The Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town is a political action committee in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and has been active since early 2015. CHALT’s platform focuses on keeping the character of Chapel Hill as a small, college town, ensuring affordability into the future and protecting the environment.
CHALT began after a group of town residents felt the Town Council failed to address many of their concerns about managing Chapel Hill’s growth in an environmentally responsible way. Plans for the PAC began in late 2014 with the group officially launching in January 2015. Tom Henkel and David Schwartz co-founded the group.
Residents had the opportunity to provide input during the drafting process, and CHALT notes that the platform will continue to evolve. The CHALT platform focuses on five main goals for the town:
1. Protect and improve what residents value in the community.
CHALT mentions valuing schools, the environment, neighborhoods, local businesses and Chapel Hill’s reputation as a “tree-lined university town.”
2. Solve traffic and transit problems.
CHALT cares about providing safe biking and walking paths as well as improving access to parking and buses.
3. Maintain high standards for new development.
CHALT favors development that brings in more tax revenue than it costs taxpayers. It also advocates for consulting local experts in regard to design and using floodplain mapping.
4. Promote housing, work and shopping for residents of all income levels.
CHALT advocates for addressing zoning policies that take away housing for families with moderate income. It also wants the town to recruit enterprises that will provide greater employment opportunities and to encourage local businesses and stores that provide items at affordable prices.
5. Spend money wisely.
CHALT believes maintaining infrastructure and providing basic services should be the town budget’s first priority. It also recommends holding budget workshops so residents can better understand and participate in budgetary decisions.
CHALT Leadership Includes:
Tom Henkel: co-founder
David Schwartz: co-founder
Ann Loftin: newsletter editor
John Morris: director of missions and platforms
Julie McClintock: director of programs
The November 2015 election included four openings on the Town Council, four on the School Board and the mayor. CHALT endorsed three candidates for Town Council: Nancy Oates, Jessica Anderson and David Schwartz (CHALT co-founder), as well as mayoral candidate Pam Hemminger. Oates, Anderson and Hemminger were victorious. Schwartz finished just 295 votes shy of fourth place. Hemminger secured 54 percent of the vote, and Anderson was the most popular Town Council candidate, with 17 percent. Michael Parker and incumbent Donna Bell also won seats in council.
In its first year of existence, CHALT endorsements carried considerable weight in Chapel Hill, given their candidates unseated the incumbent mayor as well as incumbent council members. CHALT volunteers worked to support their candidates by writing letters to local publications, canvassing neighborhoods, designing flyers and hosting neighborhood meetings.
Reforming Form-Based Code: The Form-Based Code is used to organize the process of proposing and implementing new development projects in Chapel Hill and was approved in May 2014. CHALT takes issue with the code, as it was not written by an urban designer and limits the window for the town to approve developmental projects to only 45 days, without requiring public consultation. CHALT has suggested holding public forums about the code and future development projects, and the Community Design Commission is reviewing the code for weaknesses, which CHALT hopes will lead to revisions.
Obey Creek Development: This is a proposed mixed-use development located across from Southern Village in Chapel Hill. Concerns regarding this development include: size, limited green space, traffic congestion, lack of affordable housing, increased taxes and prices that CHALT says will discourage local business from opening new storefronts.
American Legion Property: Woodfield Acquisitions is in line to buy the American Legion property, a 36.2 acre section of land off Legion Road, and build between 600 to 800 luxury apartments, with amenities, on the land. CHALT is concerned with the loss of the land as potential green space, higher taxes as result of more residential development and traffic congestion on local roads, especially those surrounding Ephesus Elementary School.
Ephesus-Fordham District: The Town rezoned this district in June of 2014, hoping to revitalize the area. CHALT takes issue with several points in the development plan including: too much residential development which raises taxes, overly tall buildings, lack of green space and public meeting space, future traffic congestion and other transportation concerns.
- Coal Ash-Dump Petition: There is currently a coal ash dump site at 828 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. This leaches toxic metals and pollutants into the surrounding environment, including Bolin Creek. The petition seeks to move the dump site away from the creek.