February 2008

The Town received an anonymous complaint about three taco trucks that have been operating in Carrboro over the past several months.

In response, staff provided the board with an informative memo about the situation, which showed that the trucks were in violation of a zoning ordinance (see the memo HERE, or on the DOCUMENTS page). It is my understanding that the trucks are not in violation of any county-regulated health laws. This issue has generated lots of discussion around town!

At the board meeting on Tuesday, February 5, the BOA agreed unanimously to ask staff to investigate ways to revise our land use ordinance to allow taco trucks to keep operating in Carrboro. Prior to the meeting, I researched the matter and was not surprised to find that many communities across the United States are dealing with this same issue. I found a few jurisdictions with laws that I believe can serve as a starting point for our revised or newly crafted ordinance. Personally, I believe it is entirely possible and desirable to keep these entrepreneurs operating. Our town has the largest growing Hispanic population in the state, and this form of eating establishment helps build our community and adds to our culinary and cultural diversity.

I recently attended the “Essentials of Municipal Government” training for newly elected officials. I learned a lot, and some of it was surprising. Many of my classmates were from towns much smaller than Carrboro and the majority of these small towns do not have a town manager or any public administrator! Officials in these towns do it all, which is no easy task. I am happy I dodged that bullet.

Another distinction was that in many towns, the mayor does not vote like our mayor does, except in cases of a tie. Of course, in the towns where the mayor functions somewhat in the role of the town manager, this makes more sense than it would in Carrboro.

During the training, we covered topics such as financing, open meeting laws, and running efficient board meetings. We discussed relationships between elected officials and other public officials and employees, and we considered environmental issues. I was pleased to see how much we do right in Carrboro. We are years into wrestling with hard topics, especially regarding energy issues, where, unfortunately, many other local governments have yet to undertake these concerns.

At the training, participants received several helpful resources and we made connections with new officials in other towns. I know I will be consulting both the resources and my colleagues as I continue to grow in my new position.

Two days after returning from the training, I participated in my first board retreat, attended also by several members of town staff. We came up with a list of our values and priorities (as they pertained to commercial development) for the upcoming year. The values we identified were the following (in no particular order):

New development should …

  1. Not harm existing businesses;
  2. Provide entrepreneurial opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  3. Provide job opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  4. Engage and build community;
  5. Be consistent with our environmental ethic;
  6. Provide long-term tax revenue ;
  7. Respect the character and history of our town;
  8. Support a multi-modal system of transportation and parking;
  9. Help develop/promote a local living economy;
  10. Sustain and protect existing neighborhoods.

Our priorities all related to these values, such as increasing commercial zoning, and exploring ways to encourage commercial businesses and offices to locate in village mixed-use developments. We also discussed creating a “Local Living Economy Task Force,” and assessing and improving entrepreneurship. Finally, of utmost importance to the board was the need to review our ordinances in an effort to regulate land uses and activities based on water usage.