The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday October 25th

Board of Commissioners discuss school impact fees and light rail transit project

The Orange County Board of Commissioners discussed school impact fees and heard an update to the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project during Tuesday's meeting in Chapel Hill. 

Orange County Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams presented the board with a report on the Nov. 8 elections. Reams congratulated her staff and thanked the board for their support. She said the election ran smoothly despite an issue with technology at the beginning of the day. 

The commissioners heard an update on school impact fees from Craig Benedict, Orange County administration director. Based on public feedback, the planning board has included two new categories — the small cottage category for homes under 800 square feet and an age-restricted housing category. 

“The intent of school impact fees is to try and capture the capital cost based on the new populations that are coming into our schools and the need to build more schools,” Benedict said.

Commissioners were presented with a proposed plan concerning the future use of the historic Chapel Hill Town Hall. The plan calls for moving the visitors center into the building and adding a history center as well. The board selected Commissioner Penny Rich to represent the Board of Commissioners on the committee to decide the building's future.

“She actually would actually bring three different viewpoints,” said Earl McKee, chairperson of the board. “She would bring a visitor board view; she would bring a former town council members viewpoint of understanding Chapel Hill town issues associated with this — but I wholeheartedly believe she would bring our board's viewpoints in front.”

GoTriangle Transit then presented updated financial information to the board for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project. The state resolved in June that the state's total investment in commuter or light rail projects can’t exceed 10 percent, down from their previous commitment of 25 percent. The change in the funding model would require the county to find additional funds in order to complete the project. 

“Based on these numbers, what that looks like today is potentially an additional $4 million a year from the county, and we have a $200 million budget in the county, so $4 million is basically two percent," said Commissioner Mark Dorosin. "So, let’s just put the numbers into perspective."

The project would cost approximately between $1.47 billion and $1.62 billion and is projected to open in the mid-2020s. Commissioners also discussed the shared funding model for the project and debated how much the Durham and Orange counties should contribute to the light rail system. 

Transit officials also presented an update to the plan that would expand the proposed system to cover North Carolina Central University. The proposed update would now serve all three major universities in the area.


The Board of Commissioners passed a resolution recognizing and celebrating Mt. Bright Missionary Church for reaching its 150-year anniversary. 


“We are not like the president-elect — we are not going to promise things we can’t deliver,” said Commissioner Barry Jacobs regarding funding issues with the light rail project.


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