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.