By Simon Palmore (@simon_palmore)
On December 7, 2022, I joined with community members of all stripes at a meeting of the Chapel Hill Town Council to advocate for the use of the town-owned property on Legion Road for both affordable housing and parkspace. I was inspired by the vulnerability, tenacity, and eloquence of the pro-housing speakers, and I was proud of Mayor Hemminger and Council Members Stegman, Anderson, Ryan, Miller-Foushee, Berry, Huynh, and Parker for supporting the joint use of the property and taking advantage of a great opportunity to build new places for people to live. A transcript of my remarks is below:
Good evening. My name is Simon Palmore. I’m a renter in Chapel Hill, a student at UNC, and the chair of a town advisory board. I’m speaking tonight on my own behalf.
I’m here to advocate in the strongest terms for a mixed use of affordable housing and parkspace on the town-owned property on Legion Road.
I ask the Town Council and the community members who have opposed the construction of affordable housing on this property to remember the needs at play in this discussion, and to remember that these are critical needs indeed. We’re discussing the fate of this property at a time when housing is more expensive than it has ever been before; mental illness and suffering, so closely tied to the sort of roof one has over their head, is at a boiling point. We have friends and neighbors, members of our community, who lay down their heads every night under the pillars of the old post office building on Franklin Street, the area that we so optimistically call the Peace and Justice Plaza.
It has been said in this discussion at various points that we have enough apartments in this part of town already. Traffic is getting worse, the streets are changing, and our parkspace is limited. I would challenge the community members who have those concerns to hold them up against the light and ask themselves whether they’re worth the possibilities that blocking housing on this site would force us to forego.
We can throw around words like “social justice” and “equity,” but true equity is ensuring the ability of all our friends and neighbors to lay their head down in a safe, comfortable place at night.
I am proud of many members of the Town Council for being so committed to prioritizing the construction and funding of affordable housing over this past year; I ask with respect and admiration that you stick to the course and address this critical need. It’s true: doing this may require some tough trade-offs. But I ask those in opposition to take a step back and consider again the hierarchy of needs that our community faces.