Monthly Archives: March 2012

Town Council hears from 2020 stakeholders

About 50 people, including Estes Neighbors, attended the Town Council meeting Monday night to support 16 speakers asking the Town Council for modifications in the process to develop a Comprehensive Plan. In an open letter to the Council  participating citizens told of their experiences in the stakeholder meetings.  The petitioners feel it is unrealistic to compete land use recommendations by June.  The petitioners requested  mid-course corrections to the 2020 process to ensure greater representation of participants in the final plan decisions.  In addition, we asked the Council to leave out premature conclusions about land use until all affected neighborhoods can participate. That includes zoning changes to Estes Drive.

Laurie Cousart gave these remarks on behalf of Estes Neighbors. If you have a comment on the meeting tell us about it.

Open Letter to Town Council

To: Chapel Hill Town Council
From: Concerned 2020 Stakeholders
Re: Specific Requests to Council for Improving the 2020 Process

 We, the undersigned 2020 stakeholders, would like to respectfully ask that Council consider the following actions to address stakeholder concerns and ensure the success of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan:

(1) Endorse the completion of the goals and objectives section for the June vision document;

(2) Allow each theme group to choose two stakeholder representatives to join the co-chair discussions tasked by the Manager and the 2020 leadership with achieving consensus on conflicting theme group goals in the June vision document;

(3) Remove the Future Focus event maps, surveys, and conclusions from the June document and agree that work related to land use recommendations be continued in the subsequent implementation phase; and

(4) Develop, with stakeholders, a new process for creating the land use portion of the plan after the June document is complete. Include opportunities for comprehensive, analytical discussions of the impacts of proposed changes town-wide and to key growth areas to ensure that town goals and objectives are met in a balanced manner.

 A letter is attached, detailing our experience with the 2020 process and our reasons for requesting these changes.

March 25, 2012

An Open Letter to the Chapel Hill Town Council:

 The purpose of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan is to hear citizens’ vision for the future and write a vision plan and land use map to make that future a reality. The Town Manager says we are on our way to completing the Comprehensive Plan vision and framework document in June. With utmost respect to the Manager, the Town staff, and the 2020 leadership, many 2020 stakeholders feel that our work to date is far from finished and does not answer the fundamental question the Town Council wants to know: How much and in what way do we want to grow?

As we near the June deadline, we think it’s important for you to hear citizen input on the process, unfiltered by the voices of the 2020 leadership. Here’s our take on where the current process stands, where we feel it has succeeded, and where we still have work to do. We ask you to take our experience as stakeholders Continue reading

Development scenarios for the South MLK area

Here are the maps developed by the town’s consultant regarding scenarios for development in the South MLK area (from Homestead Rd. to downtown).


They include a base map and the following three scenarios:

1. Incremental growth: This includes high-density residential development along Estes from MLK toward Somerset, with one new road from Estes into that development.

2. Modest redevelopment: This includes low-density commercial/office and high-density residential development along Estes all the way to Phillips Middle School (including new roadway access from Estes).  It also includes high-density residential development behind the offices on MLK north of Mt. Bolus Road that would extend toward (but not connect to) Caswell Drive, with a new entry road from MLK.

3. Transit-oriented growth: Same as #2 for the Estes and Mt. Bolus areas.

Any of these options will have major consequences for traffic flows, pedestrian safety, and environmental quality in the area and beyond.  Please take a look and help us to convince the town council that any development projects along these lines should not be undertaken without substantive, sustained input from local residents and others affected by the potential changes.

The complete set of future focus scenario maps for the town of Chapel Hill can be found at  The maps for South MLK are the last four in the set.

Design Commission Meeting

The Design Commission meeting video should be available here soon.

Presentation. The applicant from Greer properties introduced Scott Radway who gave the presentation. On a 16 acre tract, applicant  is proposing 4 story hotel with 130 rooms and a parking deck, and 7 4 story apartment buildings plus club house. About 500 more auto trips estimated a day from student housing and hotel on corner.  See detailed plans on line.

Several points made by the applicant:  This is called “purposeful housing”  designed for under graduate; egress and entrance challenges and conversation with DOT; betting on first UNC building to be built in 2013 so airport will close and Airport Hazard Zone can be lifted; only 510 feet frontage on MLK; sees acute housing need for students even though vacant rooms on campus.

Public comments:  We had a line up of speakers who spoke effectively about problems with the proposed Carolina Flats plan.

  • Why the Commission should recommend no zoning change:  residential character of Estes Drive and 2020 plan already underway to plan potential changes to area
  • Noted notification card (not everyone got them) Does not make sense to do two processes at once
  • Characteristics of UNC development agreement and how this project does not fit in: parking ratios observed at Carolina North, not observed here
  • Do we want an ugly apron around the new UNC campus; at odds with gateway setting to our Town
  • Traffic challenges exist now on Estes ; backs up 3 times a day
  • Schools safety  Children that walk to Estes; over 50 % of plan would be impervious surface; plan should not go forward ahead of 2020
  • Project is out of scale with every thing in the area

Questions and comments from the Commission.  The Commission does not make recommendations but their report will go to Council who will review the plans on April 23.

Many commissioners picked up on our points. One Commissioner questioned what route students would take and whether this was really a “transit oriented” development. The Chair mentioned the proposed 2020 Corridor study of Estes Drive to be done before the plan was considered.  She also noted the traffic problems.

Chapel Hill Development Activity Map and Report

Here are the town’s Development Activity Report and Development Activity Map (GIS). The map in particular is very useful.

Development Activity Report

Development Activity Map

NCDOT projects involving Estes Drive

From a neighbor, regarding NCDOT projects involving Estes Road:

I have found not only the listing of three Estes Drive projects on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) site:

but also a listing of the priority given to these projects when they were submitted to the Dept. of Transportation by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO). [I was not even aware that that there is such a group, but apparently, according to Wikipedia, a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a federally mandated (and funded) transportation policy-making organization in the United States that is made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities (for any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000)]. In any case, our area MPO – DCHC MPO — apparently rates various highway projects from our Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro area.

Here’s the status for the three Estes Drive projects (last rated by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO on October 26, 2011). First, the roundabout at Estes and Greensboro Street was ranked #53 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is to be rescheduled for reprioritization. Second, the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK to add bike lanes, sidewalks and transit accommodations was ranked #1 by our DCHC MPO and was costed out at $2,197,000 but was not funded and is to reprioritized. Third, and of greatest interest to many of us, is the project Dan reported in his email: the widening of the existing Estes roadway between MLK and Caswell to include two 12-foot lanes, four-foot bicycle lanes and sidewalks. This project got a ranking of #25 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is, as the other two Estes Road projects, to be reprioritized. [I’m not clear about when that process will occur.]

So the widening of Estes along the proposed Carolina Flats development is on the planning list but apparently off in the future. However, it does sound like the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK is not too far off.  The two documents which outline all area projects – bicycle and pedestrian as well as highway are:

1. NC-DOT Document (Highway Projects in the SPOT Database

2. DCHC MPO Regional Prioritization Methology 2011-10-26

I am not sure if the widening of Estes between MLK and Caswell – apparently a two-lane, not a four-lane effort – will require added land on one or both sides of the current road; its also not clear which end of Caswell is the end of the project. This project would make only one significant change — the adding of bike lanes — along with a second sidewalk.


Carolina Flats application files and concept drawings

Here are the Concept Plan Application and Concept Plan Drawings for the Carolina Flats @ Estes proposal.  The project description states that it is “Proposed rezoning to MU-V for a 590 multi-family student housing community and a 125-145 room/suites hotel.”  The application includes a map and photos of the site and surrounding areas.  Note that the drawings envision vehicular access from Estes as well as from MLK.

These are large files, so they may take some time to load.

Carolina Flats Concept Plan Application

Carolina Flats Exhibit Files (Concept Plan drawings)

March 20 Chapel Hill 2020 update

At the March 20 2020 planning meeting, the Town’s Consultant with the leaders’ blessing appears to be  leaning toward recommending more density for Estes Drive for the Comprehensive Vision document in June.

The Consultant reported on the “results” of a small charette held last month for 5 focus areas in town along transportation corridors, including Estes Drive.  On the basis of 40 minute small group conversations around tables, the Consultant said there seemed to be some consensus for four of the areas, including Estes Drive.  Estes neighbors attending the meeting pushed back strongly on that assertion.

The Estes Drive development map is already contained on the Town’s 2020 website in the new draft of the Comprehensive plan. See “framework maps” at front where a “policy statement” will accompany it.

When we asked the consultant what was meant by proposing an Estes Drive corridor study, Chair Rosemary Waldorf said this may be a good place for a “form based zone” discussion.  People in the area would give input to determine what gets built and this would go around the normal special use permit process.

We need to insist on full citizen participation on any future vision for the area and that any such study will be a robust study such as a small area plan and will include full data on the needs of the town.

Welcome to the home of Central West Citizens!

The Town of Chapel has completed a year-long planning process for Central West — see area map . On November 26, the Town Council adopted the Steering Committee’s Proposed Small Area Plan  and incorporated into the plan important revisions and conditions proposed by the Planning Board.  Key conditions include committing to a town-wide modeling analysis of the cumulative traffic impacts from the proposed development in all of the Focus Areas, and conducting a watershed stormwater impact analysis of the potential cumulative stormwater volume impacts. According to the Council discussion, (click here for videotape) the Small Area Plan density recommendations would be adjusted upon completion of the traffic studies. Read this Commentary to see what was achieved or see the  Chapel Hill News storyThe final resolution language is here.

See our new page about Ephesus – Fordham developments.

Google map