The Orange County Board of Commissioners nominated two local landmarks to the national historical registry, approved two climate tax-funded initiatives and added an additional site to the county’s Master Telecommunication Plan Map on Tuesday.
They voted to nominate the Schley Grange Hall and Cedar Grove School to the national historical register.
“Both of these buildings were built during the days of segregation, and now you can go into either of these buildings and it’s not so anymore,” said Renee Price, the vice chairperson of the board.
Cedar Grove School housed Black students from its construction in 1951 to 1969 when the county formally integrated.
Commissioner Earl McKee, who grew up three miles from Schley Grange Hall, said the hall was integral to the local farming community. The hall serves as a community center for local members of the Grange, a national farmers' advocacy organization.
If the board’s unanimous recommendations for the sites are accepted into the national historical registry, Orange County will be obligated to upkeep their historical quality.
“To be able to preserve places that have so much of a history and a legacy tied to them, both Schley Grange and the Cedar Grove School, is so important and significant,” Price said.
Michael Harvey, the Orange County planning and zoning supervisor, presented an amendment to modify the county’s Master Telecommunication Plan (MTP). The board voted unanimously to add an additional site on Union Grove Church Road.
Harvey said the MTP aims to bring communication opportunities to underserved Orange County residents by connecting landowners willing to host telecommunications facilities with paying telecommunication companies.
“This is one of the proactive steps the county does take to try and work with local developers,” Harvey said in the meeting.
The board unanimously appropriated climate action tax revenue, which was mandated last year by a 0.25 percent tax increase, to the weatherization of homes and an LED lightbulb distribution program, both for low-income families, at the meeting.
Commissioner Mark Marcoplos said the small increase helped the county fulfill the climate-defending responsibility of local government.
The project proposal said it focused on the board’s social justice goals, but Price said the proposal failed to look at the big picture and should look forward with more focus on community input.
“I really was expecting something a bit more,” Price said. “To raise taxes in order to provide light bulbs and weatherization without looking at what people actually need, I think there’s a lot of room for growth on this.”
In total, the approved projects will cost just under $170,000 in the current fiscal year. An additional program that would have cost $300,000 to put solar panels on one Orange County school and one Chapel Hill-Carrboro school was sent back to county staff for further review.
Despite the setbacks, Marcoplos said the tax initiative filled an urgent climate need.
“We absolutely have to take action as quickly as we can,” Marcoplos said.
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