The Real Estate Report
Local Government News Impacting the Real Estate Industry
Traffic Analysis Detailed for Carolina North
By the year 2025 Carolina North will double the amount of traffic in Chapel Hill, mainly on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to a draft of a traffic impact analysis released earlier in May. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., the consultants for the analysis, explained that vehicle, park and ride, transit, pedestrian, bike and others would increase from 40,000 to 80,000. The study does point out that MLK Jr Blvd will see a major increase in traffic regardless of whether the project is built and that the traffic improvements made by Carolina North will make the flow of traffic much better than if the project is not built. For the full story from The Herald Sun, click here.
Carrboro Subdivision Denied
Colleton Crossing, a development proposed for Reynard Road between Fox Meadow and Highlands, was unanimously denied by the Carrboro Board of Alderman on May 21. The project was designed to be a 39-dwelling subdivision on 31.6 acres of land. Residents were not supportive of the project due to concerns over traffic. For the full story from The Carrboro Citizen, click here.
Northside Elementary Construction in Question
According to Orange County’s Budget Director, with Orange County nearing its 15 percent debt limit it is unlikely that there will be money available to build Northside Elementary 11 as planned for 2011. County Commissioners approved construction of the school, between McMasters and Caldwell Street, last year but current economic circumstances have put budget spending on hold. The Board of Commissioners will continue to meet the rest of the month to discuss options. For the full story from 1360 WCHL, click here.
OWASA Requests Higher Water Rates
Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) is calling for a 9.75 percent rate increase, raising the water bill of a typical, 5,000 gallons per month residence from $68.24 to $74.92. The rising prices of chemicals that clean wastewater are driving up costs. The public hearing to discuss rate increases will be May 28 at 7 p.m. in the Chapel Hill Town Hall and will also be televised on local cable channel 18. For the full story from the Chapel Hill News, click here.
Property Tax Rate Decrease Proposed for Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill’s Town Manager Roger Stancil is calling for a property tax rate reduction of 14 percent from last year, lowering the current rate of 58 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 49.7-cents. The proposal would include no job layoffs or furloughs and no salary increases for town employees. Stancil says that last year when the economy began to plummet the Council started taking money saving measurements that were so effective that Chapel Hill has room to reduce property taxes. Approximately $20 million will be delayed in taxpayer-authorized borrowing so as to not increase an already heavy debt burden. For the full story from The News and Observer, click here.
Carrboro Proposes Budget
Carrboro Town Manager Steve Stewart unveiled a 2010 budget proposal on May 12 that includes a property tax rate decrease from 68.63 to 58.94 cents per $100 valuation. The rate is considered revenue neutral meaning Carrboro will not see any increase in revenue despite increases in property valuations. Stewart said that because of the economic decline over the past months his proposal is a “conservative and very safe” route to take. The Aldermen were pleased to see the proposal include a revenue-neutral tax rate while maintaining services. A public hearing for the recommended budget will be held May 26 at 7 p.m. at Carrboro Town Hall. For the full story from the Carrboro Citizen, click here.
Community Visioning Task Force Seated
After the Town Council voted to expand the Community Visioning Task Force earlier this month, it voted to seat the Task Force on May 18. Several seats were designated for various segments of the community including business and university. Glen Greenstreet of Greenstreet Builders will be the business community representative, Gordon Merklein for UNC-Chapel Hill, and Etta Pisano will represent UNC Health Care. Civil engineer Bruce Ballentine will also be on the Task Force, which is charged with examining Chapel Hill’s comprehensive plan and making recommendations for how it can manage future economic growth.
From Staff reports
Orange County and MLS Figures
According to the Triangle Multiple Listing Service 57 homes were sold in Orange County in April representing a 48 percent decrease from that month last year. April’s inventory for sale represented a 6.5 month supply, up from 5.9 a year ago while the median price fell 11 percent to $258,000. Overall, Triangle statistics for the past few months are trending better. For instance, 1,628 homes were sold in the Triangle in April, which is the highest monthly total in the past six months. Supply for the Triangle is also dipping from 14.9 months in November to 7.5 months in April. For the full story from Triangle Business Journal, click here.
Orange County Manager Proposes Closing Libraries
Orange County Manager Laura Blackmon’s budget proposal, given May 19, may close Carrboro Branch and Cedar Grove Libraries and decrease school funding by $3.1 million. In order to reflect this year’s property revaluation, Blackmon proposed a budget of approximately $177.6 million. This three percent budget decrease from last year would be reached by decreasing the tax rate from 99.8 cents per $100 assessed property to a “revenue neutral” 85.8 cents per $100. With the closure of the libraries, Blackmon suggested transferring staff to the new main county library opening in Hillsborough in the fall. At least one commissioner, former-Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson, opposed Blackmon’s proposal to close the libraries. The county must adopt the budget on or before its final meeting of the fiscal year on June 16. For the full story from the News and Observer, click here.
New Plans for University Square of Chapel Hill
University Square, located on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, is likely to be replaced with a mixed-use development, according to plans developed by UNC-Chapel Hill. The redevelopment would be on a site including Granville Towers, which currently houses 1,300 students. Last year the university’s support foundation reported it would purchase the property from an affiliation with the Kenan family for $45.75 million. The foundation will own the property while the university will handle management and development. The deal is scheduled to close July 1. For the full story from the New and Observer, click here.
Football Hikes Chapel Hill Economy
Chapel Hill and Orange County economies received $6.5 million plus $325,000 in local and state tax revenue from the crowds of the 2008 North Carolina-Notre Dame football game. Nathan Tomasini, of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Sports Leadership, says this study also shows that of the football game attendees from North Carolina, 38.6% were from the Triangle and 45% of all attendees planned to attend all Carolina home games. Programs like “Touch Downtown Chapel Hill”, designed to entice fans to start early and stay late, focused on benefiting 100 restaurants and 50 specialty stores. The program will be continuing in 2009. For the full story from the Tourism Newsletter, click here.
Local Counties Ace Clean Air Report
Orange and Chatham counties rank among America’s cleanest for short term particle pollution along with two others in North Carolina, according to the American Lung Association. This annual report assigns a report card grade for counties across the country based upon three components—annual particle pollution, 24-hour particle pollution, and smog and ozone levels. Durham County received a passing C for 24 hour pollution but an F for ozone levels. Along with some of the cleanest counties, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury Metropolitan Statistical Area and Rowan County had two of the worst ozone levels in the country. For the full story from the Chapel Hill Herald, click here.
Jordan Lake Bill Moving Through State Legislature
A bill was recently passed by the House that would require Durham and surrounding communities to take responsibility for Jordan Lake’s cleanliness. The bill represents a compromise between the City of Durham, environmental groups and legislators over how best to improve water quality in Jordan Lake. The revamped bill will not require communities to develop catch basins or reduce impervious surface in already developed areas unless those areas are being redeveloped. The original bill that emerged from the NC Environment Management Commission required such efforts. Communities in Jordan Lake’s watershed will be required to begin planning public-education efforts in the coming months and if no water quality improvement occurs by 2014 new measures have to be identified. For the full story from the Herald-Sun, click here.
Chatham Alters Budget Spending
Next year’s Chatham County budget proposal includes a slash in merit based salary increases, a three percent decrease from current spending and a “revenue neutral” tax rate. Chatham recently underwent a property revaluation similar to Orange County and County Manager Charlie Horne is recommending that the property tax rate be reduced from 65.3 cents per $100 valuation to 60.32 cents. After excluding debt payments, County spending will actually be seven percent lower than previously due to departments cutting funding from some positions. Although these changes are painful to make, Horne says the county is in better shape than the state and most other local governments. For the full story from the Chapel Hill Herald, click here.
Chatham Passes Liquor by the Drink
Chatham businesses are now able to apply for liquor licenses after County residents voted 65 percent in the affirmative for a liquor by the drink referendum. Jeffrey Starkweather, one of the main proponents of the change, says that not only will business owners have the opportunity to acquire licenses, but that he is going to work with East West Partners to bring a new hotel to Powell Place. Without being able to offer liquor by the drink, a hotelier likely would not be interested in Chatham County. Opposition for the change came from people concerned with the rise in alcohol-related vehicular complications. For the full story from the Chapel Hill Herald, click here.
Durham City Manager makes Budget Proposals
City Manager Tom Bonfield proposed a 2009-10 fiscal year budget that would eliminate 35 jobs whose incumbents will either be laid off or forced to take on a different position on city staff. Bonfield’s budget will also cancel annual merit-based wage increases for all but fire personnel and sworn police officers. If passed, the cuts would be the first for Durham since 1996. Town Councilman Mike Woodard supports Bonfield’s proposal because the layoffs are not just positions at the bottom of “the city hierarchy.” Woodard explains that it is important to understand what these eliminations and cuts will mean “operationally and programmatically.” For the full story from The Herald-Sun, click here.
DPS Board Rejects County Budget, Proposes Tax Increase
On May 11, the Durham School Board voted to add $2.1 million to the superintendent’s budget, a decision opposing the county manager’s proposal for a $2.5 million budget cut. Instead of cutting 377 teacher and assistant positions, board member Stephen Martin’s new proposal would keep 33 teacher and 25 teacher assistant jobs. Martin also motioned for a 2-cent increase in property taxes to create $4.6 million, which would allow the county to meet its spending goals and keep a popular after school program, Encore!. Martin’s motioned for a tax and spending increase was unanimously approved. For the full story from The Herald-Sun, click here.
Grubb & Ellis Reports Triangle Market Trends
Triangle retail vacancy reached a new high, surpassing 8 percent, with 1.5 million square feet of vacancy in the first quarter 2009, according to Grubb & Ellis Research on retail market trends. Even though Orange County had a lower retail vacancy rate than Downtown Raleigh, Cary, and Central Durham at the end of March, Grubb & Ellis predict vacancy will continue to rise for the entire Triangle throughout the year. Research also shows that the leveling out of the unemployment rate in the Raleigh-Cary and Durham-Chapel Hill areas is due more to the increased discouragement of workers than of stabilization in the job market. For the full story from Grubb and Ellis, click here.
State Passes Smoke-Free Bill
A bill enforcing smoke-free restrictions in all North Carolina restaurants and bars was signed into law by Governor Bev Perdue recently. Supporters noted the 2006 Surgeon General Report that states no amount of second hand smoke is healthy and that putting employees of restaurants and bars at risk for health issues in exchange for a paycheck was unethical. Fines of up to $200 will be issued to establishments that do not enforce the new law along with $50 fines for smokers who do not abide. For the full story from The Herald-Sun, click here.
Minority Populations Growing Exponentially
The Real Estate Report is produced monthly by the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Chapel Hill Association of Realtors