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CHTC Hears Criticism Of Central West Committee

CHTC Hears Criticism Of Central West Committee

CHAPEL HILL- Nearly a year to the day after the Chapel Hill Town Council adopted the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan, town leaders reviewed the progress of one of the first fruits of that plan- a citizens advisory committee tasked with charting the future of the Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard- Estes Drive intersection.

But some residents of the area told the council Monday they’re not happy with the direction of the Central West Steering Committee.

Theresa Raphael-Grimm said she feels neighborhood input is being overlooked in favor of consultant recommendations.

“Is this the vision the town council has for the 2020 process?” Raphael-Grimm asked the council. “Do we really want to know what people think, or is the Central West Focus Area Steering Committee process merely a well-orchestrated charade, where citizen input is tolerated under the guise of active citizen engagement, but not actively considered?”

She was one of several speakers asking the council to extend the November deadline for the committee’s report and allocate funding for an outside facilitator.

The group of neighbors also presented an alternate plan for potential development that features less density than that suggested by consultants from Rhodeside & Harwell. The citizen plan was delivered to the council along with 200 signatures of support from residents in the area.

But council member Donna Bell warned against building single-family homes, arguing that given the scarcity of land in town, low-density development would preclude affordable housing.

“I think these small area plans will be a moment where we as a town decide whether we truly have a commitment to a diversity of folks living here, or whether we truly want to become a sleepy suburban town, a bedroom community,” said Bell.

The 17-member steering committee was appointed by the council last fall to create a small area plan for 60 acres near the intersection of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. About half of those on the committee are residents of the area, while the others represent business interests and stakeholders from the wider community.

Council member Matt Czajkowski called for the council to approve funding to hire a facilitator to work with nearby residents and the steering committee over the summer.

“When there are significant groups with different views on how the process is going and where we stand in it, we need to find some way to build the bridge back,” said Czajkowski. “So I would very, very much be in favor of spending the money, whatever it takes, to get a very able facilitator.”

However, his motion failed in a 5-2 vote after committee members acknowledged they had already rejected a similar idea earlier in the planning process.

Town Manager Roger Stancil said the steering committee does have the option of calling in outside facilitators over the summer if members decide that’s what’s necessary to move forward.

Looking ahead, council member Jim Ward urged both neighbors and committee members to consider the bigger picture.

“This needs to be a plan that really moves the town of Chapel Hill forward, while taking into consideration those who live near by and those more distant than that,” said Ward.

The council opted to leave the November deadline unchanged and appoint Ward as a council liaison to the steering committee.

The steering committee meets next Monday at 6 o’clock in the Sienna Hotel. That meeting is open to the public.

Meanwhile, the Chapel Hill Town Council will go on a summer hiatus. Regular meetings will resume in September.


  1. Lillian Lester

    Contrary to what Mr. Czajkowski says, there are not “significant groups with different views on how the process is going” — there is only one group that claims the process isn’t going right — nearby residents who are against any significant change in their neighborhood despite the growing needs of the greater Chapel Hill community.

    • Dan Bruce

      Living in the center of this area I am not opposed to development, I’m opposed to development that will not compliment Carolina North or the adjacent neighborhoods. I don’t care for development that threatens children walking to school or pedestrians in general. I commend smart growth that compliments and builds upon what we cherish in Chapel Hill.

  2. Erin Langston

    Not exactly the message communicated last night. Residents said change will come, so how do we best plan and shape it. No one said there should be no change. Key take away was that the two schools with a huge walk zone as well as library on this overburdened corridor need safer bike/ped enhancement before someone is hurt.

  3. Elaine Marcus

    Please note that the Central West development area is much larger than the intersection of MLK and Estes Dr. It is misleading to refer to it as an intersection. The area under consideration (see the map) includes pieces of land that are imbedded in older neighborhoods, one of which includes two schools and a library; and one of which includes a swath of mature Old Growth Forest. None of the older neighborhoods in the current plans have the roadways or bikeways to support the heavier traffic load of the proposed high-density development, and so far, there do not seem to be solutions to adequately address that problem.

    No one is saying they are against development, just saying that the vision of dense development and a walk-about community are impractical for these older neighborhoods. Larger parcels north of town and closer to the proposed campus development may be a more suitable place to introduce this kind of development… with planned parking, greenways, roadways and bikeways to support the envisioned lifestyle.

    To me, this is an upside down approach, I think the Town should look at the goals and ALL six areas slated for development, then match the areas to the desired goals according to some practical criteria. For example, it might make more sense to increase a business base along Fordham Blvd. where there are suitable roadways and parking to support the undertaking. Just saying…

    Elaine Marcus

  4. Debbie Jepson

    I’d like to dispel the myth that concerns were only raised by an insignificant group of “NIMBY Luddites”! Support for the petition to Council came from residents living in a much broader area than the focus area shown above, or even the broader Impact Area. The views of the Chapel Hill community members from the area between Timberlyne to Franklin Street, and from Lake Hogan Farms and Carrboro to Englewood and Sage Road are not insignificant.

    These concerned citizens have demonstrated that they are pro development that will enhance the area for Chapel Hill. As a university town in the triangle, we have an international reputation that attracts residents from all over the US and the wider world. They are drawn by the unique nature of Chapel Hill with UNC, Franklin St, established residential areas, and excellent public schools, all set in natural greenery. We need to be building on and promoting this uniqueness, not turning ourselves into a cookie cutter bland any-town. We have enough examples of empty offices and failed retail outlets built in the “build it and they will come” quest for tax dollars – we need to get this right and welcome further community input.

  5. Emily Lees

    I agree totally with the observations made by Elaine Marcus. Contrary to what the Town Council would have everyone believe, the area adjacent to the “intersection” of MLK and Estes Drive comprises well-established neighborhoods with a diverse professional population. Several residents, including my husband and me, moved here specifically because we were attracted to the quality of life this neighborhood afforded. We were attracted to the area by the tree- studded lots with homes in a variety of architectural styles, the proximity of the library, the two schools, and the convenient near-town location. Donna Bell seems to think that we need to develop any and all possible undeveloped tracts to increase the tax base. But making Estes a busy thoroughfare lined with “affordable housing” – e.g., apartments – and commercial development will lower the property values and hence the tax revenue of the adjacent existing homes.

    If the Town wants to increase the number of businesses and apartments, why not encourage some development of the eyesore empty Honda/Volvo dealership? And the empty lot on Elliott where the theater used to be?

    To add insult to injury, the Town has now appointed Jim Ward to be the council liaison to the steering committee. It’s hard to take seriously any promise of commitment to residents’ vision for the future when the appointee has stated publicly that Estes Drive is “not a neighborhood street.” And when the Town ignores residents’ pleas to slow down the process, how can we believe that any apparent concession to our needs is anything more than smoke and mirrors?

  6. Matt Czajkowski

    Lillian Lester is the only person commenting on this thread who appears to be posting under a “nom de plume”. There is no Lillian Lester listed in the voter registration rolls at the Orange County Board of Election and the link to her “nom de plume” is to an avatar named “zippojane”. May I suggest that your words would carry more weight if you used your real name like all the other residents posting on this thread.


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