Harvesting the facts in Carrboro
Residents keep asking me: Could it be true? Could the home of the area’s best farmers’ market be out to destroy the few remaining farms in its jurisdiction? Of course, the answer is a resounding “No!” As mayor, I am highly committed to local farming and, as I told a group of farmers last month, my door is open to them any time.
The board of aldermen and I have helped the farmers’ market expand, worked with Agricultural Extension to be more responsive to farmers and helped create the Carrboro Community Garden. I have also implemented a program for kids to learn healthy eating habits by growing their own vegetables. Currently, I am working to make in-town farming easier and advocating to conserve farms in the Northern Transition Area. I’ve never publicized these things, but a politically motivated disinformation campaign compels me to speak up.
This all started with Ms. Marilyn Kille, who presented town inspectors with plans for a workshop, but instead surreptitiously built a rental apartment. Most folks who want to build an apartment would get the proper building permit, get the appropriate land-use permit, have the residence inspected, pay the school impact fee and pay the proper tax bill. But Ms. Kille did none of that; instead, she built a workshop and covertly converted it into an apartment.
A while back, the town received a complaint about Ms. Kille’s property and began enforcement proceedings to have the property brought into compliance. But Ms. Kille refused to comply.
Eventually, the Orange County courts found Ms. Kille in violation of the Carrboro Land Use Ordinance and ordered her to come into compliance. But she defies the court order. Worse yet, Ms. Kille recently came to the Carrboro Planning Department and allegedly altered documents in her file, attempting to fabricate evidence. So she now faces criminal charges for altering public documents as well.
Ms. Kille’s explanation for her behavior is to attack the town as purportedly “anti-farm.” Her cause has been taken up by Sharon Cook, an unsuccessful alderman candidate from 2007. The two of them have succeeded in making a lot of sound and fury.
You may have seen Ms. Kille collecting petition signatures in front of the farmers’ market. She will tell you all about the importance of caretaker apartments on farms, but she won’t tell you that her apartment was built illegally in the University Lake watershed. She won’t tell you that her apartment is an investment, not a “caretaker” apartment. She won’t tell you that her proposal is to allow even more new apartments in the watershed — resulting in more septic systems, automobiles and parking lots draining into your water supply. She won’t tell you that any farm in Carrboro’s jurisdiction can build a caretaker apartment — as long as it doesn’t drain into University Lake.
Ms. Cook and Ms. Kille continually disparage the town in the newspapers, claiming Carrboro is “anti-farm.” Let’s be clear: This campaign has been fabricated to justify Ms. Kille’s actions and to provide Ms. Cook with campaign fodder for her next campaign. It weaves together half-truths, omissions and disinformation to confuse the people of Carrboro. Cook’s recent quotes and letter to the editor had so many errors of fact and implication that it warranted correction by the town attorney. And Ms. Kille’s fabrications have gotten to the point of her having to face the district attorney.
I want you to know the truth. Having grown up on my family’s farm, I am 100 percent pro-farm. The board of aldermen and I have worked on lots of pro-farming issues:
• changing the animal-control ordinance to make farming in town easier;
• conserving farmland in the Northern Transition Area;
• extending hours and parking for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market;
• allowing the Carrboro Community Garden to use MLK park;
• partnering with Cooperative Extension to get farmer input and;
• teaching kids healthy eating through growing their own vegetables
Let me close by saying to the farmers in and near Carrboro: The board of aldermen and I appreciate and value your work. If you have a problem, please call me on my cell phone at 636-0371. The aldermen will be meeting June 16 at 7:30 at Town Hall to discuss farming issues further. Let us know your needs and concerns. We’ll do our best to support your farms.
Mark Chilton is mayor of the Town of Carrboro.