The final draft of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan is out. Please review here. The future focus chapter language has improved. The chapter on Estes/MLK is appropriately neutral in tone.
When we met with Town staff we explicitly requested that the community discussions be held in the fall. The staff language on page 45 refers to an Estes Drive Corridor study occuring in the summer.
“With Council endorsement, the Town staff will initiate a review of the policies and regulation, including land use, for the following specific area in Chapel Hill: Estes Drive Corridor – An immediate priority for the summer of 2012 with in-house support and external facilitation and/or consultant support”.
A bit of background:
On May 21 Watson Bowes, on behalf of Estes Neighbors, presented a petition to the Council requesting a small area planning process to take a broader look at the MLK and Estes Drive planning area. Earlier in April, the Town Council critiqued the concept plan for Carolina Flats, a plan calling for a hotel, parking and seven apartments designed for student housing. View the agenda materials, the concept plans, and the video here. We said this project runs counter to the residential character of Estes Drive and would increase traffic and jeopardize the safety of school children and pedestrians.
Members of the Estes Neighbors Coalition have been asking the town to implement a small area study for the Estes-MLK area (the MLK South future focus area, with specific parameters yet to be determined). On June 6, several neighbors met with the town’s planning staff to discuss these issues. At that meeting, we learned that Scott Radway, on behalf of the developers of the Carolina Flats proposal, has already contacted the town to request a small area study — but an accelerated process that would consist of 3-4 meetings and be completed by September 2012. (The developer’s proposal is at 2012-06-01 Estes-MLK Study Proposal.) Estes Neighbors has asked the Town for studies of the area to be conducted at deliberate pace, beginning in the fall of 2012, with broad participation from all relevant stakeholders. While we are pleased that the developers have expressed an understanding of the need for good communication, we will emphasize that this process must be guided by a focus on the larger good of the town and community, and cannot be rushed to serve the interests of one group.
It is rare indeed when all parties, the neighbors, the Town and the developers agree a conceptual planning process is needed. It is our hope that everyone involved in this planning process will be willing to take the time to do it right.