Carrboro Commons

Carrboro High School students help out Habitat

Posted on February 3rd, 2011 in Growth and development,School news by jock

By Megan Walker
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

What can get high school students up and out of the house before 8:15 a.m. on a Saturday? For some Carrboro High School students, the answer is building a Habitat for Humanity house.

(L to R) Hana Haidar, Lilly Yuan, Sofia Blanco, Matt Cooper and Jaycee Greenblatt pose for a picture on the steps of the Habitat house they helped construct on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011 in Chapel Hill. They put in the sub-flooring on the Aye family's future home. Haidar, Yuan, and Blanco are students in the Habitat club at Carrboro High School. Cooper is their faculty adviser. Staff photo by Megan Walker

On Jan. 29, students Hana Haidar, Sofia Blanco and Lilly Yuan, along with their Habitat club advisor Matt Cooper, put in sub-flooring on the Aye family’s future home. The house will be at 209 Lizzie Lane in the Phoenix Place neighborhood of Chapel Hill.

“I joined the club when I was a freshman,” club co-president Haidar said. “I wanted to feel like I was actually doing something even though I was just 15. I just love building.”

Haidar said the Carrboro High School club is a building partner with Kenan-Flagler Business School on the university’s Build a Block campaign to build 10 houses in 10 months. The club is also partnering with Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill high schools to fund a tri-high school Habitat house.

“Having students help spreads awareness of the issues,” said Jaycee Greenblatt, development coordinator for Habitat youth programs. “It’s exciting to have them on site to work with the families and see how communities are coming together as a group to help change substandard housing in Chapel Hill. It is so expensive to live in the area. We want to make the housing situation more affordable for families.”

Bolin Creek Greenway project stalled

Posted on November 16th, 2010 in Environment,Growth and development,Town government,Uncategorized by jock

By Mary Withers and Stephanie Bullins
Carrboro Commons Co-editor and Staff Writer

More than a year after concept plans for the Bolin Creek Greenway were finalized, contentious debate about the project continues.

Disagreement between the local advocacy group, Save Bolin Creek, and proponents of the project has slowed further work on the final phases of the Greenway.

Mary Sonis, who walks along Bolin Creek three to four times a week and takes wildlife photographs there, stands in front of Bolin Creek where a multi-use paved pathway is proposed to run along the creek following the sewer easement. Sonis is a member of Save Bolin Creek and opposes the paved path. (Staff photo by Mary Withers)

Thus, Carrboro Transportation Planner Jeff Brubaker says the project doesn’t have an expected date for completion.

“The Board of Aldermen has asked town to proceed with certain phases of the Greenway while looking for public input on the final phases,” he said. “They have basically put off implementation of those phases for now.”

Town board member Lydia Lavelle says the current arguments are unnecessary because the board will hold public hearings and will listen to public commentary before it decides on the best route for the Greenway.

“The board’s view is that there’s no urgency to get into a big fight about it,” she said.  “All we have are the plans that the Greenways group suggested, and we’re aware that there’s a part of the community that thinks otherwise.”

The debate is hinged on the final two phases of the Greenway, which include construction of a 10-foot path along the creek that would run through the Carolina North Forest and private property.

Environmental Concerns

In opposition to the paved path plan, local environmentalists formed Save Bolin Creek a year ago. Instead, the group recommends an alternative less-direct route north of Estes Drive extension.

According to Save Bolin Creek, building the paved path would be unnecessarily expensive, complicated to maintain, a threat to local water supply because it runs into Jordan Lake and a detriment to valuable natural wildlife along the riparian zone.

Mary Sonis, a member of Save Bolin Creek, says warmed water from the pavement would wash into the creek and kill the salamanders and frogs that live there. In turn, this would affect the owls and hawks that feed on them.

“We’re concerned ecologically what it will do,” said Sonis, who walks along the path every three to four days and takes wildlife photographs there. “This is a creek that’s one of our last natural areas in Carrboro. That’s a big deal.”

On the other hand, Dave Otto, a member of the Carrboro Greenways Commission, says a paved path would have ecological benefits for the creek.

He says Save Bolin Creek looks at the tract of land as a pristine wilderness, when in fact it’s a path along a sewer line that trucks regularly drive on. He said the path is in bad shape and needs to be replaced.

“It serves a very important purpose to help preserve a degraded environment,” Otto said. “It will be a fantastic contribution to Carrboro that everybody will be able to use as the town grows.”

Ken Moore, the former superintendent of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, and Johnny Randall, the assistant director for conservation, both support the paved path. They say the pavement would prevent the mud from washing into the creek after it rained, preserving the natural ecology of the creek.

Mary Sonis checks under rocks for salamanders. Sonis says the creek supports a vast array of wildlife that would be endangered by a paved path. (Staff photo by Mary Withers)

Further Debate

Robert Crook, member of Save Bolin Creek and vice chair of Friends of Bolin Creek, said the trail makes bad economic sense.

“Carrboro has no budget for maintaining the Greenway after it’s built,” said Crook, who has a master’s degree in forestry and soils from N.C. State University and works on consulting jobs to conserve natural resources and agricultural projects. He adds that since the trail is in the floodplain, it would require regular cleanup. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

But proponents of the Greenway said it could promote economic development by creating jobs and increasing property values, as well as improving accessibility and promoting safer alternatives for recreation and transportation.

Otto says one major benefit of the Greenway would be a safer commuting option.

“I don’t want to risk my life on a bikeway on Estes Drive,” he said. “These are amenities people need and people will use.”

Another benefit of the Greenway would be encouraging active lifestyles, Otto added.

“It will get people out of vehicles and onto bicycles,” he said.

Connecting Two Towns

The Greenway, conceptualized by Greenways Inc., a group that was hired by the town in 2008, is designed to link Carrboro to future developments like Carolina North, Carolina Commons and ultimately to the Chapel Hill Greenway.

The Town of Chapel Hill is also constructing a greenway along Bolin Creek that would connect with the Carrboro project.

“The municipalities have planned to connect their greenways,” Brubaker said. “Bolin Creek stretches through Carrboro and Chapel Hill jurisdictions, so there is a natural need to work together.”

Bill Webster, assistant director of the Town of Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department, said the town has not received any complaints about construction potentially damaging the area, and added that most of the criticism has been directed toward the Carrboro project.

“There’s no project that you can ever envision that everyone will be happy with,” he said.

Webster still has high hopes for the completion of the entire project.

“Long after I’m gone, and the town finally finishes the Greenways, Inc. plan as envisioned, we will have a system of greenways and bike paths that will let you get almost anywhere in town,” he said. “You’ll be able to travel with minimal contact with motorized vehicles, and there will be fewer street crossings. Once you have that, there will be a safer transportation system and recreational opportunities.”

Developer fights to build sustainable, affordable community

Posted on October 6th, 2010 in Environment,Growth and development,Town government by jock

By Mary Withers
Carrboro Commons Co-editor

Thirty-nine dilapidated trailers at Pine Grove Mobile Home Park on Fayetteville Road could soon be replaced by 39 new completely sustainable and affordable homes.

Since the average turnover rate for a tenant at Pine Grove Mobile Home Park is six months, developer Trip Overholt said he will not be displacing people from their homes. (Staff photo by Mary Withers)

With features such as a rainwater catch-and-reuse system, a native plant garden, bamboo flooring, recycled countertops and solar panels capable of creating enough energy to run the whole community, the proposed Veridia community would go above and beyond the features normally included in green communities to merit both a LEED and Energy Star certification.

“We’re laboring mightily to create a green affordable community like nothing else in the state,” said developer Trip Overholt.

Overholt is the current owner of the Pine Grove Mobile Home Park. He said the trailers, which are more than 50 years old, are falling apart and have unbelievably high maintenance costs. Water leaks, sewer backups and electrical cable shortages are common problems.

He also said more than 50 percent of his tenants do not pay their rent on time, and many have histories of substance abuse, domestic violence, or not being able to hold down a job. He said when the economy had a shock last year, 12 of his 39 tenants left with no prior notice, leaving six trailers completely destroyed.

Since the average turnover rate for a tenant is six months, Overholt said he will not be displacing people from their homes.
He has tried everything he could to make the trailer park into a profitable business, he said, but he is losing about $500 every month. The only solutions are replacement of the trailers or development.

He said he wanted to create a development that reflects his love for the earth.

“My primary goal is to honor my earth mother,” he said. “We’re not driven by money; we’re driven by honoring our earth.”

He said he has striven to make the homes as affordable as possible. The 1,350 square foot homes in will average at $310,000. The average 2009 sales price of a home in Carrboro and Chapel Hill was $371,000, according to Community Home Trust.

The next step: Approval by the board of aldermen

When Overholt and his partner, David Bell, first presented the idea to the Carrboro board of aldermen in 2008, the projected cost of each home was $289,000. Overholt said he and Bell increased the price to $310,000 so they could add more green features. On Sept. 22 the board of aldermen was unwilling to approve the development due to the recent increase in price.

Board member Lydia Lavelle said she is concerned about the price of the homes.

Veridia Community, a completely sustainable project, could replace Pine Grove Mobile Home Park on Fayetteville Road. (Courtesy of David Bell)

“They sold it to (the board) as a wonderful new affordable development that incorporates a lot of new green features,” Lavelle said. “I would definitely like to see them keep prices as low as they can.”

Board member Sammy Slade said he is concerned that removing the trailer park would displace affordability in favor of more expensive green technology. He said it’s important for Carrboro to maintain socio-economic diversity.

“It’s not good to have a community that’s not diverse,” he said.

Lavelle said Veridia reflects two competing interests of the town—sustainability and affordability.

Overholt and Bell said they could develop the trailer park without the board’s approval, and they could develop a non-green community at a greater profit margin. However, some of the plans, such as moving the driveway from the center of the property to create a pedestrian commons and vegetable garden, must be approved by the board due to a 1970 lawsuit between the town and the trailer park’s former owner.

Overholt said the board is only legally allowed to reject the development if it has proof it will adversely impact the health and welfare of the community or surrounding communities. He said the board’s questioning of Veridia’s affordability was inappropriate.

“We are voluntarily submitting ourselves to the board,” Overholt said. “And we’re offering our houses at the same price or less than other communities.”

Bell shares his sentiment.

“Our great vision is to create one of the most sustainable communities in the state,” he said. “Ironically, we need the board’s approval to prove that.”

The board will decide whether to approve Veridia’s development plans at a later meeting.

Chapel Hill Tire goes green

Posted on March 4th, 2010 in Growth and development,Uncategorized by jock

By Alyssa Griffith

Carrboro Commons Editor

Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center has developed a green thumb. The local Car Care Center, which has been serving the community for more than 50 years, is now doing its part to serve the environment too.

Chapel Hill Tire Car Care co-owner Marc Pons renovates historic building location for sustainable reasons. (Staff photo by Alyssa Griffith)

Co-owner and company president Marc Pons is renovating the Carrboro location, one of three of the company’s stores. The business occupies a 100-year-old building nestled in the heart of Carrboro at 203 W. Main St.

Pons is in the process of making the business more sustainable. His idea for sustainable renovation came about in November 2008, but construction didn’t begin until November 2009.

“As a business we’re always trying to look ahead, but as members of the community we’re trying to do our share for the environment,” Pons said.

Chapel Hill Tire is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the area. Pons said he wants this project to demonstrate to the community that an old family business can revamp itself in an environmentally friendly way.

“It seems kind of strange for this type of industry to do something like this. When most people think of car care they get that dirty, greasy vibe, but after the renovations are complete the building will be a state-of-the-art facility,” said Joel Sheer, president of Sheer Associates Inc., a Chapel Hill marketing and advertising agency.

Aldermen see final plans for second fire station

Posted on April 17th, 2009 in Carrboro Connections,Growth and development,Town government by jock

By Elisabeth Arriero
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Carrboro residents can soon feel twice as safe when it comes to fires.


Only one fire station, located at 301 W. Main St., serves all of Carrboro. But by next year, Carrboro should have a second fire station at 1411 Homestead Road.
Staff photo by Elisabeth Arriero

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen accepted the final plans for a second fire station in town at its Tuesday night meeting.

Kenneth Newell of Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects, the company that created the design, updated the board on some minor changes to the new station, which will be located at 1411 Homestead Road.

“This is just a stunning plan,” said Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell after the board heard Newell’s update.

The Board of Aldermen plans to budget $3 million for the new station during the 2009-10 fiscal year. That figure does not include funding for the estimated 12 new staff positions that the station would create.

Carrboro town manager Steve Stewart said that due to the recent economic downturn, now is the best time to plan for such a construction project.

People with disabilities find work in Carrboro

By Sarah Shah
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
Every Wednesday morning, Luke Glatz collects raffle tickets from people attending a business leaders meeting. Later, he reads out ticket numbers to announce the lucky winners.

shah_evfinal.jpg Luke Glatz, 20, collects a raffle ticket from Margaret Cannell, executive director of the Hillsborough Chamber of Commerce, at Extraordinary Ventures. Luke is just one of 18 people with disabilities employed by Extraordinary Ventures, located at 200 S. Elliot Road in Chapel Hill.
Staff photo by Sarah Shah.

Despite having a developmental disability, the 20-year-old Glatz is one of the young adults who are employed at Extraordinary Ventures.

The Arc, the world’s largest community based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, estimates that the unemployment rate for people with developmental disabilities is nearly 75 percent.

Extraordinary Adventures is a Chapel Hill non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities ages 15 years and up.

“It’s important for them to have a sense of accomplishment, and know that they are worth something,” director of Extraordinary Ventures, Marc Roth said.

Roth said he rents out a 3,000 square feet conference center in Chapel Hill at which businesses and organizations can conduct meetings. The proceeds go directly to the employment of young adults with disabilities, who work at the center by helping to set up and clean up for events.

Book Bindery opens in Carrboro

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in Books,Growth and development by jock

By Allison Miller
Carrboro Commons Co-Editor

While living in Florence, Italy, in the 1970s, Susan Soleil decided she wanted to learn a European craft and apprenticed with a bookbinder.

miller_books1final.jpg Susan Soleil demonstrates how a book press, one of the machines in her Carrboro book bindery, works. The book goes into the press while it dries and the pressure from the machine creates the ridge next to the spine.
Staff photo by Allison Miller

In September 2008 she brought her hand-binding skills to Carrboro when she opened The Soleil Book Bindery at 304 Weaver St. In her second-floor studio, Soleil repairs books, does custom binding and creates journals and albums.

“You can’t fake true craftsmanship and quality,” she said. “When you want a book to have…quality craftsmanship and quality materials, you come here.”

Soleil moved to Carrboro about a year ago after wanting a change from the cold climate of Rochester, N.Y., home to her and her bindery for 32 years.

In her studio sit big metal machines — for cutting, stamping and pressing — and several tables. Rolls of dark leather are mounted on the wall with rolls of cloth propped up on the wall beneath them. On a high shelf sit mementos from her life: urns containing ashes from her cats, 1950s cowboy toys from her childhood and souvenirs from Key West where she has close friends.

Aldermen approve new bike plan

Posted on April 1st, 2009 in Features,Growth and development,Lifestyles by jock

By Elisabeth Arriero
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Riding a bike to get somewhere in Carrboro just got even easier.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the final draft of a Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation Plan at its March 24 meeting.

arriero_bike-planfinal.jpgA biker rides in downtown Carrboro on March 30. Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen hopes that by approving the Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation Plan on March 24, Carrboro will become more bicycle-friendly for all.Staff photo by Elizabeth Arriero

Greenways Inc., an environmental consulting firm from Durham, wrote the plan that should make Carrboro a more bicycle-friendly community. Two of the firm’s ideas are to increase the number of bicycle lanes and to provide bicycle access to all parts of town.

Dozens of cyclists — most of them wearing colorful helmets — attended the meeting in support of the plan, which was first discussed in January 2008.

“I see great benefits from bicycle paths,” said Elise Giddings, owner of Cycle 9 bike shop. “The more we can encourage and educate people about riding their bikes, it gives people a flexible alternative for transportation.”

But other bicyclists said that the proposed bicycle lanes would be more harmful than helpful.

Carrboro aldermen vote to amend town charter

Posted on March 4th, 2009 in Growth and development,Town government by jock

By Kelly Esposito
Spanish Language Coverage Team

A proposed amendment to the Carrboro charter would prohibit property deeds and homeowners association covenants from restricting the use of clotheslines and other energy-saving devices.

The Board of Aldermen approved two amendments to the Town’s charter in its Feb. 17 meeting. The amendments must now be presented to the N.C. General Assembly. Only the state legislature has the power to alter town charters.

Carrboro resident and Camellia Forest Nursery employee Rachel Byrne, 24, takes down a sheet from the clothesline in her backyard. “I like the process of hanging things on the clothesline,” Byrne said. “Plus it saves energy.” A proposed amendment to the Carrboro charter would prohibit property deeds and homeowners’ association covenants from restricting the use of clotheslines and other energy-saving devices.
Staff photo by Kelly Esposito

One of the amendments would authorize the board to create ordinances that could supersede deed restrictions or homeowners association covenants if the deeds or covenants prohibited the implementation of sustainability features. These features include clotheslines, solar panels and rain barrels. It passed 5-2, with board members Joal Hall Broun and Randee Haven-O’Donnell dissenting.

The amendment drew public comment from residents who were concerned about the broad authority it would provide.

Carrboro resident Richard Anstine, who spoke at the meeting, said that he has no problem with saving energy and going green, but the language of the proposed amendment is alarming.

“There are no limitations to this,” he said. “It’s just wide open.”

Anstine is concerned with the possible voiding of deed restrictions and homeowners association covenants, which he said are put in place primarily to protect property values.

“They are the thing that keeps people from painting polka dots all over their house or building a garage in their front yard,” he said.

Carrboro resident Robert Kirschner also spoke at the meeting. He said that he thinks town officials are overstepping their bounds with the proposal, and he was in favor of continuing the public hearing on a later date so the issue could be explored further and more people could have the opportunity to comment.

“This is far more complicated than it appears,” Kirschner said. “I was asking them to pause, which they did not do.”

Agent advocates conservation, immigrant rights

Posted on March 4th, 2009 in Features,Growth and development,Latino Issues,Uncategorized by jock

By Kelsey Kusterer
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

Carrboro has grown significantly economically and culturally in recent decades, and Gary Phillips, a resident of Silk Hope, has been there to observe the town’s changes.


Gary Phillips, partner and broker at Weaver Street Realty, sits in the office of the real estate business he founded in 1982. A man of many hats, Phillips said he chose real estate as a profession because “environmental real estate was a good idea. It would allow me to impact the land in a way I wouldn’t be able to outside the process.”
Staff photo by Kelsey Kusterer

“I liked it from the beginning,” Phillips said about Carrboro.

Phillips is a broker and partner at Weaver Street Realty, located at 116 E. Main St., which he founded in Carrboro in 1982. He is known in the community for his diverse interests and involvement in town affairs, which include serving as a lay preacher, being a former Chatham County Commissioner and working as an auctioneer, among several other community roles he’s played.

Jay Parker, partner and broker-in-charge at Weaver Street Realty, became Phillips’ friend while Phillips was working as a bartender. After Phillips founded Weaver Street Realty, Parker started working with him at auctions.

“He’s got a tremendous amount of energy, and he’s developed a tremendous amount of disciplines,” Parker said.

Jackie Helvey, Phillips’ friend and CEO and owner of UniqueOrn Enterprises, located at 118 E. Main St. in Carrboro, met Phillips at an auction he was running.

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