Central West Stalled

By Ran Northam Posted September 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm

CHAPEL HILL – The Central West Steering Committee has 12 days to present its plan to the Planning Board, and not a single item in the plan has a consensus agreement.

The action item for Thursday night’s meeting of the Committee was to see which items in the plan—which has been discussed since January—could be agreed on. The first motion to vote on an item was finally called more than two hours into the meeting. A representative of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Board, Jared Simmons, motioned that the committee vote on the bike and ped plans that had been discussed, which he said he believed the group agreed on.

After close to ten minutes of discussion, the motion got lost, and co-chair Amy Ryan asked the Chapel Hill Police Department’s staff legal adviser, Matt Sullivan—who was brought in to be a facilitator of the meeting—to get the meeting on track.

“We have this meeting and the next meeting before we have to go to the Planning Board, and we have to bring them something,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping to bring them decisions, not just ‘these are things we’re thinking about’. So, if you could help us, maybe, move forward with that.”

“Well, I think he’s actually moving in the right direction,” Sullivan said.

More discussion ensued and the motion was removed with a different motion to make the bike/ped portion of the plan an agenda item for discussion at the committee’s next meeting.

With only 15 minutes left in the meeting before the committee had to allow for ten minutes of public discussion and adjourning, the second motion was called by land owner, Whit Rummel.

“I would like to make a motion that we accept the performance-based standards for traffic on development…on the basis that David and the staff can come up with a feasible way of approaching it,” Rummel said.

David Bonk is the town’s long range and transportation planning manager. He took time to explain that the performance-based standards are industry standards for these situations, and still the committee could not agree to vote on the item. Despite nearly reaching a vote, that item too got pushed to the next meeting with the request for more information from town officials.

Before opening the floor to public comments, Sullivan told the committee he is confident that it can come up with some items on which the members agree.

“I think it would be a shame that you invested all this time, energy, and effort to have it flounder,” Sullivan said.

A major hold-up for the committee is that there are now six proposals on the table for it to work on. The fifth map was presented last week by a group that expressed its items of concern were not being heard. That proposal was presented to the group Thursday and received mixed opinion.

The co-chairs of the committee also took the past week to meet one-on-one with almost every individual of the group to discuss the issues. The chairs then put the discussion together into a map, which the committee realized at the meeting ended up being a combination of concept A2 and B2. Both those concepts were heavily disliked by the committee.

*Update: Co-chair Ryan told WCHL on Friday that the goal of the one-on-one meetings was not to pick and choose what items from the four A and B concept plans were the best, but instead to just name the areas of concern and what they wanted to see in the plan. She said the performance-based standard will likely produce a less dense plan than the A and B concepts that were heavily disliked.

Last week’s public session saw more than 200 community members show up to give their input by placing a green dot on plans they agreed on and red dots on plans they were against. Town officials, members of the committee, and members of the public said Thursday there was evidence that people were seen removing dots and otherwise compromising the project, so the data was not submitted as official information.

*Update: Chapel Hill Housing and Neighborhood Services Planner, Megan Wooley, told WCHL on Friday that the dot exercise will be used, it’s just not going to be tabulated into numerical data. She said it was always meant to just be a visual representation.

The town survey received close to 450 entries and was given to the committee to review.

The Central West Steering Committee meets one final time before submitting a plan to the Planning Board. Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., the group will have to come up with something to present.

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