Category Archives: Central West Citzens Input

What happened after the September community session?

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.

Alan Tom’s remarks to Central West Steering Committee

Just last week, the Steering Committee (Action Minutes for September 19) voted to use the map recently developed through individual conversations with Steering Committee members “as a first draft and starting point for the Committee’s discussions.”

Tonight that same map appears on your agenda for final action because, as noted in the agenda directions, “the Committee needs to send a plan to the Planning Board for their review on October 1st ….”  Even by the twists and turns that have become a defining characteristic of the Central West Steering Committee, the abrupt switch in one week from a map being “a first draft and starting point for … discussions” to being an action item is a astounding change in direction.

The reality is that the Steering Committee is not near being ready to offer a final report that could be meaningfully reviewed by the Planning Board next week.  Let me capture major unresolved problems that are embedded in the map under consideration this afternoon (for reference, here is the map:

1) A key problem with the plan on the table is the failure of this plan to have a set of defensible performance standards for traffic and flooding, presuming that performance outcomes are to be part of the assessment for potential developments.

2) The plan does not identify square foot maximums for each developer (you can’t have both flexibility of building placement and no sense of maximum square footage and still have meaningful protection for surrounding neighborhoods).

3) The whole issue of Estes Drive is unaddressed in the plan under consideration, leaving it unclear, for example, the maximum number of lanes that  might be added as part of traffic mitigation procedures or precisely what features will promote the safety of school-age children and other pedestrians (part of this latter issue may be addressed this evening).

4) Yet to be discussed and resolved is whether senior housing can be appropriately placed on a ridge with nearby steep ravines in one of Chapel Hill’s last remaining near old-growth forests.

5) The southward extension of Somerset would entail it crossing a drainage area, both an expensive road to build and an environmentally questionable proposal.

6) While the map states that intensity decreases as one moves eastward on Estes, it is hard to see on that map how that claim is true.

7) Even though we now know that Carolina North is going to be phased in slower than originally expected, no provisions are apparent on the map for accommodating Central West development  to the phase-in of Carolina North.

These 7 unresolved areas — other people no doubt can add to this list — are significant, and it is not surprising that these areas are unresolved.  After all discussion of this new map has just begun, and the Steering Committee has only recently started to talk to one another in a serious way.  In the absence of a skilled facilitator and with a committee charge that has morphed periodically, the Steering Committee has seemed to spin in circles for much of the past 6 months.

When the Town Council established the Steering Committee membership last October, the Council made the committee membership broadly representative of the interests of the community, ranging from landowners to institutional representatives to residents of Central West.  This was a design to promote, if not compel, consensus, and the Steering Committee early on adopted consensus as a goal.

Now is not the time to shortcircuit that goal.  I urge you to persist and to work for consensus so that the interests of everyone around the table are preserved and the final small area plan has the support of all of you.

Alan Tom  September 24, 2013

Letter to Steering Committee

Four steering committee members, David Tuttle, Firoz Mistry, Mickey Jo Sorrell, and Julie McClintock, presented this letter to their colleagues at the September 4 steering committee meeting.  They requested that that this new proposal be discussed and that it be shared with the public at the September 10 outreach session at Amity Methodist Church. The committee declined to allow the letter at the workshop.  Not to be deterred, citizens gave out the letter at the door.

Members of the Central West Steering Committee:

We find that we cannot support any of the four plans now being considered by the Committee without significant change. This letter is not meant to discredit anyone’s hard work, rather it is intended to document our understanding to date about the inconsistencies of the current four proposed plans to our announced goals and objectives and to clarify the big picture concerns why we find these plans unworkable Continue reading

July 22 Steering Committee

Meeting Summary by Co chairs Parker/Ryan

The Central West Steering Committee met on July 22 at the Chapel Hill Public Library from 6:00 – 9:00 PM. Copies of all meeting materials can be found at All formal agreements of the Committee reflect the affirmative vote of at least 2/3 of the members present.

1.     Opening Remarks: Megan Wooley began by sharing the goals for the meeting. She noted that Matt Sullivan from the Chapel Hill Police Department would be filling in for Loryn Clark, who was not able to attend the meeting.

Firoz Mistry moved that the committee permanently extend its second public comment period to 10 minutes.  This measure was passed by general agreement.

2.     Community Participation:  Megan Wooley began by saying she had a request from community member Erin Langston to have Megan to read her comments to the group, since Erin was unable to attend.  The committee discussed this request and decided by general agreement that it could not be accommodated, citing concerns about setting a precedent that might lead to having multiple such requests at a single meeting.  It was noted that Megan forwards all written communications to the committee and that this practice allows people who cannot attend to express their thoughts directly to the committee members. 

Several individuals from the community than shared comments/opinions with the group. Public comments recorded by Michael Albritton at the end of the summary.


3.     Comments from Todd LoFrese: The assistant superintendent for support services with Chapel Hill–Carrboro City Schools spoke about the school board’s safety goals, plans that will soon be proposed for upcoming capital projects that will improve traffic circulation and student safety, and the statistics for how Estes and Phillips students go to school.  A question and answer session with the committee followed.


4.     Transportation Overview:

Link to presentation.

Link to transportation materials

       David Bonk, the Chapel Hill long range and transportation planning manager, gave a presentation on the existing transportation conditions in the Central West area, showed three possible road profiles for Estes Drive that would incorporate improved bike/ped facilities, and led the group through a sample exercise that showed how a trip generation analysis was conducted.  He shared data from a rough estimate of trip generation from two of Rhodeside and Harwell’s June 4 concept plans—one at lower density with more residential (option 1 less 25%) and one at a higher density with more commercial (option 3).  He noted that it was not possible to draw definitive conclusions from these initial estimates.  Specific land use plans—along with possible internal circulation solutions—will be needed before the impacts on Estes Drive and MLK Boulevard can be ascertained.

Brian Litchfield, Chapel Hill Transit’s interim director, gave a short presentation about the planned transit alternatives analysis that will be conducted along the route that stretches from the Eubanks park and ride south along MLK and then through town to the Southern Village park and ride.

A question and answer period followed the transportation and transit presentations.  The group decided by general agreement to extend the Q/A period to take up the time allotted for agenda item 5, Transportation Discussion, and that decisions on bike/ped facilities and road profiles scheduled for that time would be deferred to the committee’s next meeting.

 5.     Principle 13: The text for the proposed new principle 13 that had been developed by the Principles and Objectives Subcommittee was presented for discussion.  The committee debated at some length whether “assess” was the correct word or if “consider” would be preferable.  They voted unanimously to accept number 13 in principle, with the understanding that final wordsmithing would be conducted at a later date—most likely on August 27, when all principles and objectives will be reviewed.

 6.     Community Comment: The meeting concluded with comments from several community members.

Martha Petty: Today at 1:45 pm traffic was backed up on Estes Drive to Caswell because of trees being cut down at the corner of MLK and Estes.  There is also no retention of water in the land in this area.

Lyn Kane:  Traffic is heavier in this area than on Fordham Blvd.  Flooding is a problem that we cannot ignore.  Storm drains are never cleaned.  This area has many pine trees which causes pine needles to fall and cover the drains during big storms and it is never cleaned by the city.  There was a car totaled near the area due to the flooding from the recent large storm, yet this storm was considered a  500-year storm.  This not a 500 year storm, it will happen again.

Kim Talikof: Stressed she was a parent of children in the schools and that she was representing those parents with children in the local schools.  There is an existing problem – inadequate sidewalks, children have been struck by cars within the last 2 years.  How will plans improve this situation? Then explained how she was listening for current data to address the needs for not only Estes but also surrounding feeder streets.

Jonathan Drake:  Commented that he has 2 children who are students at Phillips.  He then encouraged the committee to reach out to the parents at the schools so that when the summer was over and some plans were being delivered to council they would not be caught off guard with a lot of opposition to the plans.

John Morris:  The mayor and council have spoken about the need for increasing tax base repeatedly, so why would the committee not want to address the financial impact of development in this area?  Also mentioned that in the beginning everyone was excited about discussing these issues but now they are afraid.  Why so? (Committee agreed to adopt Principle #13 but to word smith later).

Fred Lampe:  The financial data is not complicated to access (then gave some examples).  The number of parents that live within the walking zone yet still drive their kids to school should indicate how unsafe the area is.  There was no discussion about traffic circles.  We need to answer the questions of size, how pedestrians cross, where they can be located?  There is significant development coming to this area, he is very skeptical of the 2% recommendation from David Bonk, especially considering the developments of Carolina North, Central West, and areas along Homestead.

Suzanna Dancy:  Stated she believes strongly that the design of streets will determine the community’s character and that she is happy to see discussions about improvements to Estes.  She also congratulated the town staff for putting together such an informative meeting.

Thanks to everyone who attended for your continued hard work and interest in the Central West process.

7.1 Summary Steering Committee

Mark Kleinschmidt, Mayor of Chapel Hill, presented his standard 15 minute “thank you” address commending the Committee for their work. He did not attend the June 24th Council meeting and has not yet reviewed that meeting’s video, but still urged the Committee to maintain a sense of urgency to complete work by the original Nov. 25, 2013 schedule.

During the Public Comments segment, an Estes Drive landowner with undeveloped land made an impassioned plea to not add traffic lanes to Estes, just add bicycle and pedestrian improvements. An area resident made a plea for adding a “special needs” playground in a portion of the undeveloped land, since there is currently no such facility east of Greensboro, NC.

The Steering Committee discussed and approved the Central West Work Plan for the final portion of the Committee’s work. Discussion about the work plan included the following concerns: (1) little time in the plan is devoted to data collection or analysis and discussion; (2) only one Concept Map was going forward to the Sept 4 Public Workshop as opposed to a menu of choices; and (3) would the Committee be able to keep to the tight schedule to produce a Small Area Plan and Concept Map by September in time for review by Town Advisory Boards.

There are many meetings scheduled in the summer months when many are out of town, yet little time is allotted for the serious issues of determining how to minimize Estes traffic growth, enhance safety for children walking and riding bicycles to the local schools, and rationally analyze the proper density, building height, and usage for the “planning area” development.

Over an hour was spent reacting to the staff exercise that asked for preliminary opinions on density, height and use for each of 9 undeveloped tracts of land. It appears that the key development decisions will be made by averaging the votes of the Committee members collected via the recent member survey of their opinions for each of these 9 parcels defined by staff.

Jim Ward, the newly appointed Council liaison to the Steering Committee, made a suggestion that “performance based” usage descriptions be provided for each of the parcels so that specific special uses, such as a daycare, are not automatically eliminated by conventional zoning definitions.

Amy Ryan, co-chair, gave a brief report about what was heard from the public at the June 24th report out to the Town Council. The Committee did not react to the specific recommendations in the letter that was presented and endorsed by over 200 citizens, with the exception of the recommendation to employ an outside facilitator. That item was on the agenda and Mickey Jo Sorrel presented the reasons why one was needed for the group. Mia Burroughs made the motion to hire one and the motion received 8 votes for and 8 voting against and 1 abstention. A Council member recommendation for the Committee to walk the steep, environmentally sensitive property behind the YMCA along the south side of Estes Drive was left open.

Summary 6.24 report to Town Council

First, a huge thank you to over 200 members from all over the Chapel Hill community for supporting our letter to the Town Council for their June 24th meeting. The objective of our letter was to demonstrate that members of the Chapel Hill community are invested in the Central West consultation planning process and eager that it should succeed as the future model for planning in Chapel Hill.
Many participants in the process are frustrated that basic underlying issues of transportation and traffic, housing and economic needs, and school safety have not been discussed by the committee.  

What were we asking for:
We requested that the Town Council support 6 key recommendations for the Steering Committee to improve implementation of the community-driven consultation process:

  • Encourage Steering Committee to deliberate on major issues and take more control of the process
  • Provide a neutral facilitator, to keep discussions on topic, hear all voices are reach outcomes
  • Improve outreach to key constituents such as the schools’ community
  • Keep development compatible with the Principles and Objectives already co-developed in consultation with the community
  • Gain data for evaluations so that the Steering Committee can make evidence based decisions
  • Arrange for a walk-through of land with old deciduous forest

 What did we achieve?
In general the Town Council gave few specific directions for interventions to the Steering Committee. However, in response to our specific recommendations as listed above:

  • Several Council members suggested that achieving a quality product was more important than meeting the November deadline. Whether the deadline would be extended depends on the actual progress made. (To be reviewed at TC meeting in September)
  • The Council voted 5:2 against Matt Czajkowski’s motion (supported by Lauren Easthom) to appoint an external facilitator to the Steering Committee, but the door was left open for the Steering Committee to reflect on this decision and request a facilitator for some of their future more difficult discussions.
  • The Council noted that the Principles and Objectives seemed consistent with the 2020 goals.  The Council did not define the desired density. Lee Storrow noted that he liked the declining density from MLK along Estes Drive.  Donna Bell noted her preference that this land be developed in a way that increases the tax base and prevents CH from becoming a bedroom community.
  • Jim Ward felt it was very important that the Steering Committee obtain good data on the impact on schools and about what the DOT will require for the locations of the entrances and exits to the proposed development along Estes, and what changes Carolina North will bring. Jim also requested an economic analysis of the impact of the development on Town finances and of what population and parking is required to have successful retail there.
  • The Council recommended to the Steering Committee that they arrange a walk through of the environmentally sensitive areas as we had requested.
  • There was support to include citizens concept map in future Committee discussions. Fred Lampe presented the first revisions to this map.
  • Matt Czajkowski highlighted the fact that no member of the public had recommended ‘no development’ in Central West.
  • Jim Ward mentioned the need for an official Council liaison to the Steering Committee, and the Council designated him.

We are happy the Council took our recommendations seriously and we received some support.  The burden now rests on the Steering Committee to consider the feedback and recommendations they received.  With the principles almost behind them, the tough work of the Steering Committee begins  – data collection and analysis and finding consensus on a recommended approach – while ensuring the public consultation continues over the summer months and beyond.

I encourage you to attend their next meeting on July 1st to find out at first hand how the Steering Committee plan to move forward.  I welcome further reflections and thoughts from the many residents who were also at the Town Hall on Monday night. Citizens need to stay involved if they are to have voice in the future shape of Chapel Hill.

Debbie Jepson

June 4 Steering Committee Meeting

Many participants at the May 18th Community meeting felt their vision was not considered in the three Consultant’s concept maps that were presented.   Consequently at the June 4 meeting, two citizens (not on the steering committee) presented an alternative “Initial Citizens’ Concept Map” and letter signed by interested people from all over town during the public comment period.  Read more about the citizens’  presentation here.

Alex Talikof and Theresa Grimm presented an Initial Citizens’ Map during the public comment period.  Over 50 citizens attended and showed their support of the presentation. This map was duplicated by the Consultant and made available to each of the small groups of steering committee members. 

The bulk of the meeting was spend on small group discussion of the map options by steering committee members.  Some steering committee members declined to consider the citizens’ concept map. Members of the public met at their own table and produced these Community Comments which were summarized by the Town.

In advance of the meeting, a number of citizens signed and sent this letter to the steering committee on June 3rd asking for their consideration of an initial Citizens Concept Map. Click on the links. It is not clear how these ideas will be folded into the concept maps.