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Our backyards


Two meetings, two separate issues, but one very common theme: Not. Near. Me.

The public hearings that opened this week on the relocation of the IFC’s Community House in Chapel Hill and the rezoning of a library site on Hillsborough Road in Carrboro were dissimilar in many ways, and yet there were common threads throughout.

Both projects have advocates who have waited decades for this moment and both have detractors who support the idea, just not in the chosen location.

For the most part, the latter group is comprised of residents living in close proximity of the projects’ locations. They offered intense and often passionate remarks about why their neighborhood should not bear the burden. Somewhere else would be better, they said, and provided a few examples.

After reporting on the doings of local government for the better part of the last 20 years, I’ve witnessed these arguments in many forms. Some made sense, some didn’t, but all of them ran up against the undeniable fact that everywhere around here is near somebody’s backyard. I used to joke that if I were to run for municipal office, I’d promise to build a warehouse district and promptly abandon it so that artists and musicians could take over a section for studio space and we could house all those hard-to-site projects in the rest.

But we don’t have an abandoned warehouse district; we have two little towns that in the mid-1980s agreed to limit their growth boundaries and fill in rather than sprawl.

As a result of that policy and this area’s draw, Carrboro has become the densest town in the state and Chapel Hill is not far behind. Both towns tried to suss out rules and direction for their infill, and both run into the inevitable clash of old and new whenever a project is proposed.

The job of those we elect to make these decisions is to make sure what’s being done is fair. They have to strike a balance between the people who live here now and the people who will live here in the years ahead. And they have to balance the needs of the whole community and the desires of those in proximity to the proposed projects.

No matter where you live in this area, change is going to come and something you might not like will be proposed in a place you’ll find uncomfortably close to home.

There is nothing wrong with making the case to your elected representatives that something isn’t right for your neighborhood or even suggesting it go somewhere else. But those arguments can’t start with the premise that your area should somehow be protected from the fact that we are still adding people, structures and, yes, institutions serving a long-sought public need.

You can change the laws of man, but not the laws of physics.

  1. Mark Peters

    This editorial completely ignores the fact that all of the at-risk overnight social services in Chapel Hill are going to placed into 1/5 of a square mile if the approved shelter is placed there.

    The editorial completely ignores any notion of fair share. The editorial fails to contemplate whether one tiny section of a town should be “the chosen area” for ALL controversial social service (shelter/detox) overnight facilities.

    And aside from these issues, the editorial fails to contemplate how siting affects services and whether it is appropriate to site a facility in a given location. The proposed shelter will ALLOW sex offenders to stay on white flag nights adjacent to 2 preschools and a park due to loopholes in sex offender laws. And NO sex offenders can receive transitional services at the facility. That may be fine for a private facility, but the shelter is currently looking at $2.3M in taxpayer funding and may be 100% funded in 4-5 years of future taxpayer support.

    Would we site a library where 3rd graders were not allowed by law to visit and check out books? Of course we wouldn’t, so why are we letting a backroom deal to site a taxpayer-constructed shelter to?

    The editorial also overlooks the powerful interests of UNC and the chamber of commerce in forcing the shelter siting deal.

    There are a number of other issues with the chosen shelter site documented at http://www.abettersite.org

    This editorial does a serious disservice to its readership by ignoring relevant facts and grossly oversimplifying the facts.