Author Archives: jsmith

Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Planning Begins

Chapel Hill Town Council has initiated a comprehensive planning process called Chapel Hill 2020.  The final product is a new Comprehensive Plan for the Town. The process is designed to engage not only as many of the Town’s citizens as possible, but also business owners and those who, while not Chapel Hill taxpayers, are part of the unincorporated town.   The kick-off visioning meeting  included over 300 participants.  Participant input was sorted into six theme groups in which citizens are invited to participate to discuss the issues and outcomes residents desire in the plan.  A meeting schedule is found here.  The Town is encouraging citizen participation at any stage of the approximately six month process, in person at the theme group or report out meetings or on the Town’s Blog called 2020Buzz.

University Square – 123 West Franklin Street

123 West Franklin (University Square)  Be sure to follow progress on University Square.  There was a meeting on September 8th, 2011 that described progress on the redevelopment design as well as this article in the Chapel Hill News This property is now owned by the University Foundation and so heavy UNC influence is anticipated. Continue reading

Charterwood public hearing

Charterwood a mixed-use development proposed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.  and Weaver Dairy Rd. Extension.  This 13+ acre site has been to Council several times in 2011.  The developer is returning with yet another revision at the September 26th Council Meeting.  Materials are on the Town’s website or contact  me for more information on how you can participate. Issues raised include appropriateness of this development for a major town entrance, transportation impacts, proximity to the adjacent neighborhood and fire department burn buildings, destruction of 150+ year old trees and Booker Creek headwaters impacts.  Please let us know your thoughts and join us at the Council meeting on September 26th.

Community Candidates Forum

A Candidates Community Forum will be held on October 11th from 6:30 to 8:30 at St Joseph’s Methodist Church at 510 West Rosemary Street.  It is sponsored jointly by Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG), EmPOWERment, CURB (a group of northern Chapel Hill neighborhoods), NAACP, Community Empowerment Fund and The Jackson Center. Continue reading

Chapel Hill 2020 – Comprehensive Plan

The most important activity to hit town in 10 years is the creation of a new Comprehensive Plan for Chapel Hill, called Chapel Hill 2020.  This plan will guide development activity in town for the next ten years.  The process is designed to include as many citizens as are willing to participate and at any level of participation that they wish.  The town reports 140 people have agreed to participate as Stakeholders – you could be one too. Continue reading

Aydan Court hearing postponed to Wed., May, 25th

At the end of a grueling six hour meeting, Council ran out of time and energy to hear the Aydan Court agenda items which were then continued to Wednesday, May 25th.  If you’re not familiar with this important development, click here to learn more about the positions, from the developer and from citizens.

The Town is once more faced with the dilemma of acceding to a developer’s demands for rezoning and special use permits that are not consistent to existing zoning and the Comprehensive Plan.  This area, like Charterwoods and Obey Creek, could be developed with consideration to the expressed wishes of the citizens through the Comprehensive Planning process, the environment, the natural habitat they provide and their prominent positions as gateways to Chapel Hill.  We’re hopeful that the developers will either revise their proposals to be consistent with existing ordinances, zones and regulations or that final approvals for these proposed developments, Aydan Court, Charterwoods and Obey Creek, will be voted down or deferred until the Town has the opportunity to consider them with an engaged public as part of the newly launched Comprehensive Plan.

Increasingly we are seeing developers’ proposals that fail to consider important town ordinances; tree, steep slopes, RCD.  Council is desirous of increasing the tax base and is caught between the press to develop and harvest taxes and being responsible to the citizens by enforcing the ordinances that are so important to them.  Unfortunately, granting these many exceptions undermines  the validity of the existing ordinances and Council’s credibility. Ultimately, following our ordinances consistently is a basic principal of our organization and we believe for the entire community.

Comprehensive Plan Opportunity to get Involved

The Town website has the latest information on the process to develop a new Comprehensive Plan to determine the shape of future growth in Chapel Hill.  If you are interested in participating in the process, sign up as a stakeholder.

The process for developing the new Comprehensive Plan has not yet been worked out.  The initiating committee will make recommendations to the Council about how the process will work.

Charterwoods Public Hearing to be held May 23rd

A public hearing on the Charterwoods Special Use Permit and Zoning Amendments will be held at Town Hall on Monday, May 23rd at 7 PM.  This application for a mixed use development on the west side of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd near Weaver Dairy Road Extension has many deficiencies which require remediation before it should be approved: e.g.  insufficient neighborhood protection buffers, state retention pond maintenance, too many impervious surfaces on an area of small streams, uncertain uses (will it be a hotel? a church? or maybe a medical facility?), and a questionable financial analysis.  Perhaps the most damning thing about it is the fact that 83% of the land will be cleared of specimen trees that have been growing there for more than 100 years.  Our take on this project is that the basic elements need an overhaul before it is approved to move forward.  This differs from the information provided in the Chapel Hill News article that appeared on Wed. April 6th

The land to be cleared includes 59 rare trees most of which are white and red oaks, as well as some maples and chestnuts plus 125 specimen trees.   Specific to this property.  A rare tree is a pine with at least a 36″ dbh (diameter at breast height) or other trees with at least a 24″ dbh.  A specimen tree is a pine with a minimum 18″ dbh or any species that has a dbh of 12″ or more.  Twenty-six of the trees to be cut are 36″ – 49″ dbh.   It takes a white oak more than 100 years to reach this size.  One has to wonder what the intent of the newly effective Tree Ordinance can be if such beauties can be leveled for a few homes and stores.  It is possible to develop this land in a more considerate fashion.

More careful attention to design specifics is needed to these proposed plans. Much of this land is not level and is filled with small ephemeral streams.  The land dips from MLK Blvd down to  a low lying RCD area before leveling out.  The Commercial spaces and dumpsters front very directly on the established neighborhood next door.  Generous buffers are needed for this new commercial development when most of the woods will be removed. Parking could be structured to preserve some of the large canopy oak trees.  The access to a proposed single family neighborhood  which winds around behind the Town’s fire station ending in a  cul de sac is awkward and the curb cut would cause dangerous turning movements very close to the busy Weaver Dairy intersection.

Saving more of these valuable trees would improve the attractiveness of the development property as well as increase the commercial value long term. Franklin Park on East Franklin Street across from Whole Foods gives  an excellent example of how large old trees were preserved in a commercially viable project.

And one additional point about the financial analysis should be mentioned. During the discussion of moving the library to Dillard’s we learned that the town receives a bit over $43,000 per year in property and sales tax revenues from Dillard’s.  The Charterwoods development projects $250,000 in sales tax revenue from retail.  It is hard to imagine that a bank, a barber shop/beauty salon, a day care center, plus a place of worship and a clinic (neither of which pay taxes) would generate such generous revenues!  It is right that we should question these plans and underlying assumptions so we achieve the best outcome for the Town, the neighbors and the property owner.  Once this property is bull-dozed we can never put it back the way it was.

Comprehensive Plan Meeting on April 7th.

Town Council will meet again at 6:30 on Thursday, April 7 at the Hargraves Community Center, 216 North Roberson St. to continue the discussion of the composition of the Comprehensive Plan Initiating Committee.  If Council expects to constitute the Initiating Committee and have them define the Comprehensive Plan process prior to their summer adjournment, this will have to move very quickly.  If you have an interest in Chapel Hill’s development for the next 10 years, you need to get on board now.

Council holds Comprehensive Plan Meeting

Town Council held a working session on the Comprehensive Plan on Thursday, March 17th at 7 PM at the Library.  Consultants from the National Civic League and Deliberative Democracy presented the process approach that will be employed.  The Meeting Agenda is found here.  Council will hold a follow-up meeting to further discuss formation of the Initiating Committee, who will have responsibility for defining the planning process and forming the Stakeholder Group.  The intent is to have broad public representation and participation in the development of the Plan.  The targeted Plan completion date is June 2012.

According to the Town website, “the Chapel Hill Comprehensive Plan guides the future of the community.  The current Comprehensive Plan was adopted on May 8, 2000, and is supplemented by various small area plans and other documents that guide the vision for Chapel Hill.  The community and the Council have asked for a new Comprehensive Plan to bring these documents together, to reexamine the vision and to plan together for our community’s future.”