Chapel Hill town manager Roger Stancil opened tonight’s Chapel Hill 2020 meeting by describing where we are in the process. As part of that description, he mentioned that the town was moving out of the “intensive engagement” part of the process and into the “refine and review” process. Tonight’s meeting and some recent developments in the process seem to clearly point out that this is indeed the case.
The first half of the meeting was spent reviewing the results of the Future Focus sessions. Consultants presented their findings from the charette-style meetings held in February. In terms of the five study areas, people seemed to prefer to cluster new development in certain areas, mostly near major intersections, and leave the rest of areas widely untouched. During the second half of the meeting, theme groups separated out to discuss the new information presented.
Interestingly, it was decided during the past week that the 15-501 South study area warranted further, special discussion. A “Discussion Group” has been set up. The group’s membership was decided on by the leaders of the process, and though a post on 2020 Buzz indicates that the group will report back to the Chapel Hill 2020 process as a whole, the actual mechanism by which that will happen remains unclear (please correct me if I’m wrong).
Though the enthusiasm of the participants in the process is constantly impressive, this meeting raises many of the same concerns that past meetings have. First, the emphasis on the Future Focus sessions doesn’t quite make sense. The actual discussions in those sessions lasted for less than an hour, so it’s not clear the results from these meetings truly represent what the community wants. The meeting also felt rushed. There was some great discussion happeneing with staff jumping in at the right places to provide technical information. There just wasn't enought time. Good planning takes time, and we need more of it.
To end on a more positive note, at the beginning of theme group discussions the Getting Around facilitator, Maria Palmer, read out the views of several different groups that were submitted to the leaders of the process. The groups represented different interests and viewpoints. She used these viewpoints as a jumping off point discussion. It worked brilliantly well and provided for some truly fruitful discussions.