The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday December 6th

Chapel Hill Town Council discusses Juneteenth, racial equity, Aura development

The Chapel Hill Town Council met Wednesday to discuss a countywide racial equity plan, changes to the land use management ordinance and the Aura development project.

Mayor Pam Hemminger started the meeting by welcoming Eugenia Floyd, the 2021 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, who teaches fourth grade at Mary Scroggs Elementary School and graduated from East Chapel Hill High School in 2005.

The council proclaimed June 16, 2021, as Eugenia Floyd Day in Chapel Hill.

Council member Allen Buansi, who graduated from ECHHS with Floyd, said he was honored to present this award to his former classmate. 

He said Floyd has strived to eliminate the achievement gap and dismantle systemic racism during her teaching career and encourages her students to make the world a better place.

“My heart is so full,” Floyd said. “The elements that made me proud to be raised here and even more proud to be an educator in this community are still present.”

The Town Council also recognized June 19 as Juneteenth, which Chapel Hill and Carrboro proclaimed as an annual holiday last year to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans.

Council member Hongbin Gu said she urges residents to take the day to reflect and work to improve equality. She also encouraged residents to celebrate Black culture by partaking in the festivities organized by the towns.

“Juneteenth is a time to reflect and take stock of the progress since the abolition of slavery, as well as the progress made and not made,” Gu said.

The council then discussed a racial equity plan that Chapel Hill has worked on with Orange County, Carrboro and Hillsborough. Sarah Viñas, the assistant director of housing and community for Chapel Hill, presented the plan.

Viñas said the collaboration marks the first time that different towns in the United States have worked together to create a county approach to racial equity.

Rae Buckley, director of organizational and strategic initiatives for Chapel Hill, said the group has utilized a tool that establishes a process and questions to address racial equity in decision-making.

“The end focus is building our overall capacity to advance racial equity and integrate racial equity into all our systems,” Buckley said.

The plan does not speak to tactics, she said, but instead addresses principles in shifting power through engaging the community with the government.

Colleen Willger, the Town's planning director, then presented an amendment to the land use management ordinance to include short-term rentals in the Blue Hill District.

Willger recommended that the council adopt a resolution of consistency and approve the amendment to the ordinance.

Assistant Planning Director Judy Johnson then presented the Town’s work on the rezoning of the Aura development, which will be located on 16 acres at 1000 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Johnson said residents raised concerns about the development regarding issues such as traffic and stormwater during a May meeting, and she presented revisions the Town has made to address these concerns.

Kumar Neppalli, a traffic engineering manager, said implementing a traffic signal to accommodate multi-use paths, bike lanes and incoming crosswalks could be a solution to the traffic issues.

Johnson then addressed stormwater concerns and said the flow of water to the north of the new development will be reduced by 50 percent from the original plans.

The Town Council will next meet on Monday.


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