CHAPEL HILL – Most of the candidates for the Chapel Hill Town Council say they believe your voice is being heard during the implementation process of the Chapel Hill 2020 process, but they also agree that much improvement can be made.
The Town of Chapel Hill is reworking its Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) and late last month it kicked off its LUMO update project. The LUMO is a ten-year-old zoning and codes rulebook that guides the development of land in Chapel Hill.
Monday during WCHL’s forum for the nine candidates seeking four seats on the Council, the contenders discussed what they saw as good and bad in the early stages of Design 2020—the implementation step of the Chapel Hill 2020 planning process.
George Cianciolo says he’s glad the Town has decided to change the LUMO and wants to see provisions put in place that benefit not only the Town but also the consumer.
“One of the things that’s being considered and obviously is being tested with the Ephesus Church small area plan is a form-based code system—or a hybrid of it,” Cianciolo says. “What citizens need to keep in mind is a form-based code uses citizen’s participation. It’s based on going to the citizens (and) asking what they want to see.”
He says there are two areas of the form-based code he’d like to see considered that other codes haven’t always used.
“What kind of a form-based code we might devise would be one that might allow for consideration of design,” Cianciolo says. “The other thing is consideration of affordable housing.”
Gary Kahn says he’s noticed too many struggles in the early stages of the implementation process of future development of Chapel Hill.
“What sounds good on paper doesn’t necessarily work,” Kahn says. “The Central West Committee actually has proved that. I have to say that it sounds great, but unfortunately I think it’s come to the point where you can’t satisfy everybody.”
But Cianciolo says you’re never going to get everyone to agree on every issue.
“The Central West Committee which Amy is co-chair on has adopted a plan, and the issues that were voted on were adopted by a vote of a super majority,” Cianciolo says.
And Maria Palmer says just because you can’t satisfy everybody doesn’t mean the process doesn’t work.
“Everybody feels like they gave a little bit, but it’s the only way that parties that started out disagreeing can come to a resolution,” Palmer says. “That’s how we do business. It’s politics, and it’s not a dirty word.”
Amy Ryan is one of the co-chairs of the Central West Steering committee. She says she’s confident that the process has allowed the voice of the people to be a valuable part of the decision making.
“The citizen processes are contentious, but I think that having that dialogue and getting everybody to the table and inviting everybody in to talk about these issues is what’s really important.”
And she says what would really help the process move smoother is by creating better guidelines for these focus groups after finding what worked and what didn’t during these early groups.
“I would really like to see the Town adopt a template for this kind of process to say when you want to do a small area plan or something, this is how you do it; this is how you set up a committee; these are the steps that you go though; this is the kind of facilitation that you have,” Ryan says. “So I think that will make it easier. Some of what happens at Central West is we had a lot of issues about process.”
Loren Hintz says he’s worried about the lack of transparency in some areas because of the fact that the citizens involved in the groups are in fact civilians.
“There’s a tendency for committee members to want information and it’s not provided in a timely fashion,” Hintz says. “And so, issues like how is storm water going to be handled or traffic, that information isn’t made available or might not even be able to be available. So some members are frustrated because they don’t have that information in a timely fashion.”
The Town hired an outside consulting agency to do a site survey and present plans for the committee from which to choose. The consultant cost the town $230,000.
Hintz says the Town can learn from the process and make the implementation step more efficient.
“I think we should continue to use more in-house facilitators and try to reduce the amount of consultant fees that we have to pay,” Hintz says.
There are currently three groups meeting to discuss future development: the Central West Steering Committee which presents its plan to the Town Council and opens the floor for public comment on it on Monday, the Ephesus/Fordham Focus Area, and the Obey Creek area across from Southern Village.
This discussion took place in the early parts of the second hour of the Chapel Hill Town Council candidates forum.