The Consultant and the Town sent out a draft agenda for the first Steering Committee meeting for Dec 19 which leaves out key parts of the Council direction and the community work accomplished so far. We’ve reviewed the Council’s October 24 resolution and the Community recommendations and describe below the missing elements.
1. Where is the empowered Central West steering committee as envisioned in the Council resolution?:
Quotes from resolution:
- “Create and deliver a small area plan for the Planning Area for Council consideration; create a schedule for the process and milestones for reporting to the community; and gather the necessary data/expertise for making informed decisions.”
- “Maintain the integrity of the planning process and insure that the process is open and participatory; receive and integrate community feedback; facilitate communication with the community”
- “The Steering Committee should decide how to make decisions during their initial Committee discussions. A decision-making process that focuses on broad consensus is encouraged so committee recommendations are reflective of the many interests in the focus area.”
Quotes from community recommendations:
- “With the help of the process facilitator, the committee would develop the work plan, set meeting agendas, coordinate the work products, gather the data and expertise needed to make informed decisions, create plan drafts, receive and integrate community feedback on those drafts, and facilitate communication with the community.”
- “The steering committee would also be responsible for creating a set of “milestones” in their process (these could be things like completion of an analysis of the region, determining a set of area goals/objectives/opportunities, providing an analysis of impacts, etc.). The organizing committee recommends that a community meeting be called by the steering committee when each of these milestones is achieved, to receive community comment for incorporation into the final plan document.”
2. Where is the “accordion principle” which provides for community input as the process goes along?
In the agreed upon resolution, the work of achieving the plan is shared between a steering committee and the community at large. The Consultant’s agenda proposes that steering committee members caucus or knock on doors with their “constituents”. This is not an adequate replacement for providing open public meetings and forums and is not the approach the Council adopted.
Quote from the Council resolution:
- “The Steering Committee is encouraged to work with the consultant and staff to develop a process and schedule that will allow time for data collection and plan review and comment by the community at large at several stages throughout the process (the “accordion model”).”
3. Where are the Study committees in the Consultant’s plan?
Quote from Community recommendations:
- “One initiative new to Chapel Hill, and growing out of the Big Ideas recommendations of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan, would be for the steering committee to request and encourage the formation of small citizen study groups organized around particular issues of importance to the Central West Focus Area (such as transit, traffic impacts, student housing, etc.). These study groups would work independently and become the area experts on their issue, gathering data and holding discussions with the goal of providing their expertise to inform the steering committee’s work. “
4. Where is the Vision discussion?
There is a reference in the Consultant’s agenda about what do we know about community character. Will there be materials presented? How will community input be gathered? Fred Lampe has gathered ideas from many people. When is the time to present this raw data?
5. Is the proposed schedule a plan on steroids?
How it is possible for the steering committee to “refine a small area plan” in March, only 3 months into a year long process?
6. How do we provide good communications as outlined in the community recommendations?
Quote from Community recommendations:
- “The organizing committee suggests that a simpler, more easily searchable online tool for public comment be established, such as a Google or Yahoo e-mail group open to all. Most community members who use online systems are familiar with group e-mail systems, and they provide the transparency and ease of use that will allow better and more open communications.”
- Build in a limited period for public comment at each steering committee meeting.