Commentary: Central West Committee steering in dangerous direction
Sometimes people get led away from a common sense direction by misapplying fashionable ideas or getting lost in details.
Despite good intentions, this is happening with the Town’s Central West Steering Committee, with great potential danger to Chapel Hill’s future.
The town charged the committee with developing a plan for the area along MLK Boulevard near the Estes Drive intersection and east along Estes. An important requirement was citizen input.
The town staff and their consultant wasted time and ran up a big cost overrun by peppering the committee with trendy urban plans that showed no understanding of the context and real issues at Central West. The committee eventually developed four alternative plans, all with various amounts of dense commercial and residential development packed into this small area. Continue reading
The final draft of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan is out. Please review here. The future focus chapter language has improved. The chapter on Estes/MLK is appropriately neutral in tone.
When we met with Town staff we explicitly requested that the community discussions be held in the fall. The staff language on page 45 refers to an Estes Drive Corridor study occuring in the summer.
“With Council endorsement, the Town staff will initiate a review of the policies and regulation, including land use, for the following specific area in Chapel Hill: Estes Drive Corridor – An immediate priority for the summer of 2012 with in-house support and external facilitation and/or consultant support”.
A bit of background:
On May 21 Watson Bowes, on behalf of Estes Neighbors, presented a petition to the Council requesting a small area planning process to take a broader look at the MLK and Estes Drive planning area. Earlier in April, the Town Council critiqued the concept plan for Carolina Flats, a plan calling for a hotel, parking and seven apartments designed for student housing. View the agenda materials, the concept plans, and the video here. We said this project runs counter to the residential character of Estes Drive and would increase traffic and jeopardize the safety of school children and pedestrians.