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Rich, Pease take council seats; Easthom, Harrison re-elected

By Kirk Ross, Staff Writer

In the race for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council, Penny Rich, who ran unsuccessfully two years ago, was the top vote getter, with 4,278 votes. She was followed by incumbents Ed Harrison, who received 4,081 votes, and Laurin Easthom, who received 4,035. The fourth seat on the council was won by Gene Pease, who received 3,794 votes.

Rich follows in a pattern of newcomers as top vote getters, something she’ll share with fellow council members Jim Ward and Laurin Easthom, both of whom topped the polls in their first council races.

Easthom said her win was a vindication of her efforts to spend a lot of time listening to voters concerns rather than developing a hard-and-fast platform and running on it.

Like many of the candidates who spent time in voters’ living rooms, Rich said what she heard from voters was a strong emphasis on fiscal responsibility: “It was said in different ways by different groups of people.”

“People are concerned about money,” she said. “Each and every one of us has had to redo our budgets.”

Voters, Rich said, want to see the council look very hard at its spending.

She said she’d also like to see the town take a hard look at its plans for downtown, including the public-private development planned for the town-owned parking lot on the corner of Church and Rosemary streets.

Rich said voters were concerned with the way growth was happening, especially as the Greenbridge and East 54 developments near completion. Building more luxury condos downtown, she said, doesn’t fit with what voters were saying during the race.

Easthom said she also heard a lot from voters on the way the town was growing. Like Rich, she said Greenbridge and East 54 worried people.

She agreed that the feedback might inspire some changes to the way the town has planned for development. Easthom said she expects the report from the town’s Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force to be a springboard for discussion of an update to growth plans.

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