Dear Chair Brownstein and CHCCS School Board Members
This letter is to alert you to possible rezoning along Estes Drive that would impact Phillips Middle School and Estes Hills Elementary. As parents of school children, we have great interest and concerns about any Town considered changes that could create an unsafe situation for our children
Th.e Central West (CW) Focus Area process is underway sponsored by the Town of Chapel Hill. After Chapel Hill 2020, the Town designated 6 Focus Areas for in-depth study and potential zoning changes. The CW planning process is the first. The CW Steering Committee appointed by the Council will make land use recommendations. If approved by Council, they will be turned into zoning changes. One of your Board members, Mia Burroughs, was appointed to the Steering Committee as a representative of the schools last fall. The process is designed as a collaborative one — the Steering Committee shares drafts to the community, takes public input, and then integrates community feedback into its work.
The “Impact Area” of Central West extends from Homestead Rd on MLK Jr. south to Mt. Bolus and from Seawell School Rd to Franklin St. The Carolina North tract is included. As you may know, that campus is temporarily delayed, and any new plans for this Focus Area must factor in already approved permits for 3 million square feet, which is 800,000 sf in the Phase One. This is likely to occur in the next decade. Given the limited capacity of Estes Drive, this adds additional planning challenges, and the new campus is bound to increase traffic on Estes Drive without including proposed new developments along Estes.
The CW Focus Area has acutely focused on the 60+ acres of undeveloped land on the both sides of Estes Drive on the east side of the MLK intersection. The Town’s consultant has presented a number of concept maps which envision possible future land uses for these properties. However, the Steering Committee has not held detailed discussion, nor have they endorsed any of the concepts to date. The Steering Committee has agreed on draft “Guiding Principles and Objectives” to guide the land use decisions, and these will be presented to the Town Council on Monday, June 24th. Several relate to school safety: “Minimize Vehicular Traffic Impacts” and “Enhance the Pedestrian/Bicycle Experience” with more detailed objectives to support the principles.
As parents, we view both schools as a critical stakeholders in the Central West Focus Area. We regret that the Town has not created more opportunities for the school community to participate and comment. At the last Steering Committee meeting on 6/11/13, a Town of Chapel Hill Planning Board member stated that a school administrator contacted him to get more information.
We think that parents, teachers and administrators need to be better informed about this process. We propose that the School Board indicate its support for two informational meeting to be held in mid-August or early September. Town staff would present an overview along with a few Steering Committee members. There needs to be plenty of time for questions.
Since this process began late last summer, there is plenty of information available in various webpages of the town as well as a citizens group. The Steering Committee Co-Chairs have started to send summary minutes to the public as well and can be found onine. CW Citizens also has a brief summary if you need more information about this process.
A better informed constituency will lead to better recommendations for improving cross walks, and pedestrians routes to and from the schools. Estes Drive will continue as an important thoroughfare, but it must be made safe for walkers, bikers and drivers alike.
In addition the school community needs to consider carefully and zoning changes that would impact the mobility of school buses and staff in private vehicles.
If you wish additional information please see these links.
We look forward to your response.
Michelle Siegling Estes Hills 2013 PTA President
Courtney Snooks Estes Hills 2014 President
Erin Schwie Langston 400 N. Elliott Rising kindergartener EH parent
Bill Langston 400 N. Elliott Rising kindergartener EH parent
Adam Schwartz N Elliott Estes Hills SIT 2013-14 & parent
Jeanne Schwartz N. Elliott Estes Hills parent
Shauna Farmer N. Elliott Phillips Middle School parent
Carolyn Brookhart Clayton Estes Hills & FPG parent, SIT commitee
Jennifer Villa Kensington Estes Hills PTA & parent
Juan Villa Kensignton Estes Hills parent
Megan Foureman Estes Phillips Middle School parent
Kate Harshbarger N Elliott Rising kindergartener parent
Rodgers Harshbarger N Elliott Rising kindergartener parent
Christine Ferrell Somerset Rising kindergartener EH parent
Leigh Ann Dasher Rock Creek Rising kindergartener EH parent
Ranya Hahn Michaux Rising kindergartener EH parent