Chapel Hill Town Council votes against using Jordan Lake as water source

Town access to the Jordan Lake water supply dominated discussion at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting Monday night, with council members ultimately deciding against tapping into the resource.

With a 7-2 vote, the council members vetoed planning amendments that would have given the town access to Jordan Lake as a water source.

Orange Water and Sewer Authority has owned rights to a portion of Jordan Lake since the 1980s, but so far has been obtaining water from Cane Creek Reservoir, University Lake and Quarry Reservoir.

Gordon Merklein, chairman of the OWASA board of directors, put forth the proposal and said he hoped the organization could secure permanent access to the lake in case of drought or other emergencies.

“Jordan Lake is a very suitable supply of water,” he said. “Two hundred thousand people in Cary, Apex and Morrisville rely on that source.”

But council members Sally Greene and Penny Rich said they did not see the need to adopt Jordan Lake as an additional water source.

“No public official in the last 20 years has ever been willing to say that they would drink Jordan Lake water,” Greene said.

Rich added that Gov. Bev Perdue would step in and make sure that town residents would not run out of water.

But council member Matt Czajkowski, along with representatives from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, emphasized that Jordan Lake could act as an insurance policy of sorts.

“The water that 200,000 people drink might be inferior, but if we had to drink it for a month it would be better than asking Durham to sell us water,” Czajkowski said.

He and council member Gene Pease were the only members to vote in favor of the amendments, and the council advised OWASA to reconsider its plan.

In other business, the council discussed exterior transit advertising as a source of revenue for Chapel Hill Transit and decided to reconsider the issue at a later date.

Town Transportation Director Steve Spade said advertising on buses could generate $200,000 to $450,000 in revenue annually. He recommended capping the number of buses displaying advertisements at 15.

“We think that advertisements would generate revenue so that we don’t have to rely on tax revenues,” he said.

Council member Ed Harrison said the sale of ad revenue would avoid service reductions, and Czajkowski also favored the proposal.

“We don’t want junky ads on our buses,” Czajkowski said. “But I have been in places where the wraps are very, very cool.”

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt advised Spade to create an element of his plan that would fit the plans of local businesses.

Rich brought up the issue of the possible merger between the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA and the YMCA of the Triangle. She acknowledged that the process would take two years, and said she hopes the local YMCA’s current non-discrimination policies on sexual orientation would survive the merger.

“The Y of the Triangle would have to accept our policies, or I cannot support any funding for them,” Rich said.

The council also moved discussion of an Aydan Court rezoning application to a May 25 public hearing.

The development would bring 90 residential condominium units to a 5.8 acre site at on N.C. 54 East.

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