The Chapel Hill Planning Board met on November 19th and responded positively to concerns expressed by the public. The Board adopted these recommendations to the Town Council which we support. We strongly recommed that the Town Council adopt these recommendations as a part of the proposed small area plan.
The Chapel Hill Transportation Advisory met October 24th. Michael Parker wore two hats as chair of the Transportation Board and Steering Committee Co chair. After he presented the plan, the Board heard public comment. Three steering committee members spoke in favor of the Citizens’ Plan. Steering Committee member Firoz Mistry asked that Whit Rummel, Central West property owner and member of the Transportation to recuse himself.
Mr Rummel voted on the motion with other Board members to adopt the Central West Committee’s higher density Small Area Plan with the caveat that “all means necessary be used to keep traffic moving on Estes.” This caveat was surprising as the Town has made it clear that it does not intend to widen Estes: (1) there is no money to do so allocated at the MPO; (2) the 2009 Long Range Transit Plan does not list Estes as a transit corridor, and (3) CW steering committee itself has voted to keep Estes to two lanes. Transportation Advisory Board Resolution is here.
The Chapel Hill Planning Board met on October 29. The Board heard a presentation from the staff and co chairs. A number of citizens spoke in favor of the Citizens’ Plan. In addition these concerns about the committee plan were raised: (1) committee plan densities will cause gridlock on Estes; (2) questioned the traffic consultant’s assumptions about how many people actually will use Estes versus MLK; (3) concern that no real plan for affordable housing exists; (4) uncertainty that a stormwater management plan will be effective at managing substantial increase in impervious surfaces; and (5) a call for respect for the old growth hickory forest on the Davis property.
Some of the most important Board member comments follow:
- Add a principle not to widen Estes Drive
- Move 2020 goals to front and link plan to them
- More synergy with Carolina North needed
- Use low impact design techniques
- Add limits on parking
- Add affordable housing recommendations
- Need to link focus area plans and do a town-wide TIA
Two or three planning board members said they liked the densities, and one posited that Estes would eventually be widened. Board members said they were not ready to endorse a plan to the Council and wanted to see what the Committee would do with their comments. The Board will meet to make a recommendation on November 19th. Here are the Planning Board Comments
The Greenways Commission met October 23 and made these Recommendations.
The Bike and Pedestrian Board met October 22 and made these recommendations.
Commentary: Central West Committee steering in dangerous direction
Sometimes people get led away from a common sense direction by misapplying fashionable ideas or getting lost in details.
Despite good intentions, this is happening with the Town’s Central West Steering Committee, with great potential danger to Chapel Hill’s future.
The town charged the committee with developing a plan for the area along MLK Boulevard near the Estes Drive intersection and east along Estes. An important requirement was citizen input.
The town staff and their consultant wasted time and ran up a big cost overrun by peppering the committee with trendy urban plans that showed no understanding of the context and real issues at Central West. The committee eventually developed four alternative plans, all with various amounts of dense commercial and residential development packed into this small area. Continue reading
The Town provided an on line survey on the Town web site for the benefit of any citizens who could not come to the Amity Community meeting. Residents from all over Town participated. The response was unusually high, with 477 Town residents responding. The public was not given a chance to comment on the Citizens’ Plan, a significantly less dense plan. The results demonstrated that most Chapel Hill citizens did not like the high density maps the Steering Committee had selected.
Respondents were asked to rate four plans as like, dislike, or neutral. The results showed overwhelming opposition to the committee plans, with the strongest opposition to the two densest plans. The 477 respondents disliked these plans by 67 percent and 71 percent. The town planning staff tried to minimize this result by adding the neutral votes to the like votes, but even with this heavy thumb on the scales these plans were still overwhelmingly opposed.
This post tells what happened next.
After the Community Input session at Amity Church and the Town sponsored survey, many felt that community members had spoken clearly that the four maps brought to the meeting brought too much intensity and traffic to the area. The session was attended by over 230 people, despite a Back to School event the same evening. Although the Committee had voted against allowing the Citizen Map to be presented at the workshop, copies were distributed outside the door. Lively conversation made up for fairly primitive displays of red and green dots. Although the Citizen Plan had not been invited to the party, it was the most popular guest.
In the Report to the Citizens of Chapel Hill four members of the Steering Committee explain why they favored the Alternate Citizens’ Plan over the Committee Plan.
The following week, the Co chairs decided on their own to go back to the drawing board on the concept map. Amy Ryan and Michael Parker initiated private meetings with every committee member where they sought views of what should be on a map. From these meetings grew a new hand colored map – a separate but collective view. At the September 24 Steering Committee meeting, members were invited to make individual suggestions for the new map .Over 55 recommendations were articulated and listed as possible changes. The co chairs followed up with motions and the committee voted on some of them. Many suggestions were left on the table, not discussed, and never revisited.
Some steering committee members expressed disappointment that the new map lacked the good traffic analysis done previously on A1 – B2 maps (the ones that had been taken to the workshop). They said the Council deserved a map that would show where density should go in order to estimate the impact on traffic. They also pressed for setbacks, lower heights and density in order to reduce new expected traffic on Estes from Carolina North and other new development. Alan Tom closed this meeting with an articulate summary of the year’s progress in Central West. See Alan’s remarks.