Strong Week

Last week started with Sunday’s always-inspirational annual Pauli Murray awards at the Central Orange Senior Center — a much-needed, multipurpose facility which I helped to design after leading efforts to secure bond funding for its construction.

The county attached the senior center to the Sportsplex after we bought the recreation facility and placed it under sound management. Attached too is an adult day health center named for Florence Soltys, an exceptional woman with a great heart who long championed the cause of seniors in Orange County.

The following evening the county held a quarterly public hearing at which the commissioners heard a proposal for the county’s second solar farm, this one in Efland; a zoning dispute involving a kennel and the apparently improper placement of a fence for its dog exercise yard near Durham; comprehensive plan and unified development ordinance text changes for Efland that reflect work done by a citizen task force over nearly a decade; and a proposal to advance an Agricultural Support Enterprises ordinance.

The joint hearing with the Orange County planning board took approximately 4 1/2 hours. The solar farm drew little opposition. The kennel had considerable citizen support for an adjustment that would allow it to continue as is. The ag support enterprises ordinance, first spawned when Maple View Farm had trouble locating an ice cream store in the rural buffer more than a decade ago, is a mechanism to simplify and expedite farm-related development. Two people spoke in favor.

All of those items were referred to the planning board for recommendation back to the commissioners.

The Efland plan — part of a larger effort involving Mebane on which I had worked since it started in the mid-2000s — drew protests from folks who had missed the numerous signs and notices touting a series of community meetings. To better accommodate residents’ questions and concerns, consideration of the item was deferred pending staff-led information meetings in the community.

The next morning at 8:30 I brought greetings from the commissioners to a full house at the 16th annual Orange County Agricultural Summit. The event, which was initiated at my instigation in 1999, brings together growers, vendors, and others interested in improving their businesses or promoting our local agricultural economy.

The summits, originated to meet the changing nature of N.C. farming in the wake of the tobacco settlement of the late 1990s, present fresh ideas and approaches, basic business information, individual advice and testimonials, and government and nonprofit support efforts. We had a full house (100?). There was plenty of enthusiasm and networking during breaks at the Maple View educational center. A lunch of locally grown foods capped the session.

Two days later, on Thursday night, the county commissioners met in joint session with the Hillsborough town board. These annual meetings have occurred for more than a decade and reflect the strong, collaborative relationship I’ve actively helped to promote, sometimes in the face of opposition from other elected officials and staff.

We discussed sidewalks, transportation (particularly local bus service and an Amtrak station to be built in town), our joint land-use efforts (I participated from the plan’s inception), planning for road patterns in economic development areas, and a joint agreement I had proposed to protect cultural and natural resources around town when governments disturb land.

The results strengthened our work together, reiterated a strong commitment to bus service in central Orange County, and reaffirmed the perameters of our joint plan while potentially moving about 400 watershed acres from town to county jurisdiction.

On Friday night the 2014 candidates in Orange County races, as well as their friends and families, packed Steel String in Carrboro at the generous invitation of OrangePolitics.org.

On Saturday morning, first thing, many of the same candidates were eating scrambled eggs, sausage, ham and biscuits with gravy at the Schley Grange.

 

 

 

 

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