Orange County

Hillsborough’s Weaver, Ferguson running unopposed for four-year terms on town board

Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. File photo

As the county’s smallest town reaches a crossroads, Hillsborough (pop. 6,568) is wrestling with development pressures while preparing for an influx of thousands of more residents to Collins Ridge, Waterstone and other new neighborhoods.

Several strategic plans are in place to guide that growth, said Jennifer Weaver and Kathleen Ferguson, two incumbent Board of Commissioners members who are running unopposed in this year’s election.

Two of the board’s five seats and the Hillsborough mayor’s office are on the Nov. 7 ballot. Early voting in Orange County’s municipal and city school board races starts Thursday, Oct. 19.

A second, four-year term will let them work to keep those plans on track, preserve the town’s diverse population and find solutions for affordable housing, tight budgets and other challenges, Weaver and Ferguson said.

Here’s how they answered our questions:

Why do you want to serve in this office?

Jennifer Weaver: I am committed to creating/maintaining a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable community for all of Hillsborough.

Kathleen Ferguson: I continue to be a passionate, vocal advocate for affordable housing. Without quality housing stock that attracts and retains people of all income levels and socioeconomic backgrounds, we lose a critical component of what makes Hillsborough the community it is. During my tenure, we have begun to prepare for the coming housing crisis, but we must do more so that we do not permanently become a community unaffordable to all but the most financially fortunate.

How should the town prepare for planned growth over the next decade?

Jennifer Weaver: One of the guiding principles of our planning/budgeting process is “Take care of what we’ve got.” One of the best ways to do this is to plan for the best way to fit in inevitable new residents to our land and infrastructure. Hillsborough takes our planning seriously, which is why our Future Land Use, Strategic Growth and Community Connectivity Plans, and water supply calculation (under Stage 5 drought conditions) figure into every growth and development decision. Hillsborough is a beautiful, inclusive, creative community near major universities/job centers – people want to live here. We can’t prevent growth, but we have some control over where growth happens and whether we have the infrastructural capacity to accommodate it.

Kathleen Ferguson: The town began preparing for growth over 10 years ago when adopting a strategic growth plan, which I support, that limits growth to water capacity and restricts growth to in-fill development with no sprawl. Water capacity limits growth to no more than 12,000 to 13,000 (customers) and with limited developable land left, there are few opportunities for much more residential development. Instead, I believe our challenge will continue to be retaining locally growing businesses and attracting new commercial ventures capable of employing more of our residents. Moving forward, I will continue evaluating any new development against our strategic growth plan, the merits of the development, its impact on community safety, affordability, traffic, school capacity, community character, the cost of service delivery, and economic impact.

What is the town’s biggest challenge and how would you address it?

Jennifer Weaver: The town’s biggest challenge is affordability, namely affordable housing. The price of housing continues to rise, as wages remain stagnant. Many of the homes for sale that are affordable to middle/lower-income folks are older and often not in good repair. This is especially true for rental units. Meanwhile, local governments are granted very few tools to contend with the need for more affordable housing stock. We cannot impose lower housing prices on developers, we cannot impose any sort of income tax on higher earners to contribute to an affordable housing fund, and the state legislature recently rescinded our ability to impose construction fees to help pay for costs to the community brought by new residents, such as schools. And lack of housing affordability only amplifies the long-term effects of housing segregation and racial inequality. We must use the tools we have available: asking new developments to provide some affordable units or payment in lieu, requiring a variety of lot sizes, and yes, approving development (consistent with water availability and land use plans) such that we don’t find ourselves in a housing shortage crisis. Local governments should also work together to pressure the state to allow more affordable housing tools to be at our collective disposal.

Kathleen Ferguson: With a significant number of parcels under development but exempted from property tax and the loss of impact fee income, careful management of our budgeting priorities and principles is critical. These principles are to ensure that we provide for mandates and safety first, we maintain what we have, we invest wisely for our future, while minimizing taxpayer burden as much as possible. With that said, I will continue advocating for the continuation of rental assistance program, which is administered by CEF, and would like to see any remaining affordable housing payment-in-lieu funds be allocated to a program recommended by the Partnership to End Homelessness which enables landlords accepting Housing Choice and VA vouchers to recoup a portion of damages that may be incurred by tenants. I also will continue advocating for additional payment-in-lieu or additional affordable housing units be provided by any new developments and redevelopments. I also advocate for increased investment in our public communication and engagement activities and programs while aiming to increase reach, coverage and effectiveness. While our outreach efforts rival communities with significantly larger public communication and engagement staff and budget, where possible, we still need to better reach those who can’t attend public meetings, who aren’t on social media, or who prefer different ways of participation.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Quick answers

Do you support growth in the rural areas immediately surrounding Hillsborough?

Jennifer Weaver: No. I support sticking to our service boundary, our Strategic Growth Plan and our Strategic Land Use plan.

Kathleen Ferguson: No. More than 10 years ago, Hillsborough wisely chose to tie growth to water capacity and to focus on in-fill development rather than sprawl. This decision provides for more efficient delivery of services (and) helps preserve our small town character, which residents and tourists value highly.

Do you support economic incentives to attract businesses?

Jennifer Weaver: Yes. I think these incentives are not a great practice but can go along with them (to a limited degree and only with clawbacks), because I understand if other jurisdictions are using them, we will have to also.

Kathleen Ferguson: Yes, provided that there are appropriate claw-back provisions that are tied to local job creation, local capital investment and long-term commitment to remaining in Hillsborough. Market forces impact site selection and with more shovel- and move-in sites available than businesses looking to relocate or grow, site selection decision-makers require an incentive policy to be in place before they will place a location on their short list. Hillsborough will need to be on these short lists in order to compete for the hotel, grocery, light industry and other commercial enterprises we wish to attract.

Do you support using taxpayer money to buy and preserve the Colonial Inn?

Jennifer Weaver: No. I sincerely hope the inn is sold on the private market before the deadline.

Kathleen Ferguson: No. I believe that the town has and should continue to support preservation of the former Colonial Inn, but the best possible solution is for it to be purchased by a buyer willing and able to invest the needed funds to restore the building properly so that it once again contributes to the character of the town. While I continue to believe that taxpayers should not bear the burden of rescue and restoration, in order to preserve the property, it may be necessary for the town to invest in purchasing it should the current owner fail to find a buyer within the agreed time frame. In such a case, I will continue advocating that the town quickly turn the property over to a public-private partnership and recoup our purchase price so that the funds can be redirected towards other public use.

Early Voting information

One-Stop Early voting in the Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough municipal races and in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board election begins Thursday, Oct. 19. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Eligible citizens can register and vote during the early voting period with an approved identification, such as a bank statement, drivers license or utility bill, showing their name and current address.

All early voting sites will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Otherwise, the following polls will be open:

▪ Board of Elections, 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough

Thursday-Friday, Oct. 19-20, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Not open Saturday, Oct. 28, because of UNC football game

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.