What can you do?

Here is the background:

In October 2012, the Chapel Hill Town Council established a Steering Committee for Central West to engage citizens in the development of a Small Area Plan and to ensure that the process would be open and participatory and to receive and integrate community feedback.

Community members spent hundreds of hours attending meetings, doing research, speaking out, and yet felt unheard, leading to the presentation of a Citizens’ Plan to the Committee;

Citizens documented the suggestions and requests of community members in a report on the “Public Participation in the Central West Focus Area process” found here:

During this year long process, the community of parents of students at Estes Elementary and Phillips Middle School have not been active participants.  A school board member served on the steering committee but little effort was made to involve parents in the Town sponsored process.  SIT groups in both schools requested a special meeting on school issues. Neither the Town nor the committee responded scheduled a meeting. See letters:  Letter from Estes parents; Letter from Phillips parents.

On November 7th, the Council-appointed Steering Committee recommended to the Town Council a long-range plan for the area near Estes Drive and MLK, close to two schools and surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

The Committee plan would bring an estimated 7000 additional auto trips a day to Estes Drive, a portion of which will add to the the 14,000 current auto trips per day causing peak hour back ups as long as a mile long.  Several access points on Estes Drive near the Estes-MLK intersection would need  to be made to provide access to the undeveloped properties.  Turning lanes are recommended to relieve the congestion, growing Estes to 5 lanes at MLK, and MLK to 5- 8 lanes near the intersection.

The Alternate Citizens’ plan would bring half as many cars (using Town assumptions), retail development on MLK and other advantages. Compare the plans:  Read the Citizens’ Small Area Plan. Compare to the Committee’s Proposed Small Area Plan here. The Citizen’s Plan will bring less traffic by half than the Committee’s plan and has received wide spread support from community members.

While the Committee recommended an off-road bike path between MLK and Caswell, as well s sidewalks and crosswalk improvements, traffic remains a challenge now without the yearly expected increase, UNC’s new campus Carolina North, or upzoning land around the Estes-MLK intersection.  It is not clear how the planned substantial increase in density in the Committee Plan near the Estes-MLK intersection will be accommodated. Town staff say Estes will not be widened except near the intersections.

What options does the Council have?  They can approve this plan; they can approve it with changes; or they can approve the Alternate Citizens’ Plan.

Central West Study Area   Click on map to enlarge. The Central West Focus area includes many neighborhoods and schools located near Estes Drive and MLK Jr Blvd.

Council adopted this Central West Focus Area Map on October 24, 2012.

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