June 25 Statement to Town Council

June 23, 2012

Dear Town Council,

The Estes Neighbors group strongly recommends the CH2020 Plan expands the scope of the Estes Corridor study and uses a robust, deliberative and broadly inclusive community outreach effort to secure support for managing development prudently within that corridor.

By definition a small area plan needs to include a larger area than the small strip on Estes Drive. The Estes/MLK,Jr. intersection is a critical locus of several overlappingconcerns: a gateway to Carolina North, a current traffic bottleneck, a key transition nexus between Downtown and north Chapel Hill/Carrboro and east Franklin St. In light of that, we recommended a focus area that covers Estes Extension and Carolina North, the related area north on MLK to Homestead and south to Hillsborough St.

Further the focus effort must answer the following open questions:

(1) What role does this area play as part of Carolina North’s adjacent land or “apron”? Should the concentrated footprint of the new campus lie exclusively within its borders?

(2) How will development be effectively integrated with the MLK transit plans to ensure continued access to Carolina North and the Town’s transit infrastructure?

(3) How will the anticipated development affect our neighborhoods?

Summer is not the time for this critical planning effort. Many of us are away on vacations, the Council is not in session and not enough time will have passed for residents to have adequately digested the new CH2020 plan. Fall is a better time to start a robust, inclusive and sustained community process ensuring both strong participation resulting in broad community support. We anticipate several rounds of discussions and community evaluations of draft proposals extending into 2013.

We request that the language on p.45 in the June 25th DRAFT Comprehensive Plan making the Estes Corridor study a priority be removed.

Not only is this narrow strip of land an insufficient basis for planning, we also don’t know of any instance in the 2020 discussions where such a study emerges as a priority. It’s a mystery how this got into the final draft as a priority. We think it makes good sense to complete an integrated area plan or the MLK and Estes before any changes are contemplated for Estes Drive.

In addition we ask the Council that the final Comprehensive Plan contain a detailed process to develop area plans for all focus areas including:

(1) participation by citizens;
(2) adequate time to do the job;
(3) enough data to support assumptions and justifications; and finally
(4) how area plan recommendations will be turned into changes on the zoning map.

We ask that the area plan process be built in consultation with the affected neighborhoods, the University, property owners, businesses and interested residents. We envision something much more detailed and lengthy than the 15-501 south discussions, but shorter than the Glen Lennox process for all these areas. Development within each of these areas will impact not only the surrounding neighborhoods but all of Chapel Hill.  Enough time needs to be built into the process to allow it to “breath”.

We are residents of Estes Hills, Huntington-Somerset, Coker Hills, Coker Hills West, Mount Bolus and Coker Woods who would be affected if zoning changes are made to the Town’s land use map in our area.

Thank you for considering these changes.

David Ambaras, Julie McClintock, Sandy Turbeville, Glen H. Elder Jr, Watson Bowes M.D., Jill Blackburn, Pat Lowry, Steve Rogers, Gretchen Stroemer, Priscilla Murphy, Verla Insko, Will Raymond

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