proposal was not to rezone more than 60 acres of the site. He stated that the public hearing was on the entire site because of the reasons that had just been explained relating to environmental and cultural surveys. Commissioner Carey added that the Board would identify the specific 60 acres prior to any action.
Heather Mills, Principal Investigator for TRC Garrow and Associates, stated that her firm had conducted the Cultural Resource Survey of the entire 169 acres. She said that they had identified two low-density prehistoric sites, which were not significant because they would not produce any additional information if studied.
Ms. Mills said that her firm also found two historic sites represented by foundations. One, in the center of the tract, had been called the Byrd farmhouse, she explained, but they cannot establish exactly when it was constructed (probably between 1870-1910). Ms. Hills reported that there were intact, archeological deposits around that house, such as a well and a remnant kitchen hearth.
Ms. Mills explained that the other site, referred to in deeds as the Rebecca N. Johnston pots house, was located along a stream to the south of the Byrd farm, adjacent to an unused access road that had been overgrown. She said that there are pots in that house dating back to 1879, but they had not determined exactly when the house was constructed. Ms. Mills explained that the house is represented by a foundation, with no other features nearby. It does have intact archeological deposits and has been left undisturbed, she said.
Ms. Mills recommend either leaving those two sites undisturbed or having other cultural resource studies done if they fall in the desired 60-acre tract. She noted that there also were four isolated finds, which were single artifacts that do not represent archeological sites.
Mr. Joel Potter, Principal Investigator with Robert J. Goldstein & Associates, Inc., reported that his firm had only one day on the site, but had walked the boundaries and streams and had mapped out the areas. Using overhead slides, Mr. Potter showed where the streams drained off, where the wetlands were, and which areas contained the hardwoods. From an ecological perspective, he said, the northern area and the lower eastern side would be the most valuable. He added that about one to five acres of wetlands down in the southern part would be suitable for some of the County’s rare species.
Orange County Commissioner Alice Gordon stated that someone should make it clear to the public why they were having this hearing on rezoning before the exact 60 acres have been determined. Commissioner Carey replied that the public hearing had been required by the Joint Planning Agreement and by the Chapel Hill planning and rezoning process. He asked Mr. Waldon to comment on that process.
Mr. Waldon explained that the Town’s touchstone on this issue was the Interlocal Agreement that had been negotiated and executed by the three parties. He noted that that Agreement prescribed the transfer of sixty acres of the Greene Tract to the County for possible solid waste management. Mr. Waldon added that another part of the Agreement calls for rezoning of that property in a manner that would allow a materials handling use. In order to do that, he said, the parties have to go through a joint planning process because the Greene Tract is in the joint planning area. Mr. Waldon stated that the sequence was set up to allow time to meet deadlines and to accomplish the Interlocal Agreement. Along the way, he explained, issues were raised that led the Commissioners to request the two studies to get more information.
David Godschalk, a 35-year resident of Chapel Hill, stated that this potentially “unwise decision” had the feeling of a “done deal.” He argued that the proposal to rezone 60 acres of prime, developable land for an industrial, solid waste handling facility instead of a future walkable Chapel Hill neighborhood is neither smart growth nor sustainable development. Mr. Godschalk stressed that the priority ought to be neighborhoods for people and not for industrial materials handling.
Mr. Godschalk said that this would be inconsistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan and that the area could be an ideal transit-oriented, mixed-use development site. He added that citizens, if shown pictures of these two alternatives, would choose the development over the transfer station. Mr. Godschalk asked the Council and Commissioners to use their common sense and reject the proposal.
Kenneth Rudo, a Eubanks Road resident, gave a series of public health reasons against rezoning the tract. He said that rezoning would be “amoral and shameful,” arguing that elected officials should not have the right to make a decision that would pose a health risk to their fellow citizens. Mr. Rudo stated that both sides of the landfill might have contaminated drinking well water, with carcinogenic and chlorinated solvents at levels posing a health risk. He said that there might also be gasoline, MTBE in particular, in the wells on Rogers Road.
Mr. Rudo pointed out that strong odors emanating from the landfill are making residents ill, including his own daughter. He expressed amazement that officials would consider voting to rezone this area, given all they know about how exposures to toxic odors and contaminated drinking water has affected those who live near the landfill. He wondered how they could consider putting the health of the neighborhood at further risk merely to fulfill an agreement.
Mr. Rudo suggested that it would be inadvisable to rezone this tract because there is a health document in his Department with the State that claims that agents in odors such as these pose a health risk to humans. He noted that there are laws that allow the State Health Department to close a facility that poses an imminent public health risk. Mr. Rudo pointed out that the State could close any installation the County put in there. He asked the Officials to think about how they would feel if they had to smell the overpoweringly noxious odors day in and day out while also knowing that their water was contaminated. Mr. Rudo said that the Town had run roughshod over these folks for many years, and suggested that the Council not make it worse.
Mr. Rudo said that he had known several of the Council Members and the Mayor for many years and had never seen them do anything that would put citizens’ health at risk. He asked them to continue with that record.
Council Member Bateman asked Mr. Rudo if the same harmful health effects that are occurring from the landfill would occur from a transfer station or MIRF site. Mr. Rudo replied that it would depend on what they put on the site, adding that the boundaries of what could and could not be put there had not been defined in any clear manner. He added that an incinerator would exacerbate the problem. Mr. Rudo noted that this was citizens’ last chance to oppose the station. He pointed out that the County could put anything there it wanted if the Town Council rezoned it.
Commissioner Carey said that he did not think that materials handling included burial of any kind. He added that he had heard no discussion from anyone about incineration being considered for the site. Commissioner Carey added that he had not heard of incineration being discussed for anywhere in the County, for that matter.
Carole Crumley, an anthropology professor at UNC and a member of the Shaping Orange County’s Future Citizens Committee, said she had been teaching a course to twelve advanced undergraduates and graduate students on “the evolution of landscapes.” She said that the course concentrated on a single landscape element that can be traced through time—the dump. Ms. Crumley said that at the end of the semester students will make their report available to Orange County citizens, County and Town elected officials, and staff. She said that a few of her students would be offering some results of their research tonight.
Mark Pettit, a UNC student, discussed his class’s research project, which he explained was focused on people rather than trash. He said the purpose of the project was to understand the context in which waste disposal decisions have been made. Mr. Pettit reviewed how the New Hope community had lived for thirty years with the burden of the County’s solid waste. He said that expanding that burden with another waste site would be one more step toward the disintegration of that historic community. Mr. Pettit added that Shaping Orange County’s Future is interested in the concept of community building but recognizes that you need not tear a community apart in order to build another one.
Rebekah Asbury, a graduate student in the ecology curriculum at UNC, referred to a report by the Triangle Land Conservancy entitled “Rating Land in Orange County by its Wildlife Value.” She pointed out that the Green Tract falls into the third highest ratings category as being a valuable resource for maintaining wildlife habitat. She said that it seems especially crucial that the results of the Environmental Impact Study be made available to all stakeholders as soon as possible and that everyone gives special weight to those results. Ms. Asbury added that an important ecological question to ask is whether rezoning 60 acres of the Greene Tract would allow Orange County to maintain its (“declining”) value as a landscape with wildlife.
Donna P. Rogers, who is on an academic sabbatical from the EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards and working on a masters degree in Environmental Management at Duke University, recommended using the Greene Tract for environmental education. She suggested building an outdoor classroom there--complete with nature trails, tree identification tags, butterfly gardens, and wildflower beds. Ms. Rogers noted that this would give children an environmental education that would instill in them a sense to preserve, conserve and sustain the earth for their children.
Jo Ann Garvin, a graduate student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC, spoke about environmental justice. Even though only one percent of waste is toxic, she said, it is frightening to have one percent of thousands of tons in your back yard. Ms. Garvin noted that rezoning the tract would be one way to solve solid waste problem, but it would add to the burden that the Rogers Road residents have carried for the rest of the Town. She said that she had trusted Town leaders 30 years ago when they promised that there would be a park there when the landfill was covered over. She pointed out that the “unwanted land use” had been placed in a small neighborhood of people who are poor and mostly black.
Ms. Garvin pointed out that a transfer station only needs 10 acres and wondered why that could only be found in the same neighborhood as the landfill. She said that the Town’s greatest need is to do what is right. Ms. Garvin expressed understanding that Officials thought that they had no choice. But, she said, “when they are about to do a terrible injustice there is always another choice.”
Jordy Koski, a senior anthropology student, said that he was troubled by ambiguities in the process. He stated that questions that had arisen from these ambiguities should be answered before a decision is made. Mr. Koski asked why is the County was asking for 60 acres when its own waste management consultant found that a transfer station only requires ten to twelve acres? He also noted that dumping is found much more often adjacent to minority neighborhoods, and suggested that it would better fit the Town’s sense of equity to halt this practice. Mr. Koski asked wouldn’t it be better to defer judgement until all stakeholders have had a chance to review and reflect upon the information that had recently been gathered. He suggested that the Greene Tract be taken out of the Interlocal Agreement and that the Town Council obtain more information about the land in their consideration of this process.
Ms. B. J. Norwood displayed the inhalers and medicines that she used, perhaps because of arsenic in her water, she said. Ms. Norwood noted that for many years much of the landfill had not been regulated and was not lined. She asked for compassion from public officials, and requested that they not use the Greene Tract in the proposed manner.
Ms. Norwood said that the land had been promised as sanctuary. She pointed out that there are white tail hawks and alligator snapping turtles there, neither of which is indigenous to the area. She said that the neighborhood needed something from the Town which said “you people have suffered enough.”
Reverend Robert Campbell, a Rogers Road neighborhood resident, stated that the elected officials have a responsibility to change the “game” that was started many years ago regarding the landfill. He said that the neighborhood is concerned about unseen harmful effects, such as rodents, buzzards, early morning noise, and trucks that violate the speed limit and drop trash everywhere. Reverend Campbell asked the Council to visit the area at length before making a decision.
Robert Cox, a thirty-year resident of Orange County and a former president of the Sierra Club, spoke against the proposed rezoning request on the grounds that it would be premature, unwise, and unjust. He said that there had not been enough time to look at other proposed uses for that land, and to determine what would be the highest and best use. Mr. Cox said that rezoning would not only be unwise but would be a potentially inequitable resolution of both housing and solid waste management in the County. He suggested that Officials slow down and take the time to act with prudence and equity.
Sally Council noted that two families (the Nunns and the Blackwoods) had made room for all who have come here, and at an enormous price. She noted that the landfill was built in the middle of their neighborhood 28 years ago. Since then, Ms. Council pointed out, the population of Orange County has grown from 58,000 to 110,000 and the population of Chapel Hill and Carrboro has increased from 29,000 to 60,000. She argued that no other neighborhood has absorbed the rest of the County’s debris like those along Eubanks and Rogers Roads.
Ms. Council reviewed the history of the Greene Tract, and stated that it was not clear what it was being asked to handle. She said that if the Council approved the rezoning the Greene Tract would again be marked in a way that no other tract in the County is. Ms. Council asked Council members how they were able to commit to an action that requires a public hearing without first holding the public hearing. She asked the Commissioners how they could make this resolution a condition of transfer before holding a public hearing. She asked if by signing a prior agreement the two bodies had already decided the outcome of the hearing, and, if so, why were they all there?
Ms. Council questions if the process was legal, asking why is the process not arbitrary and unduly discriminatory. She added that it would be just as bad to go back over to the inactive landfill on Eubanks Road because those who live near one live near the other and they deserve a chance to recover. Ms. Council said that using this land for a transfer station closes hope for better uses. She said that the Council’s assurances are empty without its vote for denial, which would be the last chance to change directions.
Fred Simon, who lives within 1,000 feet of the Greene Tract, requested answered to the following:
· What exactly is a a materials handling district?
· What are the materials?
· Are they toxic, sooty, and/or smelly?
· Do they attract big birds, or mice, or breed mosquitoes?
· Is the material large, small, wet, or dry?
· Would it be permanently or briefly stashed on the site?
· Inside or outside?
· What kind of building is proposed?
· Would the building be noisy?
· Would it have bright lights?
· What about the impact on traffic?
· Why does the County need sixty acres?
· How will this facility affect nearby neighborhoods?
· Could the land be put to a better more productive use as a revenue-producing asset or a recreational area?
· How does the proposal fit in with the Northwest Area Development Plan?
Mr. Simon suggested that the elected officials take care not to squander a long-term resource for a short-term accommodation.
Janice Putnam reported that many who live near the landfill had not received notification of the meeting, probably due to the snowstorm. Noting that residents had filed a protest petition, Ms. Putnam said that the Governor’s office had announced that the State needs a million acres of greenspace. She pointed out that this would mean about 1,000 acres per county.
Ms. Putnam explained that water line construction on Rogers Road is long overdue, but added that, in fairness, everyone equidistant to the landfill should have a water line provided to them. She asked why the buffer could not be enlarged to 200-500 feet if 10-12 acres is all that is needed for materials handling. Ms. Putnam asked people in the audience to hold up their sheets of paper which read “No Materials Handling.” Ms. Putnam commented that there would be a fight if the Commissioners did not change their vote on this issue.
Judy Nunn Snipes, speaking for her mother Gertrude Nunn and the rest of her family in the Eubanks/Rogers Road neighborhood, stated that her family had carried the burden of the landfill since 1972. She said that she had been barred from building a home on 200 acres of land that had been in her family since 1862. Ms. Nunn said that this was environmentally unjust, and asked the Town Council not to rezone the area and to correct the wrongs of the past.
Commissioner Carey restated his opinion that a materials handling facility would not include burial on the site.
Scott Radway, who had helped the City of Durham with its landfill research, said that he was not opposed to these materials handling activities per se, but asked if placing a facility on the Greene Tract would be the best use of that property. He commented that there must be better and more socially correct locations. Mr. Radway criticized the process and recommended bringing back a plan for Town review rather than putting the burden on the Town Manager to defend the decision.
Chapel Hill resident and social activist Ruby Seinreich labeled the decision to rezone the land as environmental racism. She said that if the Town Council were really concerned about the landfill’s neighbors, there would be no reason to sign the agreement. Ms. Seinreich asked the Council to make a decision that does not further burden the Rogers Road neighborhood with waste.
Dawn Gerakaris, a Bilabong Lane resident, asked the Council to be “good stewards of God’s county,” and to consider how they would vote if this land were their children’s inheritance, if the Town were about to build a materials handling district in their backyards.
Alvin Scott, who lives at the west boundary of the Greene Tract, described it as odd that this is the only location that could be found in such a large county to build a materials handling facility. He stated that there had been no effort to find another location, such as in the middle of some 40-acre farm where it would hardly bother anybody compared to the numbers who would be affected around the Greene Tract area.
Mr. Scott said that he had visited a similar transfer station in Durham, and expressed doubt that many Council members had done so. He said that the Durham facility hauls 1,000 tons per day out of that area, which means 286,000 tons a year. Mr. Scott said it costs them $500,000 per month to do this, and added that it would be expensive even if they put a MIRF station in there and eliminated the recyclables.
Mr. Scott asked why the Town would even consider allowing this facility in the midst of a heritage class of people, on a valuable piece of property that could have much better uses. He noted that it is in the middle of a residential area, which includes $300,000 homes that were recently built based on the promise that the Eubanks landfill was ending.
Warren J. Harding criticized the Chapel Hill news media for not having done a better job of alerting those outside the immediate neighborhood about this resolution. He said that he had gotten his information from the Raleigh News and Observer. He noted that there were plans for 287 homes at Parkside II, which would be within the 1,000 feet of the proposed station.
Mr. Harding stated that it was true that a transfer station is not a landfill—because landfills are lined. He said that he could not see how the Town could keep toxic materials out of the water supply, and asked if the FAA had been notified that a transfer station was being considered near the Horace Williams Airport. Mr. Harding noted that his concerns were minor compared to the complaints of those on Rogers Road. He implored the Town Council to vote against the rezoning.
Martin Rody said that the Northwest Area Plan, which he helped to develop, intended to have a nucleus of development in one location, which would be served by mass transit. He explained that the Greene Tract is in the middle of that planned neoclassical town. Mr. Rody recalled that developers of the Northwest Area Plan tried to be fiscally responsible and concentrated development in that location because it could be served by transit sometime in the future. Because of the density and diversity of activity that would happen there, he explained, the land would become very valuable.
Mr. Rody argued that Chapel Hill needs something other than residential properties in its tax base because residents of Chapel Hill cannot afford more residential development. He stated that the Town needs diversity in the tax base, adding that the only way to achieve this is by increasing the density. Mr. Rody pointed out that many organizations in Town and the County could use this land for other purposes. He asked Council members to stick with the plan and to try and develop it so that it becomes an asset to the community.
Larry Reid stated that the question of why the Town is rezoning this property for a materials handling station had not been adequately answered and justified.
Watts Scott, whose property is attached to the south end of the Greene Tract, explained that he had lived there since 1959, when it was called “the Byrd Tract.” He recalled that Mr. Greene had wanted to develop that tract and was turned down by the County Commissioners. He said that the Town had then purchased it and changed its name to the Greene Tract.
Mr. Scott stated that he is 83 years old. He said that he had been fighting against landfills for the last 28 years, adding that his neighborhood had been held in captivity by County and Town governments. He asked the Town to release them from captivity and to allow them to have an opportunity to enjoy some of the things that Council Members are enjoying far away from garbage facilities.
Louis Taff, who is a new Chapel Hill resident, noted that the Interlocal Agreement seems to be the source of pressure to adopt this resolution. He read a section from the Agreement which he said he found “most objectionable”: “The County will have ongoing authority and ability in its discretion to administer and operate the system in accordance with the solid waste management plan and policies and to determine and modify the solid waste plan and policies from time to time.”
Mr. Taff said that this basically meant that the Town would not care what the County does on that land. He noted that the Agreement also says, “the County shall acquire real and personal property as it deems appropriate for system purposes…There shall be no restrictions on the County’s acquisition of additional acreage at the existing landfill.” Mr. Taff asked why this had been adopted and why there had been no public hearing.
Comments by Elected Officials
Council Member Brown stated that the rezoning of the Greene Tract for materials handling is clearly in conflict with the previous Neville Tract Agreement, copies of which she distributed. She said that it seemed clear that people in the immediate neighborhood and throughout the County were opposed to the rezoning.
Council Member Brown added that it also seemed clear that most people would like to see a portion of the Greene Tract remain as a natural area. She suggested removing the Greene Tract from the Interlocal Agreement, going forth with the transfer of solid waste activities to the County, and dropping the rezoning application.
COUNCIL MEMBER PAVAO MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNCIL MEMBER EVANS, TO RECESS THE PUBLIC HEARING AND TO REFER ALL COMMENTS TO THE TOWN MANAGER AND TOWN ATTORNEY. THE MOTION WAS ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY (9-1).
COUNTY COMMISSIONER ALICE GORDON MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNTY COMMISSIONER BARRY JACOBS, TO REFER ALL COMMENTS TO THE ORANGE COUNTY PLANNING BOARD FOR A RECOMMENDATION, TO COME BACK NO LATER THAN MARCH 14, 2000.
Commissioner Carey said that this concluded the County Commissioners’ participation tonight, since they were not required to be part of the second public hearing. He added, though, that Commissioners could stay if they wished.
Item 2 - Public Hearing on a Development Ordinance
Text Amendment: Materials Handling District Bufferyard
Mr. Waldon explained that one district in the Chapel Hill’s Development Ordinance is called “the materials handling district,” which has in its definition a description of required buffers. He said that the current language calls for a 200-foot landscaped bufferyard around the perimeter of any such facility. Mr. Waldon explained that the current proposal was to change that to a 100-foot buffer between any proposed materials handling facility and any adjacent residential land use. He said that the staff’s preliminary recommendation was to adopt the amendment.
Planning Board Chair Gay Eddy reported that the Board had voted (7-0) to change the buffer to 100 feet, but suggested that it be 100 feet around the entire materials handling district, just as it is for everything else in its Development Ordinance. Ms. Eddy reported that the Board had been especially concerned about preserving all of the options on the railroad track.
Reverend Robert Campbell asked why the Town would want to diminish a buffer that had been designed to contain a specific area. He requested that the buffer remain as it is on the books, and asked Officials to explain why they wanted to change it. Reverend Campbell noted that residents, again, did not have enough information to make an educated statement about this issue.
Janice Putnam stated that the 200-foot buffer would not be deep enough, and suggested that it be 500 feet. She stated that the neighborhood had filed a petition asking that the buffer be 200-feet or larger, even though they oppose any rezoning of the Greene Tract.
Arlin Scott stated that there had been 300 feet of buffer when he moved to the west side of the Green Tract. He pointed out that he did not have enough information to know whether he was going to have a buffer next to his house or not. Mr. Scott said that if the County cannot find any other place to put the waste disposal then he would ask that the buffer be wider than 200 feet.
Judy Nunn Snipes explained that the Neville Tract was a huge hole in the earth where dirt had been removed to cover the present landfill. She said that 200 feet would not be enough of a buffer, adding that she could not say what would be enough to protect her family, which is surrounded by an inactive landfill, an active landfill, and a Duke Power substation. Ms. Snipes asked Council members to have empathy and not consider building the station on the Greene Tract.
Scott Radway questioned the language, which says that no landscaped bufferyard was required for non-residential uses, specifically including railroad corridors. He said that this would be “illogical,” given the amount of interest there is in Town in using the rail corridor for passengers, bike paths, wildlife, and other activities. Mr. Radway asked how the Town would reconcile single-family uses having to have a great buffer to protect the corridor at the same time that it would say that we can despoil the area between an industrial use and the rail corridor.
Mr. Radway asked what “non-residential land use” means, adding that he assumed it means that whoever is in charge of the facility there would have the right to clear-cut to the property line. He suggested that the Council rethink what they want to buffer from what and not use the term “non-residential,” which would include everything other than residential.
Larry Reid explained that, as a building contractor, he was angry because the Council would “laugh out of the room” any contractor who asked for these regulations. He asked the Council who was “holding the gun” to their heads. Mr. Reid stated that he had trouble understanding how elected officials could let this be done to them. He said that he felt as though his intelligence was being insulted, and said that he hoped Council members felt the same way.
Council Member Bateman requested that one of the County Commissioners explain why the buffer should be reduced to 100 feet and why it should not be around the entire site. Commissioner Carey replied that the County Commissioners had wanted to ensure that they had as much of the site as possible available for use. He added that having the buffer along the railroad would preclude the potential use of the railroad for shipping and handling if the County chose to use the site for a materials handling facility. Commissioner Carey also said that a 200-foot buffer would require that 50-60% of the site not be used.
Council Member Foy suggested hearing from the staff when this comes back about whether the Council needs to change the buffer in order to go forward with the Interlocal Agreement or whether this portion could be delayed until after they make the other decisions and the Agreement is fully implemented. Council Member Foy said that it would be useful, once the 60-acre parcel had been identified, for the County and staff to look specifically at that parcel on a map and see how the 200-foot, 100-foot, and no buffer at all would work.
COUNCIL MEMBER FOY MOVED, SECONDED BY COUNCIL MEMBER WARD, TO REFER COMMENTS TO THE TOWN MANAGER AND THE TOWN ATTORNEY. THE MOTION WAS ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY (9-0).
The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.