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Possible Traffic Impact Studies Calm Central West Concerns

CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously adopted the controversial Central West small area plan Tuesday night.  During the ten months it took to draft the plan, members of the committee charged with the task disagreed at each step along the way.

But committee member Julie McClintock, who has been one of the most outspoken about her frustration over the process, said that she feels content with the decision because the Council agreed it would consider conducting wider studies on the impacts of traffic and growth to the Town.

The Central West Small area plan outlines future development near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. It calls for three- to five-story buildings with retail, office, and a mix of uses along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and smaller residential development along Estes Dr.

“We need to know what’s going to be the impact of all the millions of square feet that are now going to be approved down on 15-501, or at Glenn Lennox. All of those cars aren’t going to stay in their little bubble. They are going to travel all over town,” McClintock said. “I was very pleased, and I thought the Council conducted an interesting, deep discussion on all these town-wide planning efforts. It is very needed, and I am very glad it occurred.”

Along with several members of the Central West Steering Committee and neighbors in the area, McClintock formulated what they called a lower-density “alternate plan,“ along with a 260-signature petition asking the council to study development impacts on traffic, storm water control, and the cost of town services.

“I think we feel fairly confident the council is committed to doing these town-wide studies and that they are going to do those before they go ahead and do rezoning. That makes a lot of sense,” McClintock said.

The Council didn’t adopt the alternative plan Tuesday but did decide that it should be included as an official document.

“I think the idea is in it. It [the Citizen’s Plan] did get utilized to some extent,” McClintock said. “There are, of course, some differences.”

Some area residents were ultimately displeased with the Committee’s plan, and stuck by their assertion that the development would bring too much traffic to the already congested roads.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/possible-traffic-impact-studies-calm-central-west-concerns/

Town Council Unanimously Approves Central West Plan

CHAPEL HILL- Thirty meetings, ten months, seven community outreach sessions and $230,000 worth of consultant fees- that’s what it took for a 17-member committee to craft the Central West small area plan, which outlines future development near the intersection of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Susana Dancy was one of more than a dozen speakers on Tuesday who asked the Chapel Hill Town Council to support the committee’s plan.

“I believe the steering committee has produced a small area plan that is both forward-looking and realistic,” Dancy told the council. “It reveals significant compromises that defer to neighborhood concerns.”

The Central West plan calls for three- to five-story buildings with retail, office and a mix of uses along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard tapering to smaller residential development along Estes Drive.

Committee co-chair Amy Ryan said the group scaled down the plan following a community feedback session in September.

“We heard back loud and clear that this is too big and too dense,” said Ryan. “So when we came back and worked up the final Central West plan, you’ll see that our numbers have gone down considerably. We did hear that it was time to pull back.”

Still, some area residents were displeased with the committee’s final result, saying it will bring too much traffic to the already congested roads and threaten ecologically sensitive regions. David Tuttle served on the committee, but he said he said he could not support the committee’s plan.

“We strongly disagree with this picture that high density is needed to save our neighborhoods,” said Tuttle.

He and other neighbors offered what they dubbed a lower-density “alternate plan“, along with a 260-signature petition asking the council to study development impacts on traffic, stormwater control and the cost of town services.

Instead, the Council voted unanimously to adopt the committee’s plan, though they asked that the alternate plan be acknowledged in the official documents.

Although Council members said the Central West small area plan offered a balance between growth potential and neighborhood preservation, some worried it was too narrow in scope.

Early next year the Council will consider shifting the focus from planning small sections of town to wider studies of traffic and the economic impact of growth.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/council-unanimously-approves-central-west-plan/

Central West To Go Before Planning Board

CHAPEL HILL – The Central West Steering Committee is set to present its plan to Chapel Hill Planning Board Tuesday evening.

Members of the Planning Board said at an October 1st meeting, when the drafted plan was first presented by the committee, that they were pleased with it, but wanted more clarification on several issues.

Since December of 2012, the committee has worked to craft its vision for future mixed-use development in the area, which is near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. Recommendations in the detailed plan include uses and heights for the proposed development and suggestions for bicycle and pedestrian amenities.

The committee’s looming deadline is November 25, when it will present final recommendations to the Chapel Hill Town Council for approval.

The Planning Board meeting Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Public Works Building 2 on Millhouse Road.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/central-west-to-go-before-planning-board/

Central West On Track To Present CH Planning Board

CHAPEL HILL – The Central West Steering Committee is on track to present its drafted plan to the Chapel Hill Planning Board next Tuesday. The group, which is disposed to having disagreements, decided to schedule an additional meeting Monday, though all the members won’t be present.

Committee member Sarah McIntee said she wanted to spend more time working out important details that were not addressed fully in the plan.

“I think this is a good start, but it is not finished. I think that putting a stamp on it would be premature,” McIntee said.

The committee’s looming deadline is November 25, when it will present final recommendations to the Chapel Hill Town Council for approval.

Since December of 2012, the committee has worked to craft its vision for future mixed-use development in the area, which is near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. Recommendations in the detailed plan include uses and heights for the proposed development and suggestions for bicycle and pedestrian amenities.

Chapel Hillian Blair Pollock said during the public comment period that he was pleased with the provision for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“I’m really excited and happy to see that on the north side of Estes, there’s a plan for a wider path for non-motorized transportation.” Pollock said.

The committee made revisions to the draft on Tuesday evening in the sections dealing with streetscapes, transportation, and storm water management.

Before getting into the minutia of the meeting, the committee took time to read the draft and then gave feedback.

Julie McClintock, who has been vocal about her frustration with the process, said she believed that the transportation section, which in part discusses development and its impact on traffic in the area, won’t be completed or adequately addressed by Tuesday.

“I know the staff is doing the best they can, but this is an artificially imposed deadline, and we can’t really do a good job, a thoughtful job.” McClintock said.

Town staff said that more in-depth traffic analysis would be incorporated into the plan next week.

McClintock added that she did think that the draft had progressed and that it laid a good framework for moving forward.

Development and its relationship with storm water management has been a contested topic over which many community members have voiced concerns.

Town Planner Megan Wooley said that section of the plan was reviewed by the Town’s storm water management division. She said adjustments were made for practical purposes between stringent regulations and realistic expectations.

Committee member David Tuttle said he would rather “step up” storm water infrastructure, given the flash flooding that swept through Chapel Hill this summer.

The group agreed to meet again Monday at 3 p.m. at a location still to be determined. It will then present its recommendations to the Planning Board Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Public Works Building 2 on Millhouse Road.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/central-west-on-track-to-present-ch-planning-board/

Central West Goes Before Planning Board, Disagreements Continue

CHAPEL HILL – Members of the Chapel Hill Town Planning Board said Tuesday that they were pleased with the plan drafted by the Central West Steering Committee, but wanted more clarification on several issues. Members of the Steering Committee itself, though, weren’t so happy with the plan.

The Committee’s plan was a draft version of uses and heights for proposed mixed-use development in the area which is near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd. The plan also included recommendations for bicycle and pedestrian amenities.

The draft, presented partially in map form, was received fairly well by the Planning Board. Jason Baker said he was “pretty pleased” with the plan, and said he believed the bicycle and pedestrian improvements would be “fantastic” for the community and would help to mitigate traffic.

John Ager said he believed that changes along Estes Dr. were inevitable.

“I take issue with some of the points that have been made by members of the public because I think they are obsessing about the immediate problem and are not looking at the big picture,” Ager said. “There’s a lot of argument about will Estes be widened or not. It will be widened in my opinion.”

The work of the Central West Steering Committee has not been easy since it was undertaken in December of 2012, and at times, the meetings have been contentious. Ager said the committee lacked a “strategic vision” which was what made the task of the Obey Creek Steering Committee go more smoothly.

Planning Board Member Del Snow said she was not pleased with the work done by the consultant, who was brought in to provide the committee with technical expertise.

“As I said before, I feel that the tempo and style of this small area plan was set by the consultant when they came in with the maps first,” Snow said. “I’ve always been a big proponent of having the data to back up what you have proposed. That, in itself, troubles me.”

Neal Bench, Chair of the Planning Board, contended that something was going to happen to Estes regardless of what the committee presents to the Council. He said he would rather it happened sooner than later.

Four members of the Central West Steering Committee, who have formed their own unofficial subgroup, said they can’t endorse the “official” plan.

During the public input session, the four members presented their own map, which they said better addressed how development will affect traffic. They also criticized the official plan for failing to include community feedback.

Committee Co-Chair Michael Parker rebuffed that claim. He said that the Committee held four community events, hosted walking tours, and offered a public survey.

“I think we tried as hard as we could to reach out and be reached out to,” Parker said.

Parker and fellow Co-Chair Amy Ryan led the effort to formulate the map that was presented to the board. After several other versions were on the table, the map was drawn-up based on one-on-one meetings that Ryan and Parker held with their fellow members. Ryan said the goal was to find trends among suggestions put forth by committee members and incorporate them into a new plan.

“One thing that I like about it is that it squarely addressed the traffic concerns which are important for people in the area, and it also leaves things open to developers to have flexibility about how they do things,” Ryan said.

The plan wasn’t well received by some neighbors in the area at a previous meeting who believed the new plan had even less detail than previous versions and featured “no definition on impact to the community.”

Chapel Hill Resident Heidi Chapman was one of six people, included the four unhappy members of the committee, who spoke to the Planning Board during the public comment period. The other was Maria Palmer, who praised the plan and the work of the committee.

“This is an attempt to present something to the Planning Board today. It does not represent the public’s view,” Chapman said. “The public made it very clear at the Amity Church [event] and also in the survey that they did not like any of the plans that the consultant had come up with and the plan that the two chairs had come up with is even more intense.”

Steering committee member Mickey Jo Sorrell began the presentation of the dissatisfied subgroup.

”I want to make it clear that this group of four is not against urban development when it is appropriate in the right places,” Sorrell said.

The group presented their revised map, which includes what they call more in-depth traffic analysis. Julie McClintock said it better explained how the development could impact the neighborhood.

“If the biggest issue of developing this area, the biggest constraint is traffic, why would you not want to deal with it?” McClintock said.

The group also presented a report summarizing what they believed to be the shortcomings of the official plan.

“The traffic and number of trips analysis, I think you will really see is really presented way beyond what the majority of the committee has put forth,” Tuttle said. “I think it is very important for the Planning Board not to let this process move on to Town Council with out having that same kind of analysis presented.”

Firoz Mistry echoed Tuttle’s assertion.

“Anyone who travels on it [Estes Dr.] today knows that every evening, the traffic backs up all the way to the Library, so it is really a disaster already,” Mistry said.

McClintock added that she felt the committee had failed to also address storm water issues in an area that is prone to flooding.

Topics to be discussed at the committee’s meeting on October 3 include traffic performance measures, storm water issues, and street character vision.

The Steering Committee will return to the planning board on October 15 with final draft of the Central West Small Area Plan.

The committee will continue its work until November 25, when it reveals a final plan to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/central-west-goes-before-planning-board-disagreements-continue/

Central West Makes Progress, Many Still Skeptical

CHAPEL HILL – The Central West Steering Committee has formulated a plan which focuses on several points that it will present to the Chapel Hill Planning Board Tuesday. This comes after last week’s meeting when the committee could not reach an agreement on a single item. Still a portion of the committee members and neighbors weren’t content with the process.

For the first time in the history of the Central West Steering Committee, a motion passed unanimously Tuesday evening as committee members applauded the consensus.

“It is time for us to make decisions. We’ve met for nine months. I think it is time for us to put some marks on paper with some decision making. We will then send it to the Planning Board and get public comment,” said committee Co-Chair Amy Ryan.

Matt Sullivan, the meeting’s facilitator, said that the topics up for discussion were development use; height; and bicycle and pedestrian amenities. By keeping the meeting’s agenda from getting too broad, the committee was able to make progress before sending suggestions to the Town Planning Board.

Other motions were approved as well, such as limiting building heights to three stories in the small area plan, and including additional proposed lines on the map, denoting possible off-road paths. A motion was almost passed to restrict building heights to three stories along Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., south of Estes Dr. However, it was decided to delay a vote on the matter in order to include feedback from the Planning Board.

For nine months, the committee has discussed possible land uses and building heights for new development along the Estes Dr. corridor. Six maps have been considered in total, featuring mixed-use development located near the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. The plans are variations of residential, office, institutional and higher density housing development proposed in the area.

The sixth map, formulated last week by Committee Co-Chairs Ryan and Michael Parker, was based on one-on-one meetings with their fellow members. The goal was to find trends amongst suggestions put forth by committee members and incorporate them into a new plan.

Neighbors like John Morris said that he believed the new plan had even less detail than previous versions and featured “no definition on impact to the community.”

Alan Thom, who lives on Caswell Road off Estes Drive, spoke during a public comment session. He said he believed that the committee was “nowhere near ready” to present a final report the Planning Board, adding that the group had spun in circles since work began.

“Even by the twists and turns that have become a defining characteristic of the Central West Steering Committee, the abrupt switch in one week from a map that was a first draft and starting point for discussions, to a being an action item, was an astounding change in direction,” Thom said.

Some Committee members, like Julie McClintock, have questioned the new map, arguing that it goes against the concerns of neighbors who will be impacted by more density.

“To me, we haven’t had a conversation and a consultation on this map,” McClintock said. “It was really brought to us last week. It reflected apparently individual conversations that had occurred. I didn’t see anything on it that reflected my views.”

Committee member Dave Tuttle said he felt that public opinion had been neglected as well.

“This process of what we are really supposed to do is to maintain the integrity of the planning process and ensure that the process is open and participatory,” Tuttle said. “We also should receive and integrate community feedback. I think we have failed miserably.”

Town Planner Megan Wooley said public comment was always included in the committee’s action minutes.

Committee member Lucy Carol Davis added that the plan wasn’t a final version, rather a composite collection of suggestions made so far.

“Again, we are not trying to approve a development project here,” Davis said. “We are trying to set the direction for the kind of development that we think would be appropriate in this area.”

Though this was the committee’s last meeting before presenting to the Planning Board, the group’s work will continue until November 25, when it reveals a final plan to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

Topics to be discussed at the committee’s meeting on October 3 include traffic performance measures, storm water issues, and street character vision.

A representative of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Board, Jared Simmons, said that moving forward, the committee needed to consider density in regard to transit operations.

“I think the most important thing we need here is that we need the proper density level to support transit infrastructure,” Simmons said. “If we underdevelop it, then we are going to be wasting money and no one is going to ride the G-Route and the Cross-Town Route. It is not going to support the proper transit infrastructure.”

The committee presents its newest plan to the Transportation Board this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the Public Works Building on Millhouse Road.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/central-west-makes-progress-some-still-skeptical/

200 Residents Turn Out For Central West Feedback Session

CHAPEL HILL – Jean Ranc, who lives off Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard, was one of many residents who have said that no matter how many public meetings are held, they won’t be happy with the proposed plans for the Central West area.

Ranc said she believed it would create more traffic and density problems near her neighborhood.

“It makes me more upset the more I think about it because it just doesn’t make any sense,” Ranc said.

Ranc joined a crowd of close to 200 Tuesday night as part of the Central West Steering Committee’s public feedback session. It was a chance for Chapel Hillians to review maps laying out possible land uses and building heights for new development along the Estes Drive corridor.

 

The four different map versions featured mixed-use development located on the north side of Estes near the Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard intersection. The plans call for residential development to be located closer to schools, as well as a mix of office, institutional and higher density housing to the south.

“This is an exercise in futility to develop these particular parcels on Estes Drive, which is already crowded,” Ranc said.

Amy Ryan, Co-Chair of the committee and a Chapel Hill Town Council candidate, said the Committee was aware of the numerous issues that the residents were apprehensive about, such as an increase in traffic and the safety of school children.

Ryan said the that Committee would continue to recognize those concerns, while trying to achieve the vision of the Chapel Hill 2020 plan.

“I think it is important for people to remember that we are still at the stage where what we are presenting are just ideas that we are thinking about,” Ryan said. “We are bringing them out to the community tonight to get feedback from them so that when we actually make decisions, we have that community feedback.”

But some Committee members, like Julie McClintock, argued a fifth map should be included. That lower-density map is a version drafted by an unofficial subgroup, and members have said they can’t support any of the committee’s concept plans.

That group, along with other concerned citizens, set up outside of the meeting Tuesday night at Amity Methodist Church. They displayed their own map, information, and renderings, with the message that the Central West planning area was not the place for intensive urban development.

“Somehow we have ended up with a set of plans which really don’t jive with what the community is happy with,” McClintock said. “The idea of this whole process is that we were going to take it out to the community and see what they liked, come back, adjust and go back.”

Alan Tom, who lives on Caswell Road off Estes Drive, was one of many residents who feared the development would create environmental problems. He said that certain areas, such as Camelot Village and University Mall, which were damaged as a result of this summer’s flash flooding, are down stream from the proposed Central West area.

“When you have more buildings, you have more impermeable surfaces, therefore more run-off, so flooding could become an issue,” Tom said.

Tom also said that he and many other residents believed that the wooded area south of Estes Drive ought to be preserved.

Michael Parker, Co-Chair of the Central West Steering Committee and Transportation Board representative, said that the Committee would take all of the feedback, both good and bad, and incorporate it into discussions at their September 19meeting.

“First, I would encourage them to make sure that that they fully understand where they are in the process and what’s being thought about and what is being thought about with options,” Parker said.

Parker added that the Committee was on-target to make final recommendations to the Town Council on November 25.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/200-residents-turn-out-for-central-west-feedback-session/

Central West Group Struggles Ahead Of Fall Deadline

CHAPEL HILL- Next Tuesday Chapel Hill residents will have a chance to check in with the Central West Steering Committee to review maps laying out possible land uses and building heights for new development along the Estes Drive corridor.

But the 17-member group is at odds over which maps the public should see and what the maps actually represent. Mickey Jo Sorrel told fellow committee members she’s not comfortable with any of the current plans.

“I personally do not feel that these maps are a product that I have endorsed. We have voted on them a piece at a time and in groups, but they were created by consultants,” said Sorrel, speaking at Tuesday’s steering committee meeting.

The four versions currently under review were drafted by a consultant following committee discussions to provide a starting point for technical analysis.

The maps feature mixed-use development on the north side of Estes near the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection, residential development closer to the schools, and a mix of office, institutional and higher density housing to the south. Proposed building heights along Estes range from two to four stories, with five to eight stories suggested for some interior parcels of land.

But some committee members argue a fifth map should be included, namely a lower density version drafted by an unofficial subset of the group who say they can’t support any of the committee’s concept plans.

The alternative plan limits building heights to three stories, adds more single-family housing to Estes and leaves some interior parcels untouched. Supporters of the alternative plan say it is responsive to neighbors concerns about vehicle traffic, pedestrian safety and environmental conservation. Four members of the committee, including Julie McClintock, delivered a letter to the group asking that the alternative plan be presented to the public for feedback.

“There hasn’t been any real dialog in order to collectively come up with something that will also match what the citizens want,” said McClintock. “That was actually the reason the steering committee was formed.”

However, many on the committee worry that this alternate plan is too small in scale. Committee co-chair Amy Ryan said while she’s willing to consider a less-dense scenario, the alternate plan would be a missed opportunity to plan for increased transit usage and affordable housing in the area.

“I don’t think I would go as far as this because one of the real opportunities that I see in this area is we are on the major transit corridor in town,” said Ryan. “One of the goals the town is trying to do is we’re trying to get that transit ridership which will keep people off our streets. We’re trying to house more people who aren’t at the upper ends and maybe can’t afford a single family house. I think this is a really good place to try and do that.”

Others in the group took their criticism further. Whit Rummel, who owns undeveloped land on Estes Drive, said the lower-density plan lacked vision.

“What I’m really concerned about is if we go with something like this that has no center, no core, no heart, no vision, we have lost,” said Rummel. “We have lost what we came to do. We have been sold out by people in this neighborhood who want to keep it [zoned] R1. And that is not our vision.”

Nonetheless, McClintock said she plans to circulate copies of the alternate plan at next week’s community meeting with or without the approval of the wider committee. This drew the ire of council liaison Jim Ward, who urged the group to present a united front.

“We haven’t talked as a group about anything but those four maps in terms of having any kind of group discussion on it. I really would feel like you would be demonstrating very poor form if you pull out an alternative map that we have not had as a committee,” said Ward. “You may feel very strongly about it, but that is not the place to do that.”

The Central West Steering Committee is charged with creating a small area plan to be incorporated into the town’s revamped comprehensive plan. The group is scheduled to submit its final report to the town council in November.

While the committee wrestles with the scale of the project, the process has begun to draw fire from citizens and elected officials outside the group, after a recent email from Town Manager Roger Stancil showed the cost of the consultant’s work with the committee has jumped from $92,000 to $230,000.

Originally the town hired planning consultants from Rhodeside and Harwell to participate in four committee meetings and one community workshop. Now, that work plan has evolved to include 19 meetings, three community workshops and multiple concept plans.

The community will have a chance to evaluate the committee’s work next week at an information session at the Amity United Methodist Church at 825 North Estes Drive.

The session will give residents the opportunity to provide feedback on the planning principals, goals and concepts the committee has developed. Members of the public are invited to drop in between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday September 10.  The Central West committee will reconvene to assess the results of the community workshop on September 19.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/central-west-group-struggles-ahead-of-fall-deadline/

Central West Group: Off-Road Bike Path A Priority For Estes

CHAPEL HILL- Residents involved in planning the future of the Estes Drive/ Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard area unanimously endorsed a plan on Tuesday to create an off-street bike path to help children get safely to school.

The proposed path could run parallel to Estes from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Caswell Road, allowing students at Phillips Middle and Estes Hills Elementary to bike or walk to school while avoiding vehicle traffic on one of Chapel Hill’s busiest roads.

Members of the Central West Steering Committee agreed the multi-use path would be the top priority for bike and pedestrian improvements to the area. They also called for bike lanes in the street, along with a sidewalk that runs the full length of Estes Drive.

Although committee members agreed turn lanes might be necessary in some places to ease congestion, the group rejected a plan to add a third lane all along Estes, saying that would widen the road too much.

Transportation Planning Manager David Bonk said the town has about $2.5 million in federal grant money available to bring bike and pedestrian facilities in the area in the next few years.

The group also discussed land use plans for the undeveloped parcels on Estes closest to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Currently, the Horace Williams Airport Hazard Zone prohibits those parcels from being developed, but committee members said once the airport closes, they’d like to see mixed use development with a focus on retail that serves the nearby residential communities.

Committee members stressed that whatever is built on the corner should complement the Carolina North campus eventually slated for the other side of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The group is still in the early stages of land use planning discussions, with a goal of crafting a small area plan for the town council to review by December.

The committee will continue its work next Wednesday, meeting at 6 o’clock at the Chapel Hill Public Library. 

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/central-west-group-pushes-for-off-road-bike-path-for-estes/

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chtc-hears-criticism-of-central-west-steering-committee/