Estes Neighbors statement to Council

I am Gretchen Stroemer, a resident of Estes Hills for 19 years. I have participated in discussions in my local community and with members of the town planning staff discussing the content of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. I would like to compliment the people of Chapel Hill, the town staff, and the various advisory boards for the dedicated work and ideas that have come together in this vision for the future of Chapel Hill.

Tonight, I will draw your attention to the implementation portion of the plan which begins on Page 41 of the June 25th draft. While this is a beginning, I suggest that this chapter lacks clarity about how the future land use decisions. This concern also applies to a process for key future focus areas discussions. How will the public be involved and how will the community recommendations be turned into zoning changes on the land use map? The public needs to knows what to expert going forward.

Here are some examples of areas to be addressed:

  • The description of how the Land Use Management Ordinance will be updated is not clear. The staff recommended council work sessions which will not provide citizen engagement, where citizen comment is generally not received. What is needed is a process with full citizen participation, data, and reasonable time to do the job well.
  • What happens with the zoning map update is unclear. As the focus studies are completed, how will a comprehensive look be given across studies to evaluate town needs for retail and commercial rezoning? How will the Town evaluate the town’s total potential available resources against the needs generated by the build out of the rezoned areas?
  • Effort has been spent to develop group goals such as “Nurturing our Community” or “Good Plans, New Spaces” yet how will these be implemented? When will the Town measure the proposed developments against these group goals?
  • The Estes Corridor Study is cited as an immediate priority on page 45. The community asked for an area plan discussion not a study of the corridor. Please remove this as a priority. The South MLK study area needs to include Estes Drive, not study it away from the context of MLK and Carolina North.
  • The planning recommendations were not incorporated into this chapter. For example, the board suggested that during the 2020 process, there was insufficient time to build consensus on planning and land use priorities in the study areas of the 2020 Plan, and suggests that this work is best addressed through a series of charrettes held before significant redevelopment is proposed.
  • The Planning Board was also concerned with achieving a comprehensive look across the study areas. The board cited transportation and connectivity as two examples of individual area priorities having impacts across town. The Board said that because both the South and North MLK areas constitute a single transit corridor, at the completion of their separate small area plans, the cumulative effects of the recommendation must be assessed. As an Estes Hills resident, making the Estes Corridor a high priority and first up on the list, does not satisfy this need.

In conclusion, the draft of the implementation chapter of the plan is brand new and the Town has not offered time for the citizens and advisory boards to discuss this chapter. Please ask staff to address these issues and ensure that citizen engagement is more than a mention in this plan.

Thank you.

Gretchen Stroemer

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