The Chapel Hill Town Council discussed an interlocal agreement with Orange County and Wegmans, Inc. Monday evening.
Town Manager Roger Stancil brought a proposal before the council concerning an interlocal agreement with Orange County to reimburse the county for an economic incentive grant to Wegmans, Inc. Wegmans is a privately held New York-based grocery chain. Wegmans is ranked as one of the top supermarket chains in the country.
Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for the town of Chapel Hill, presented the board with revenue and tax information for the development.
“The incentive agreement that the county will be considering is based on three factors,” Bassett said. “The first is the number of jobs that will be created over that time period. Long term projected to be 350 new jobs. The second is the investment being made to redevelop the site, which is estimated at about 30 million plus dollars. And then net new sales tax that will be generated off of the sales that we share with you which would be about 1.5 million dollars annually between the town and the county.”
Orange County will manage the deal with Chapel Hill potentially paying $2 million over a five-year period to Wegmans, Bassett said.
Dan Aken, director of real estate and site development at Wegmans, said a significant amount of the part-time jobs will go to high school and college students. When asked if Wegmans usually gets subsides, Aken said the result is mixed.
“We’ve had very mixed luck. Usually no because of the perceived type of jobs related to the retail industry,” he said.
Members of the public voiced concern about the development. The concerns ranged from the increased traffic that Wegmans would bring to issues of subsidizing a $7 billion a year company that might push out smaller, local businesses.
Several council members also voiced concerns about the subsides that would be given to Wegmans and if it could set a precedent of more business demanding subsides. However, Chapel Hill Town Council Member George Cianciolo saw Wegmans as a great opportunity for Chapel Hill and praised the company’s business practices.
“This is an opportunity to allow, not only Chapel Hill, but Orange County to benefit from what is well recognized as one of the best employers in the United States, consistently rates as one of the top five employers not only in terms of how the business is run but how they treat their employees,” Cianciolo said.
After the council’s and mayor’s comments, the agreement was unanimously adopted by the council. The agreement is pending approval by the Orange County Board of Commissioners Tuesday evening.
Chapel Hill Principal Planner Judy Johnson presented the application for a special use permit modification for the Sancar Turkish Cultural Center. The center would be run by the Aziz and Gwen Sancar Foundation. Aziz Sancar is the Turkish-American UNC professor who won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Gwen Sancar said the center will help the foundation fulfill its goals of increasing the understanding of Turkish culture and history, promote scholarly exchange between Turkey and local universities and to provide a venue for Turkish-Americans and their friends to celebrate Turkish heritage and culture.
Sancar also said the center will have a library to honor the life and work of her husband, Aziz Sancar, where she hopes it will act as a draw for Turkish-Americans.
“They will be able to see and appreciate how a young child from a small mountain community in Turkey can become a Nobel Laurette,” she said.
The council unanimously voted to recess the issue until Nov. 21.
Jay Heikes, a planner with Chapel Hill, presented the council with a recommendation to increase the size of the planning commission from nine members to 10. The council unanimously voted to recess the public hearing until Nov. 21.
Gene Poveromo presented three concept plans to the board. The plans are for a mixed-use development at 1165 Weaver Dairy Rd., an expansion of the SECU Family House, and for the Sawmill, a multi-family development at 970 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
The council adjourned the five-hour session around midnight after agreeing to go into closed session Wednesday instead of working into the early morning.
Quotable: “I don’t want to be the girl that puts out,” Chapel Hill Town Council Member Donna Bell on the interlocal agreement offering subsides to Wegmans.
Notable: Several members of the town council and public had concerns about a proposed sidewalk at the Sancar Turkish Cultural Center.
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