If the use permit is granted, the Inter-Faith Council plans to open a community kitchen on 110 W. Main St. in Carrboro to implement their FoodFirst program — the IFC’s plan to have both food pantry and community kitchen services available to those in need.
At the meeting, many Carrboro business owners near the proposed location expressed their doubts about it being the best choice.
Dr. Susan DeLaney of The Wellness Alliance said she doesn’t think 110 W. Main St. is the right location.
“My main concern is the traffic,” DeLaney said. “It’s a very small area.”
At the meeting Tuesday, Aaron Nelson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, spoke on behalf of many in the business community who do not feel as though 110 W. Main St. is the best location for a community kitchen.
“Folks are not saying what they have to say. I am before you to represent results of two meetings with more than 60 business people,” Nelson said.
DeLaney said a large part of the issue is the IFC and the town of Carrboro’s lack of communication with the business community concerning the community kitchen.
“The whole town needs to be involved in this decision, the businesses in particular,” DeLaney said.
At the meeting, Board of Aldermen member Bethany Chaney said she was disappointed so many business people felt the communication was poor.
“That’s disappointing because that’s certainly not the intent,” Chaney said. “I appreciate those of you that are at least willing to say, ‘it really sucked, that communication.’”
Jason Merrill, one of the owners of Back Alley Bikes, said he fully supports the idea of a community kitchen in the current downtown Carrboro location.
“I know there’s a lot of opposition to this idea,” said Merrill at the meeting. “It’s disappointing and surprising. I grew up receiving the kind of aid the community kitchen offers. I like to think that the community truly is all of us, from the poorest to the richest.”
For business owners concerned about the potential for a community kitchen to bring more homeless people to the downtown Carrboro area, Michael Reinke, executive director of the IFC, said the FoodFirst program would have the opposite effect.
“Right now, if there are people hanging out on the streets, by implementing FoodFirst we actually are able to make better connections to services, so we can get more people off the street,” Reinke said.
DeLaney said the business community is not anti-soup kitchen, and she thinks the idea is something the town could support if the location was different.
“I just think people need to sit down and talk together instead of fighting it out,” DeLaney said.
DeLaney said the post office at 1500 W. Main St. could be converted into the community kitchen.
“All that congestion would be out of the center of town, but yet it’s close enough,” DeLaney said.