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Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force
Post-Public Forum Meeting
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
First Floor Conference Room, Town Hall
Members Present: Council Member Dorothy Verkerk (chair), Rebecca Clark, Catherine Frank, Paul Kapp, Cat Williams, Steven Moore
Absent: Jill Coleman, Kirk Pelland, John Sanders, Bruce Runberg, Bland Simpson, Faison Sessoms
Staff Attending: Curtis Brooks, Emily Cameron
The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Task Force met in the Council conference room at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, November 23, 2004. Information packets were distributed including a summary of the issues to be discussed, draft minutes from the November 8 Public Forum, emailed comments from members Paul Kapp and Faison Sessoms, excerpts from the National Register Nomination for the cemetery, the deed from the University to the Town for the cemetery property, and a cost estimate and detail for a proposed rock gutter.
Council Member Verkerk convened the meeting with a brief summary of events since the September 22 Task Force meeting. She referred to the allocations of funding for improvements to the cemetery that were previously recommended to Council and discussed at the Public Forum, indicating that the Task Force needed to make a final recommendation to the Council.
Proposed Role for the Historic District Commission
The first issue discussed involved proposing a future role for the Chapel Hill Historic District Commission (HDC) to oversee implementation of the Task Forces recommendations.
Steven Moore stated that he thought that such a role would be very different from the way the Historic District Commission currently functions.
Catherine Frank spoke as a former member of the HDC stating that the Commission has in the past requested funding from the Town Council. She added that reviewing Certificates of Appropriateness takes a lot of the Commissions time; however, it could be designated as a Historic Landmarks Commission. Catherine said that the HDC could also serve as a point of contact for citizens with concerns about the cemetery, which would save Town resources. Having the HDC take an active role in the management of the cemetery may attract new volunteers to serve as members.
Cat Williams asked if anyone had discussed the idea with the HDC.
Dorothy Verkerk suggested that the Task Force should recommend to the Town Council that the Historic District Commission take on the role of overseeing improvements to the cemetery while at the same time listing expectations or conditions, such as attendance at Town Council budget deliberations, site visits at least twice annually, etc.
Curtis suggested that the proposal be forwarded to the Historic District Commission for their review and comment.
Catherine Frank responded that she would be able to introduce the proposal to them.
The members present discussed the importance of having a voice during the annual budget meetings of the Town Council.
Rebecca Clark suggested that the Task Force should ask the Town Council for $30-40,000 in additional funding so that all of the immediate needs in the cemetery could be addressed. She added that too often maintenance and repairs are delayed and conditions worsen, such as erosion at the base of grave stones. She added that she had visited historic cemeteries in other parts of the country that are better-maintained. Mrs. Clark felt that the University should take additional responsibility for neglect that occurred during its ownership prior to 1989.
Steven Moore made a motion that the Task Force recommend that the Historic District Commission oversee implementation of the proposed improvements.
Paul Kapp seconded the motion. The vote in favor was unanimous.
Proposed Stone Gutter
Curtis referred to the cemetery site plan and described the existing slope and drainage pattern indicating the recommended location for an additional 250 feet of stone gutter along the west side of the western-most driveway. He also directed the group to the $17,302 cost estimate recently received from a qualified stone mason for installation of the gutter with assistance from the Public Works Department. Curtis added that a portion of the asphalt driveway edge would be removed in order to avoid conflicts with nearby gravesites.
Paul Kapp asked if the proposed gutter would empty into a catch basin on South Road.
Curtis responded that runoff from the existing gutters along the driveways flows across the gravel sidewalk to the street. He indicated that the gutter had been part of previously recommended improvements to be funded from the CIP account for the cemeteries.
Steven Moore asked if there would be a conflict with the stone walls.
Curtis responded that he did not anticipate a conflict.
Paul Kapp stated that the cost of the Universitys current work on the perimeter stone walls is $350,000.
Dorothy Verkerk stated her support of the proposed gutter and suggested three options for funding the work: 1) use a portion of the funding recommended for archival research and improvements, 2) use some of the allocation recommended for fence restoration, or 3) ask the Town Council for additional funding.
Cat Williams stated that the Task Force should seek additional funding. She suggested that they could request help from the UNC Development Office that could solicit contributions statewide from former students based on the Universitys shared history with the Town.
Rebecca Clark indicated that it would be appropriate to expect compensation for past vandalism/damage to the cemetery.
Steven Moore agreed that UNC could be a conduit for additional funding.
Paul Kapp suggested that the proposed Cemetery improvements could be the initial momentum needed to create interest among UNC alumni and supporters.
Cat Williams stated that there are many interesting stories related to the history of the cemetery in addition to the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies.
Steven Moore noted that the history of the downtown merchants and their establishments could be associated with the families found in the cemetery.
Restoration of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Society Plot Fences
Dorothy suggested that restoration of the Di and Phi fences could be used a leverage to initiate support for the other improvement efforts.
Paul agreed that the Di-Phi fences could be a success story that would springboard subsequent improvement projects. He noted their status as being contributing structures in the Cemeterys nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Steven Moore distributed to the group a table (Handout 1) he had prepared which compared recommendations from the 1987 Master Plan and later studies of the cemetery, including the present work of the Task Force. He asked about the status of a proposed sidewalk along South Road.
Paul indicated that the brick sidewalk would be installed by the University as stipulated in the Special Use Permit for the chiller plant.
Steven referred to the table he had distributed and noted previous recommendations for repairs to private features such as curbing, fences and gates on family plots.
Paul noted that the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies had pledged funding and perhaps families could be solicited for similar contributions toward repairs.
While discussing partial funding of certain improvements, Dorothy and Catherine Frank noted the infeasibility of undertaking some projects, such as restoration of the Di-Phi fences unless they are fully funded.
Dorothy, noting the significance of the Di-Phi fences in the National Register of Historic Places nomination, recommended devoting available funding to an immediate success, then set priorities for subsequent projects.
Paul expressed support for asking the Council for additional funding. He added that it is difficult to fund the more functional, less attractive projects.
Dorothy suggested that the December 6 Town Council meeting would be a good opportunity to approach the Council with final recommendations.
Catherine indicated support for funding the Di-Phi fence restorations and asked for clarification about the funding recommended for archival work.
Dorothy reviewed the previous proposal to involve a graduate student to make recommendations under the supervision of their faculty advisor.
Steven Moore distributed a list he had prepared that showed a different distribution of funding cemetery improvements.
Catherine Frank, noted that partial funding of projects may not result in successful outcomes and that it would be difficult to only partially repair the Di-Phi fences.
Curtis indicated that in the past a considerable amount had been spent on marker restorations and estimated that another $20,000 or more may now be needed for repairs to markers that have been damaged since this repair work was done.
Catherine agreed that $25,000 is a reasonable estimate based on a 2002 review by a restoration expert.
Dorothy suggested that publicity would be key to additional fundraising in order to complete all of the recommended improvements.
Catherine suggested that the grave marker for Sarah Woodard would be a good candidate for restoration and that because of its numerous fractures could cost up to $5000.
By consensus, the Task Force agreed to recommend that $5000 of the allocation for archival work be set aside for marker restoration.
Dorothy led further discussion of fundraising noting that the best approach is to advertise specific projects.
Curtis noted that any group or individual can contribute money to the Capital Improvements Project Fund for a specific project account.
Dorothy summarized the proposed revisions to the Task Force recommendations that had been discussed: 1) reallocate $5,000 from archives and public information to marker restoration and, 2) request an additional $20,000 from the Town Council for stone gutter repairs. She asked for the members to vote on whether to support full funding for the restoration of the Di-Phi fences along with the above two revisions.
The vote was 5 in favor and 1 opposed.
Those voting in favor: Chair Dorothy Verkerk, Rebecca Clarke, Catherine Frank, Paul Kapp, Cat Williams.
Those opposed: Steven Moore
The meeting adjourned at 7:45