Category Archives: Central West Steering Committee #1

Consultant overruns contract

Stancil memo to Council, August 28
Durham Morning Herald article is here.
Krebs.public comment Aug 29

Letter to Editor, John Morris

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.

July 9 Steering Committee meeting

Some of the high points: 

Public comment: Jared Simons, steering committee members, asked to extend the  initial public comment period from 5 to10 minutes. Alan Tom asked SC to consider interaction of land use with traffic and flooding potential

Debbie Jepson asked the steering committee to include parent input in plan consideration and to adjust SC schedule as needed. She also asked for a motion to follow up on walk of Davis property. (Julie made a motion later that was adopted.  The walk has not been scheduled.)

Fred Lampe called for a design of a safe Estes Drive and nearby intersections  and for a cost estimate. Mia Burroughs said the district level interest is in safety and sidewalks. Jim Ward asked that the school administration advise the SC as to the critical elements for safety. Sarah MacIntee asked whose responsibility it was to get kids to school safely. Mia Burroughs replied it was the school’s responsibility on school property.

Whit Rummel property owner and steering committee member presented a concept for several properties.

Julie requested a broader discussion.  She found discussing detailed opinion on individual tracts without information on road capacity and storm water not a good use of time but the suggestion was not adopted.  She asked for expert help with stormwater and requested that Trish D’Arconte, Chapel Hill Stormwater expert attend a future session to share her knowledge.

 Then followed a list of short conversations ending in votes for various land tracts south of Estes including several for 8 – 10 story buildings. See Town notes. Agreed to defer discussion of setbacks and address them comprehensively. Then the Committee discussed how to process community input. Town staff actions items are here.

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 11th meeting

At the June 11th meeting Steering Committee members the Consultant made a presentation with two new concept maps.  The maps appeared even more intense than previous maps even though the map titles claimed the increased density would make the area more walkable. 

Committee members shared their thoughts about how public input should be handled in the future, although no consensus was reached.  It was very encouraging to hear that each member present recognized the value of receiving community input. (The Council charge is found here.)  We heard a general consensus that input should be collected from as wide a spectrum of the community as possible, noting that it is unrealistic to canvass the views of all 50,000 residents. 

Over 40 members of the public attended as well. During the public comment period, one parent whose children attended the schools voiced concern about school safety.  John Ager from the Planning Board spoke and said that he had been contacted by a school administrator who wanted to be included in the Central West planning effort. He urged the Town to reach out to the schools.

The Committee requested that the June 24th Council report feature the guiding principles and objectives. The Steering Committee did not have time to discuss the new maps but the Committee decided to forward them for background information.

The work plan for the next milestone was not discussed.  The next meeting is July 1, 6 – 9 pm at the Siena Hotel.

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.

May 18 Community Workshop

The Community Workshop was held on Saturday morning, May 18, at the Chapel Hill Public Library.  The purpose of this Workshop was to gain community feedback to the Planning Principles and Concept Maps which are under development by the Central West Steering Committee.

The first big activity was a ranking exercise of principles and objectives that are to guide the final recommendations to the Town Council. Staff report is here: Planning Principles and Objectives_For 5-30-2013 Meeting.

The second activity involved small group discussion of  three concepts presented by the Consultant, including new roads. Presentation by consultant is here.

Participants were told that they could review but not consider a fourth map which reflects the current zoning and land use pattern in the Estes and MLK area.  A large majority of those attending voiced objections and felt a lower intensity map should have been presented for consideration.

Guiding Principles

The Committee is developing guiding principles upon which the “small area plan” for our area will be based.  Four subcommittees are considering land use, transportation, community character, and safe pedestrian connections.  Much attention has been paid to the undeveloped parcels near Estes Drive and MLK.  Discussions have touched on identifying possible new uses that would not cause additional traffic clogging this major intersection.  Also discussed has been new street connections, connecting existing ones, and changing existing uses in the area.

The next opportunity for community input will be on April 4th.  At this meeting the steering committee will continue discussions in subcommittees.  Public comment is allowed at each of these subcommittee meetings.  On April 9th the entire steering committee will discuss the small group guiding  principles.  The staff is planning another opportunity to hear from the public.

The public is invited to comment on the drafts out there so far. Megan has asked that comments be sent by noon April 2 to her. Go here to see the drafts.

First Central West Workshop

Community members proposed and the Town Council agreed to adopt a model for a small area plan for our area (see map) that will include input from the community on a regular basis.  The so-called “accordion model” was designed so that all interested community members can give input at an early stage in the process. 

In this spirit, the  Central West Focus Workshop was held March 2 from 9 to 1 pm at University Mall. About seventy people participated,  including a number of Town staff, members of a high school civics class, 17  steering committee members and fifteen residents from the impact area. The Town-hired consultant will share the results of the input received.