By Susan Dickson
When the Chapel Hill Town Council decided to undertake the development of a new comprehensive plan, council members and community members alike hoped to use the process to reexamine the vision for the town and craft a plan for what Chapel Hillâ€™s future should look like.
To be sure, the process was a huge undertaking, and when Chapel Hill 2020 launched last fall CH2020 leaders hoped to involve a huge, diverse group representing all niches of the community â€“ something theyâ€™ve certainly at the very least come close to accomplishing, with hundreds of residents showing up to a number of meetings over the past seven months.
â€œWeâ€™ve had truly amazing outreach,â€ said 2020 Co-Chair and former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf. â€œI am extremely proud of how successful weâ€™ve been at reaching a lot of people.â€
Through that involvement, leaders hoped the community could craft a planning and visioning document creating a framework for the community to guide the council in managing the townâ€™s future over the next decade. Under the proposed process timeline, that document would be ready in June.
â€œI feel that we have a really good shot at giving the council a good vision and framework document on schedule,â€ Waldorf said.
At the councilâ€™s March 26 meeting, a number of residents spoke critically of the Chapel Hill 2020 process thus far and asked the council to slow down the process, citing concerns about â€œfuture focusâ€ land-use maps developed at meetings and what they called a rushed timeline to develop the document. Several of those who spoke were residents of the U.S. 15-501 South corridor, expressing concerns about their lack of representation on the recently appointed 15-501 South Corridor Discussion Group, which will develop land-use recommendations for the CH2020 process.
On Monday, the council heard a report regarding those concerns from Town Manager Roger Stancil, who said that the maps â€“ which a number of residents said were not representative of the communityâ€™s vision and were developed in a rushed fashion â€“ would not be included in the final document.
The map exercise, he said, was intended as an opportunity for community members to provide input.
â€œI think actually the next draft that comes out will be a much-improved draft based on the comments that weâ€™ve received,â€ he added.
Waldorf emphasized that CH2020 is not just about land use, but is intended to develop an entire set of goals for the community regarding a variety of issues, including transportation, how to serve the teenage population, fiscal sustainability and more.
In addition, â€œWeâ€™ve been saying with a lot of regularity that itâ€™s important that people not view this as something that has been rushed, but as something that has a part A and a part B.â€
â€œThis part of the process was not supposed to yield a zoning ordinance,â€ she continued. â€œWeâ€™re hoping that this process will identify where the participants are willing to allow some of the growth to go.â€
Planning Board Chair Del Snow said the planning board is united in their concerns about the CH2020 process, citing issues with goals and visions being developed without data, not enough time to develop the document and the absence of UNC throughout the process.
â€œThey are a driver of growth. They have a huge influence on our economy, and thereâ€™s the problem of student housing, which has a huge impact on the town,â€ she said.
Planning board member Amy Ryan and Julie McClintock echoed Snowâ€™s concerns.
â€œOne area of concern was that the story of Chapel Hill is not yet in the plan,â€ Ryan said. â€œThe conversation weâ€™re having needs to be about both change and preservation.â€
McClintock reported progress at last weekâ€™s theme group meetings in further developing the vision and goals for the plan, but said that wide-ranging discussions based on data need to be held so that participants can weigh tradeoffs of potential goals.
The next Chapel Hill 2020 community meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Chapel Hill High School.