Chapel Hill has two main identities. One is that of a small college town where everyone shops local and knows each other. The second is a major city with corporate chains and high rises buying up property for top dollar. Recent elections and events show that there is strong anti-development sentiment in our town.
The Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town is an organization that opposes further major changes to the town’s landscape, and candidates it has endorsed and run have been successful in their campaigns for office.
Despite this, the Chapel Hill Town Council considered a development plan to build a luxury apartment complex while displacing the residents of 33 mobile homes and two duplexes. The plan received a preliminary hearing at the Town Council on Dec. 18, 2017, and was reviewed on Jan. 24, 2018. Not long after, residents were given until March 31 to relocate. Throughout this process, those living at the mobile home park have been kept largely in the dark. While much is already in motion and cannot be undone, there is a lot to be learned from this situation and how it unfolded.
While the prospect of a new high-end property, and the potential tax revenue it would bring, must be appealing to those in local government, it is important that Chapel Hill officials not lose sight of their responsibilities to the poorer members of our community. The plan to build yet another luxury apartment complex in a town with increasingly little affordable low-income housing has problems of its own, but even more problematic has been how little the town government has done to help those affected. The Town Council had no apparent plan for how to assist those being displaced, something Council Member Michael Parker admitted in January, rather bluntly saying, “We should have had a plan and we don’t.”
As members of the Chapel Hill community, we too have a responsibility to our fellow community members. We occupy a position of privilege as students here, and should strive to give back to the Chapel Hill community. One of the best ways to do so is to educate ourselves on local issues. We have seen many examples of how student activism can bring attention to an issue. Using the same tools students use to bring about change on their campus is one such way we can help those who need it in our local community.