Cray and Kathy Gunn eagerly supported plans for a free-standing library for Carrboro — until they learned the site rezoning would redirect traffic past their home.
After they voiced complaints but failed to stop Carrboro’s Board of Aldermen from approving in April the lot’s rezoning, they hired a lawyer to represent their concerns.
Cray Gunn said that plan worked — the Orange County Board of Commissioners rejected the 210 Hillsborough Road site at their Aug. 23 meeting, which residents attended to speak against the location.
County officials cited the cost, more than $600,000, and the lot’s heavily residential locale as reasons for the rejection.
While their road is safe from library traffic, the Gunns say they felt ignored by most local officials throughout the process.
But Dan Coleman, a Carrboro alderman, said residents’ concerns were considered but had to be balanced with local demand for a library.
Because Orange County would fund library construction, it filed an application to rezone the proposed site for development.
But the Carrboro Board of Aldermen needed to approve the application for it to take effect, said Craig Benedict, Orange County planning director.
And at that point, concerned citizens got involved.
Cray Gunn said more than 30 residents attended a public hearing in March to oppose the rezoning, but only 10 spoke in its favor.
Residents also filed a protest petition that increased the number of votes the board needed to pass the rezoning from a simple majority to six of seven aldermen, Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist said.
But the rezoning still passed 6-1, with Gist casting the sole dissenting vote.
Listening to local voices
Cray Gunn said he felt the Carrboro residents’ voice was ignored in the vote.
“At the public hearing, there was an overwhelming opposition to this site,” he said.
“[The aldermen] completely ignored what we said and all voted for the library anyway.”
But Coleman said he responded to the Gunns’ email about the ordinance prior to the rezoning decision.
He said the board considered resident opinions before reaching its decision.
“The board takes the residents’ opinions extensively into account because we are interested in doing rezonings that are going to improve the quality of life in Carrboro,” he said.
Coleman said despite the Gunns’ concerns, the board’s process for rezoning is efficient and unlikely to change.
“We’re always interested for process improvement,” Coleman said. “But it seems like everything is going well.”
Gist said she opposed the site after speaking with nearby residents, but other aldermen voted in favor of the location because of local demand for a library.
“Board members were convinced it was now or never,” she said.
Residents have said the new library would increase accessibility and convenience because the Carrboro Branch Library housed in McDougle Middle School has limited hours and books.
The board has resolved to continue searching for a location.
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