Community Recommendations to Council

October 2, 2012
To: Megan Wooley
From:  Amy Ryan
CC: John Ager, Loryn Clark, Mary Jane Nirdlinger, JB Culpepper
Re: Central West Focus Area Organizing Committee Recommendations

Here’s  a  summary  of  the  recommendations  made  by  the  Central  West Focus  Area  Organizing Committee  over  the  course  of  their  four  meetings.   I’d  like  to  include  some  note  of  the  “why”s  of   each decision in the packet to the Planning Board and the Council, so they can see the thinking behind the decisions.

Name: Central West Focus Area

Boundaries: Two areas were defined by the organizing committee, an impact area and a planning area (see maps).

The impact area encompasses the larger area that will feel the effects of changes along the MLK and Estes corridors and that contributes to conditions along the corridors (through traffic flows, stream systems, etc.). Participants felt that it was important to delineate this area so that the small area plan will recognize that it will affect, and be affected by, proposed changes.

The planning area is the smaller region that the organizing committee recommends be the focus of the small area planning efforts, suggested land use changes, and service/infrastructure improvements. This area was defined as the land directly adjacent to MLK Boulevard, Estes Drive, and along Homestead Road north of the Carolina North parcel; it generally encompasses the lots along these corridors and the lots one row back from the corridor, since they will feel the direct impacts of new development on the corridor. The area along Homestead Road was included because it will feel the impacts of Carolina North, one of the major drivers of change in the area.

Work Product: The organizing committee  stated  that  the  Steering  Committee’s  end  product   should be a small area plan which combines visual images with descriptive text and includes the reasoning,  or  the  “whys,”  behind  the  plan.

Process Structure: The organizing committee endorses an “accordion  model”  for  the  process,   where the work of achieving the plan is shared between a steering committee and the community at large.

They recommend that actual timing of the work should be determined by the steering committee after the process has been better defined, but the organizing committee encourages a schedule that allows enough time for thorough data gathering and thoughtful deliberation, longer than the 3 meeting schedule for the South 15-501 Discussion Group but more streamlined than the 2-year Glen Lennox NCD process.

Steering Committee: The organizing committee recommends that a steering committee be appointed to carry out the plan process. The group would include 16 members:

4 institutional/town representatives
1 from UNC (who is involved with the Carolina North project) 1 from the CHCCS schools along Estes
1 Planning Board member
1 Transportation Board member

8 residents from the planning area and the impact area (outside the planning area)

4 business owners/landowners/nonprofit representatives from the area

The organizing committee recommends that institutional representatives (UNC, CHCCS, Planning, Transportation) be nominated by their institutions or groups and that other members apply for positions  through  the  town’s  current  advisory  board  application  system.    For these last candidates, groups (such as planning area residents or the Chamber) could show their support for particular candidates through endorsement letters to Council.

The organizing committee recommends that landowners/developers with active SUP or zoning applications in the system not be eligible to hold steering committee positions.

The organizing committee recommends that steering committee meetings be open to the public and that a limited amount of time for public comment should be allowed at those meetings (perhaps 10 minutes at the beginning and/or end of each meeting).

The steering committee would be responsible for creating and delivering a small area plan, encompassing the Central West planning area, to Council for possible adoption as part of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. This would include maintaining the integrity of the planning process and insuring that it is open to the community and broadly participatory. 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.

When the steering committee has completed its plan, it should hold a final meeting to present the document for a final round of public comment and general buy-in.


The organizing committee recommends that the community be invited to engage in the planning process in several meaningful ways.

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.

Other community involvement would include:

  •   Attending a community charrette (more extensive than the one-hour Future Focuscharrettes during the 2020 process)
  •   Reviewing the steering committee drafts of plan milestones at community meetings andoffering their feedback to guide revisions
  •   Reviewing the final plan draft and providing feedback on final plan revisions.
  •   Offering comments to the steering committee and holding discussions with othercommunity members through online forums.

    An important objective would be to support ad hoc public searching of the submitted comments, and thereby provide accurate information about the number of comments received on any given topic.

    The organizing committee recommends a policy of clear and open communication between community members, staff, and the steering committee. Learning from some frustrations with the 2020 blog system, 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.

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