The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 20th

School Site Spurs Wetland Debate

At its Tuesday meeting, the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to fund the construction of a new elementary school.

But prior to the board's vote, Commissioner Margaret Brown expressed her dissatisfaction with having the school, located in Meadowmont, a mixed-use community on N.C. 54, encroaching upon nearby wetlands.

"The wetlands are meant to be preserved," Brown said Wednesday. "They should not be disturbed. There was other property for the school to be built upon. Environmentally, it was a poor choice."

Meadowmont developer Roger Perry of East West Partners said the school will not destroy the wetlands area.

"If it were, you couldn't built it." Perry said. "There are parts of the school that come close to the buffer. You need to get approval from the state on this. It will have no impact on the wetlands; the school is making sure of that."

East West Partners donated the land to the town about six years ago as part of an agreement that would benefit both parties in Chapel Hill. The town would get property for educational use and the developer would get to build its mixed-use community.

Chapel Hill Planning Director and former school board member Roger Waldon said that while there are wetlands on the property, there are protective measures in place to ensure that no damage is done to the area.

"The biggest protection is ensuring that the kids stay out of it," he said. "There are some wetlands on that property. The school and town were very attuned to that proximity. Great care was taken to make sure that they will not be destroyed."

Perry said Brown's comments made at the meeting were inaccurate and misleading.

"Margaret Brown is a loose cannon and makes loose comments with no responsibility," Perry said. "She continues to be someone who shoots from the hip and sensationalizes circumstances and calls contention where there is none."

Brown laughed at, but refused to comment on, Perry's statements.

At the commissioners' meeting, the board approved $12.8 million in funding for the new school. That money will come from the school's $47 million cut of the $75 million bond package passed by Orange County voters in November.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs said that while some environmental concerns were raised at the meeting, the board was left with little choice but to approve the funding.

"It was not our decision to make by the time it got to us," Jacobs said. "We could have said, 'No, don't accept it,' but it had already been accepted by Chapel Hill Town Council and the school board. It seemed a little late in the game to change it."

Jacobs said the commissioners will make more of an effort to address concerns such as these.

"In retrospect, we have learned that we need to make more of an effort in preventing these kinds of situations in the future."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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