First, a huge thank you to over 200 members from all over the Chapel Hill community for supporting our letter to the Town Council for their June 24th meeting. The objective of our letter was to demonstrate that members of the Chapel Hill community are invested in the Central West consultation planning process and eager that it should succeed as the future model for planning in Chapel Hill.
Many participants in the process are frustrated that basic underlying issues of transportation and traffic, housing and economic needs, and school safety have not been discussed by the committee.
What were we asking for:
We requested that the Town Council support 6 key recommendations for the Steering Committee to improve implementation of the community-driven consultation process:
- Encourage Steering Committee to deliberate on major issues and take more control of the process
- Provide a neutral facilitator, to keep discussions on topic, hear all voices are reach outcomes
- Improve outreach to key constituents such as the schools’ community
- Keep development compatible with the Principles and Objectives already co-developed in consultation with the community
- Gain data for evaluations so that the Steering Committee can make evidence based decisions
- Arrange for a walk-through of land with old deciduous forest
What did we achieve?
In general the Town Council gave few specific directions for interventions to the Steering Committee. However, in response to our specific recommendations as listed above:
- Several Council members suggested that achieving a quality product was more important than meeting the November deadline. Whether the deadline would be extended depends on the actual progress made. (To be reviewed at TC meeting in September)
- The Council voted 5:2 against Matt Czajkowski’s motion (supported by Lauren Easthom) to appoint an external facilitator to the Steering Committee, but the door was left open for the Steering Committee to reflect on this decision and request a facilitator for some of their future more difficult discussions.
- The Council noted that the Principles and Objectives seemed consistent with the 2020 goals. The Council did not define the desired density. Lee Storrow noted that he liked the declining density from MLK along Estes Drive. Donna Bell noted her preference that this land be developed in a way that increases the tax base and prevents CH from becoming a bedroom community.
- Jim Ward felt it was very important that the Steering Committee obtain good data on the impact on schools and about what the DOT will require for the locations of the entrances and exits to the proposed development along Estes, and what changes Carolina North will bring. Jim also requested an economic analysis of the impact of the development on Town finances and of what population and parking is required to have successful retail there.
- The Council recommended to the Steering Committee that they arrange a walk through of the environmentally sensitive areas as we had requested.
- There was support to include citizens concept map in future Committee discussions. Fred Lampe presented the first revisions to this map.
- Matt Czajkowski highlighted the fact that no member of the public had recommended ‘no development’ in Central West.
- Jim Ward mentioned the need for an official Council liaison to the Steering Committee, and the Council designated him.
We are happy the Council took our recommendations seriously and we received some support. The burden now rests on the Steering Committee to consider the feedback and recommendations they received. With the principles almost behind them, the tough work of the Steering Committee begins – data collection and analysis and finding consensus on a recommended approach – while ensuring the public consultation continues over the summer months and beyond.
I encourage you to attend their next meeting on July 1st to find out at first hand how the Steering Committee plan to move forward. I welcome further reflections and thoughts from the many residents who were also at the Town Hall on Monday night. Citizens need to stay involved if they are to have voice in the future shape of Chapel Hill.
From the Town 2020 Website
In the online message below from the Town Manager, Roger Stancil, responds to requests made at the March 26 Council meeting about the Town’s 2020 planning process. We will continue to press for all our neighborhoods to be involved in any studies of Estes Drive.
I want to provide an initial response to the comments made during the petition session in the Council meeting on the 26thof March.
My goal is to be clear about where we are and to minimize misunderstanding and confusion. Thousands of people have been touched in the 2020 process and many of them have participated and given many hours of time to make this a community wide statement for the future. It is important to be clear about how that participation will guide the Town’s actions on the future and the hard work of the coming year to develop the decision-making infrastructure that will transform the Vision into reality. We will have a work session with the Planning Board and the Sustainability Committee on the status of 2020 on April 10th. The second draft of the 2020 Plan will be circulated for comment on the 5th of April (this week). We will have a work session with the Council on May 7.
1. We agree with the goal of providing the Council with community goals and objectives by June. The Theme groups are focused on refining their goals and will have two more opportunities to do so. We will also have an information advisory board meeting and a Council work session before June.
2. The co-chairs meetings are open to the public and any theme group member who wishes to attend can do so. The purpose of those meetings is for the co-chairs, as neutral facilitators, to identify areas of overlap that merit further discussion by theme groups, advisory boards or Council. The co-chairs will be asked to consider whether their theme group would have an interest in attending these meetings and if so, who might serve to share information in a collaborative manner.
3. We all agree that the Future Focus maps will NOT be included in the goals and objectives. While they represent valuable input, their main purpose at this point is to help the community identify areas where more conversation, analysis and study are of interest. The second draft (due out April 5th) will begin to describe what we thought we heard in terms of each area for community input and refinement. It will also identify some of those “next steps” where analysis is necessary to moving forward.
4. Staff will continue to work with the participants in the S15-501 group to identify broad brush recommendations, similar in scope to those in Draft 2 for the other areas, in a constructive, positive dialogue. It was our charge to that group that their conversation be a model for civil discourse and we will continue to develop that model with the input we received from the S15-501 participants.
I hope these clarifications are helpful. If you have questions, please let me know.
Here are the maps developed by the town’s consultant regarding scenarios for development in the South MLK area (from Homestead Rd. to downtown).
They include a base map and the following three scenarios:
1. Incremental growth: This includes high-density residential development along Estes from MLK toward Somerset, with one new road from Estes into that development.
2. Modest redevelopment: This includes low-density commercial/office and high-density residential development along Estes all the way to Phillips Middle School (including new roadway access from Estes). It also includes high-density residential development behind the offices on MLK north of Mt. Bolus Road that would extend toward (but not connect to) Caswell Drive, with a new entry road from MLK.
3. Transit-oriented growth: Same as #2 for the Estes and Mt. Bolus areas.
Any of these options will have major consequences for traffic flows, pedestrian safety, and environmental quality in the area and beyond. Please take a look and help us to convince the town council that any development projects along these lines should not be undertaken without substantive, sustained input from local residents and others affected by the potential changes.
The complete set of future focus scenario maps for the town of Chapel Hill can be found at http://2020buzz.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/all-future-focus-scenariossmall.pdf. The maps for South MLK are the last four in the set.
Here are the town’s Development Activity Report and Development Activity Map (GIS). The map in particular is very useful.
Development Activity Report
Development Activity Map
From a neighbor, regarding NCDOT projects involving Estes Road:
I have found not only the listing of three Estes Drive projects on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) site:
but also a listing of the priority given to these projects when they were submitted to the Dept. of Transportation by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO). [I was not even aware that that there is such a group, but apparently, according to Wikipedia, a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a federally mandated (and funded) transportation policy-making organization in the United States that is made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities (for any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000)]. In any case, our area MPO – DCHC MPO — apparently rates various highway projects from our Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro area.
Here’s the status for the three Estes Drive projects (last rated by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO on October 26, 2011). First, the roundabout at Estes and Greensboro Street was ranked #53 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is to be rescheduled for reprioritization. Second, the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK to add bike lanes, sidewalks and transit accommodations was ranked #1 by our DCHC MPO and was costed out at $2,197,000 but was not funded and is to reprioritized. Third, and of greatest interest to many of us, is the project Dan reported in his email: the widening of the existing Estes roadway between MLK and Caswell to include two 12-foot lanes, four-foot bicycle lanes and sidewalks. This project got a ranking of #25 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is, as the other two Estes Road projects, to be reprioritized. [I’m not clear about when that process will occur.]
So the widening of Estes along the proposed Carolina Flats development is on the planning list but apparently off in the future. However, it does sound like the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK is not too far off. The two documents which outline all area projects – bicycle and pedestrian as well as highway are:
1. NC-DOT Document (Highway Projects in the SPOT Database
2. DCHC MPO Regional Prioritization Methology 2011-10-26
I am not sure if the widening of Estes between MLK and Caswell – apparently a two-lane, not a four-lane effort – will require added land on one or both sides of the current road; its also not clear which end of Caswell is the end of the project. This project would make only one significant change — the adding of bike lanes — along with a second sidewalk.
Here are the Concept Plan Application and Concept Plan Drawings for the Carolina Flats @ Estes proposal. The project description states that it is “Proposed rezoning to MU-V for a 590 multi-family student housing community and a 125-145 room/suites hotel.” The application includes a map and photos of the site and surrounding areas. Note that the drawings envision vehicular access from Estes as well as from MLK.
These are large files, so they may take some time to load.
Carolina Flats Concept Plan Application
Carolina Flats Exhibit Files (Concept Plan drawings)
The Town of Chapel has completed a year-long planning process for Central West — see area map . On November 26, the Town Council adopted the Steering Committee’s Proposed Small Area Plan and incorporated into the plan important revisions and conditions proposed by the Planning Board. Key conditions include committing to a town-wide modeling analysis of the cumulative traffic impacts from the proposed development in all of the Focus Areas, and conducting a watershed stormwater impact analysis of the potential cumulative stormwater volume impacts. According to the Council discussion, (click here for videotape) the Small Area Plan density recommendations would be adjusted upon completion of the traffic studies. Read this Commentary to see what was achieved or see the Chapel Hill News story. The final resolution language is here.
See our new page about Ephesus – Fordham developments.