Q #7 Planning for Six Focus Areas

    7. The Town has identified six focus areas for potential new development with separate planning for each. Do you think that these six focus areas can be planned independent of each other? If not, how would you insure that planning for each location adds up to the best comprehensive Town-wide plan?

George Cianciola   I do not think these six focus areas can be planned totally independently of one another.  On the other hand, neither can they be planned concurrently.  There is not enough staff, not enough meeting space, and not enough energy amongst the citizens to do six simultaneous projects.

I think both the Town staff and the public has a reasonably good idea of what might or could occur at these six areas and participants in these discussions can begin to use those basic ideas to develop some sense on how one area might affect the other.

Sally Greene   The 2020 plan sets the framework for looking at all areas of town holistically—for considering townwide impacts. Each of the focus areas, while having definite boundaries, is going to have externalized, ripple effects: for example in Central West it is clearly traffic (in Ephesus/Fordham, it appears to be at least equally an issue of stormwater). As part of working on each focus area we need to think more broadly about these ripple effects and plan for how to handle them.

Given our resources of staff time and available public money, it is unrealistic to aim to go about all of these focus areas at once. Rather, they should be thought of as drilling one level down from the 2020 plan, always with the goals and values of that plan in mind. The way to end up with the best results is to constantly keep those larger goals in mind.

Ed Harrison   I don’t see any choice except to have a certain level of autonomy for development of the small area plans that should emerge from focus area processes.

The word “focus” implies that we are doing independent processes specific to the non-residential areas that are the center of the focus areas and the clusters of neighborhoods directly affected by development or redevelopment. To get at issues of true local importance, we have to do that focus. I’ve attended many of the planning meetings for the two focus areas currently in the process. It’s obvious to me that there’s an uneven knowledge by staff of some critical neighborhood-level issues which are directly relevant to thinking about plans for future land use. I strongly commend the residents who have highlighted these issues.

Since the six processes are not entirely simultaneous – given staffing levels, they can’t be – all have different calendar end points. If and when small area plan results call for a shift in scale of future development from what other plans (transportation, above all) call for, a comprehensive plan approach could in turn call for an adjustment of the overall future picture. It may not, but that has to be evaluated, or else, we’ve dropped the ball.

Loren Hintz   I have attended at least one meeting each for four of the six focus areas. Each of them are unique. I think they do need to be planned independently. I think staff and citizens are learning which methods work better for planning. However, the 2020 plan already has placed some general restrictions and goals on all of the areas. For example these are areas that should create more nonresidential tax revenue for the town. They also require careful consideration of improved connections for pedestrians, bicycles and buses, open space and for storm water management.  The development mix, time for build out or complete renovation and height of buildings will vary at each focus area.

Gary Kahn  No issue should be solved with (without?) full community input.

Paul Neebe   Clearly we need to look at Chapel Hill as a whole.  Light Rail is coming yet we don’t have any standards in place for what we need in the areas of the light rail stops. This would be Step one.  I think maps are very helpful with Master planning.  They should be all over the Town Hall walls instead of hidden away.

I do not support manufacturing industry in Chapel Hill unless it is very green and does not harm the environment.

Maria Palmer    These areas need to be planned independently because they are so different and there is no way to do everything at once. The needs are different and the constituencies are somewhat different. However, the development of each needs to fit into the whole plan for Chapel Hill. This iw where town staff, the Planning Board and Town Council come in.

Amy Ryan  Doing a better comprehensive planning would be one of my chief goals during my tenure on Council.  I agree that the town needs to do a better job of making sure that our development decisions aren’t made in isolation, but in a way that will produce plans that together meet the anticipated needs of the town as a whole.  Comprehensive planning will, for example, make sure we’re actually preparing to house the population growth and retail and office demand we’re likely to see.

To accomplish this, it’s important that we have good projections of future growth, and that figures that involve policy choices in town (such as how much commercial growth we want to see) are arrived at after open, public discussions. As a minimum first step toward better comprehensive planning, the town should begin to keep a tally of the cumulative population and square footage proposed in each Future Focus plan as it’s finished, so that subsequent areas can use these details to inform their decision-making.

D.C. Swinton  I think all development plans should be aware of one another as there could be consequences unseen by one plan, negating the intended effects of another.  It would be good for all those involved to communicate either monthly or every 60 days.

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