Category Archives: MLK-Estes Focus Area

Advisory Boards review Central West plan

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.

Estes Neighbors community meeting

Join us at our own Community Meeting on Wednesday evening, September  5, 7:30 – 9 pm, the Fellowship Hall at the Orange United Methodist Church, 1220 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.  We will provide time for questions and answers and discuss what is important to you in the design of the process.

The Town held several open houses to share information on  August 28 and 29 and announced three meetings for the public to design the community planning process.  See the  Town web page for more information from the Town.

Our Dream Planning Process

So what is a planning process? When applied to the MLK-Estes focus area it is the definition of the tasks and the sequence of those tasks necessary to fulfill an objective – a set of recommendations to guide future zoning.  The important thing is that the process must deliver a product of value to the Town. But that is not enough; the objective of the process must align with community values and Council goals.

Send a comment about what you think about what is important in deciding on a collaborative planning process.  Here  are our ideas about a dream planning process to begin the discussion.

The focus area boundaries have not yet been determined.  We think the area needs to be large enough to account for the cumulative impacts of new development, including Carolina North, and last long enough to analyze the data and agree on recommendations that reflect community interests.

Our draft plan for the MLK-Estes focus area process

Estes Neighbors makes recommendations for a Community-Driven Focus Area Planning Process
DRAFT August 20, 2012

Let us know what you think. Come to the community meetings.

1. Obtain professional facilitation services. The facilitator will be neutral and help the group of participants toward the goal of consensus. The facilitator should ensure that agendas for process and meetings are set by participants.

2. Establish a Steering Committee to work with the Facilitator and Town staff. Neighborhoods and other participating interests should select their own Steering Committee representatives. Consider this structure of interests: 5 members of adjacent neighborhoods, 2 Planning Board members, 1 developer, 1 parent or School Board representative, and 1 UNC representative. Other suggestions include a bike-pedestrian person and a Town Council representative. The role of the steering committee would be to plan meeting agendas with the facilitator and staff, take community input, stay in touch with their respective neighborhood(s)or organization, review and approve documents, and make recommendations to the Council.

3. Prepare to Plan: August Community Meetings.

  • Review previous planning processes and apply what we have learned in doing small area plans, South 15-501 and Glen Lennox processes
  • Develop draft Focus area process with community participants beginning at August 27-28 meetings: put forward and discuss ideas about draft timelines, format and final outcome with participants and get feedback.
  • Set geographic boundaries of study area: recommend a quadrant for the study to include south on MLK to Hillsborough Rd and north to Homestead Rd.; west to Sewell School and East to Franklin Streets on Estes Drive
  • Rename process to MLK-Estes Focus Area
  • Timeframe: recommend 9 months
  • Facilitator assists formation of steering committee and agreements on these process elements: Decisions on how meeting summaries will be gathered and communicated; How relevant data will be provided and processed; Mechanismnfor taking comment and approving final document; Decisions about how group decisions will be made” (voting or consensus); Agreements on what final product looks like
  • August meeting input and feedback will give valuable input to the design of the process which will be sent to September meeting for Council approval.

4. Phases:

Phase 1: Ground rules, objectives, and plan for the process are adopted, then a series of community- wide events and small group conversations based on the 1990 Southern Small Area Plan and the Seattle model are organized to understand and gather data on the elements of the study area: transportation, air and water quality, identify retail, commercial and housing needs

Suggested time period for first phase: 6 meetings September through November:

  • Clarify decision-making, clear specific objectives, and final product first;
  • Decide on how the final product will be used and will fit into the comprehensive plan;
  • Air people’s concerns and issues and document them;
  • Survey neighborhoods for preferred development types; best time and date for meetings;
  • Survey and provide growth trends, housing,commercial and retail needs
  • Compile and prioritize recommendations for area development;
  • Analyze the study area in the context of over-all Town needs and capacities;
  • Ensure all relevant data and studies are brought to bear on discussions such as Town- sponsored retail and office studies; consider how much office and commercial space the community needs list projects with square feet already approved and not yet built, including Carolina North; identify transportation capacity; determined traffic impact assessment study boundaries; information on water resource constraints; stormwater regulations and locations of low lying areas.
  • Identify group study areas, such as transportation, open space and parks, neighborhoods and buffers; public safety
  • Close information gathering discussions with an interim report.

Phase II: Facilitated series of community meetings composed of subcommittees organized by Facilitator, Steering committee and staff with focus on developing alternative plan scenarios while continuing outreach efforts. Include Town Council and UNC representatives.

Suggested time period: January through March; small groups can meet more frequently than twice a month or as they decide.

  • Smaller study groups focus on chosen topics such as transportation, open space and parks, neighborhoods and buffers; public safety; designate facilitator, note taker for each group
  • Steering Committee ensures that small group regularly share results; schedule joint community meetings to arrive at agreement on general approach
  • Study and compare alternative plans using estimated infrastructure costs, projected impacts, tax revenue potential, and over all town needs
  • Invite public to several community meetings to comment on final alternatives
  • Ensure affected neighbors who have participated in the process have a majority voice in final report.

Phase III: Final report in April: Possible organization:

  • Area as it is today,
  • Goals and objectives,
  • Design concepts,
  • The Plan,
  • Projected impacts,
  • Estimated infrastructure costs,
  • Tax revenue potential of the plan,
  • Recommended strategies,
  • Specific descriptions for what the Town wants to see for undeveloped and redeveloped properties in study area.


Southern Small Area Plan

Facilitating a Planning Workshop

Seattle Planning Workshop