Earlier this week, signs were spotted along Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The signs read, “Stegman voted for Aura,” then in bolded red font “& Betrayed You.”
While the message on the signs is inflammatory, the more concerning issue is that the signs are anonymous.
They spread fear in the community with early voting for municipal elections starting Oct. 14. Signs aimed at division rather than town unity have no place in Chapel Hill, regardless of your opinions on Stegman’s politics, the Aura development or the best candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council.
The approval of Aura, a mixed-use development, was contentious. It narrowly passed with a five to three vote over the summer. It saw neighborhood groups, like Estes Neighbors, opposing the plan due to land use and traffic concerns.
Stegman approved the plan because she said it fit with the town’s land use goals and the need for affordable housing.
At the time, Estes Neighbors posted signs in similar locations to the current anonymous signs that were against Aura — saying things like “luxury housing is not what we need."
Those signs, however, are not as problematic, given the source was clearly identified as being from Estes Neighbors.
Posting anonymous signs like the ones that attacked Stegman is not illegal in Chapel Hill, and certainly, people have a right to free political speech. It would not be legal to remove these signs, as stealing, defacing, vandalizing or unlawfully removing political signs is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
So, frustrating as it may be, seeing these signs in public spaces is perfectly allowed.