Ken Larsen's web site - Ephesus-Fordham Redevelopment Project


Bad News:  We lost!

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This is one of many urbanization projects that are recently being launched all over Chapel Hill.  I got interested in this project after learning that it would build 7-story buildings in a nearby flood zone.  That awakened me from a lifetime of apathy about local politics!


The principal drivers behind the urbanization of Chapel Hill are:

I disagree with the torrid pace of their plans and that not enough effort is being spent to ensure that the promised benefits can be delivered.  I worry that traffic will become horrendous, flooding will become more frequent and severe, and the Town will be saddled with a mountain of debt that will have to be relieved by imposing higher taxes.


Main Ephesus-Fordham information

Progress of Ephesus-Fordham Implementation Plan

Background information/Related stories/Commentary

Key info (from Chapel Hill's official town web site)
Affordable Housing
Small business impact

Proposed long term solution

In fairness to the Town Council members, the Town has a precarious financial dilemma:  The University of North Carolina (UNC) and its hospital enjoy non-profit status and as such are exempt from paying property taxes.  They've been buying properties, and with each purchase there becomes less tax paying property.  According to Fred Lampe, UNC currently owns about 40% of the property in Chapel Hill.  My advice is to pursue limiting UNC's non-profit status.  See "Should Nonprofits Pay Property Taxes?" and "Squeezed Cities Ask Nonprofits for More Money".

I have learned that Durham has a novel solution to the mega-nonprofit issue:  They prohibit Duke Hospital from buying off-campus property.  They can only lease it.  Brilliant!  Chapel Hill should consider doing the same.

According to Council member Donna Bell:

  1. UNC has their own police service, so they don't pay Chapel Hill for police service.

  2. UNC has their own recycling program, so they don't pay Chapel Hill for recycling.

  3. UNC had been partners with Chapel Hill in trash pickup.

Bottomline:  UNC doesn't get a totally free ride, but neither are they paying full fare.

For future projects, the Town needs to migrate to 3D design that gives viewers a "virtual reality" way of exploring what has been designed.  Verbal and text descriptions with 2D drawings are woefully inadequate and result in massive misunderstandings and antipathy over what a project will ultimately become.  One product that looks worthy of investigation is SketchUp for Urban Planning.

Another money saver is for towns to do a better job of working together.  There are over 18,000 towns in the United States.  They're all holding meetings just like Chapel Hill - to debate issues like rules for zoning, affordable housing, flood control, traffic, signage, etc.  That's a lot of duplicated effort!  I'm not proposing that all 18,000 towns be identical, but currently there's way too much "re-inventing of the wheel".  That's costly and drives up taxes.

Gearing up for the 2015 election

Turnout for the 2013 Town election was an abysmal 11.72% (click here to see those results).  Apathy in that election was the principal cause of the poor Council decision regarding Ephesus-Fordham.  Let's ensure that apathy doesn't prevail in the 2015 election.  We must vote out those who voted poorly on Ephesus-Fordham.

Ken Larsen's home page

Chapel Hill, Our Town! - Ephesus-Fordham