DTH on Carolina North

With permission of the Daily Tarheel, we are reprinting a collection of viewpoints they published yesterday about Carolina North. The final essay was by me, and I am including my original, undedited version. The collection also included am editorial cartoon featuring a statue of "Silent Cam."

Carolina North -Elliott Dube, Editorial Page Editor
Another stage has begun in the long history of relations between UNC and the two towns that co-exist with the University. At the center of the action is the Horace Williams tract, a significant portion of which has been earmarked as the foundation for Carolina North: UNC's future satellite campus. From a University standpoint, Carolina North represents progress. It is a giant, 240-acre symbol of UNC's drive to expand its academic...

Campus would signal progress for University
My head swims whenever I really think about Carolina North. Most of my recent concerns are rooted in the here and now -- graduation, finding a job, paying the rent. Sometimes it's hard to wrap...

Plan is missing details about traffic, housing -Tom Jensen, Chairman, Students For A Progressive Chapel Hill

When UNC unveiled its plans for Carolina North in a series of community forums last month, its slide show featured pictures of families walking their dogs and riding bikes in an idyllic setting...

Plenty of time left for debate -Wyatt Dickson, UNC Buildings and Grounds Committee

The idea of developing UNC's massive Horace Williams tract off of Airport Road has been kicked around for the past few decades. Spurred by the need for space to house UNC's many growing...

Carolina North: Partner or Parasite? -Ruby Sinreich, OrangePolitics.org Editor
I hope that the University will take some time to think about the Chapel Hill that would house Carolina North. Will this community still be as attractive to desirable faculty, staff, and students if it is no longer called The Southern Part of Heaven, but instead referred to as the Northwestern Part of RTP? Amazingly, the attitude of UNC’s administrators seems to indicate that Orange County is nothing more than a generic host organism for its research campus of the future. This is the same kind of thinking that fueled the Research Triangle Park and the suburbs of north Raleigh and Cary. These sterile, sprawling suburbs may carry lots of cash, but they are largely devoid of character.

I would hate to see my hometown and my alma mater devolve into the thoughtless sprawl that congests much of the rest of the Triangle. We have other problems here, such as the skyrocketing price of housing in Chapel Hill. This partially due to the slow pace of UNC’s construction of student housing, but it’s also because of all the things that make Chapel Hill unique in this region: healthy downtowns, compact and walkable urban areas, environmentally-sensitive neighborhoods, diverse intellectual culture, support for artists and musicians, thoughtful community leaders, and a little southern charm. These are the things that give us a sense of community, and that make the University so inviting to those that choose to come here.

Looking at the administration’s current proposal for Carolina North, it appears that not only did planners ignore the report of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Horace Williams Citizens’ Committee, its also brushed aside its own plan developed in 1997 by a panel of representatives from the University and the Town. I was then a recent graduate of UNC serving on the Town of Chapel Hill’s Transportation Board, and was a part of this group that drew vague blobs on a map of the Horace Williams property and set down principles for this future campus.

One key element of that plan was the University’s voluntary agreement to limit the amount of development to not exceed the transportation capacity of the surrounding area. This meant that until effective transit was in place, not too much would be built. This was based on the logical assumption that no-one would want to work, study, or live in a place surrounded by gridlock and pollution. It is still a safe assumption, in my opinion, and clear indicator of the University’s dependence on the quality of life in Orange County.

How then can they logically explain 19,125 parking spaces, no designated transit (or school) facilities, no fiscal equity proposal, no dedication of open space, and the phased realignment of our major east-west arterial road. To me, this plan amounts to extreme disregard for the health of the community. There are many laudable components of the Carolina North proposal, such as the pedestrian-friendly network of streets, and density balanced by open space. However this will do nothing to mitigate the severe impacts of developing this campus without regard for its host organism, southern Orange County.

The Towns and the University simply cannot thrive or excel without each other’s cooperation. One’s failure will be the other’s demise. The best course for the future of the entire community is for the University to collaborate with Chapel Hill and Carrboro to develop (and preserve) the Horace Williams property with a long-term vision, rather than the current get-rich-quick scheme. I would suggest a joint planning process modeled on the pervious UNC-Chapel Hill Planning Panel whose report was endorsed by both the Town and the University in 1997.

The Carolina North proposal in its current form cannot form the basis of any fair or reasonable negotiation process. I fear there may not be many more crossroads at which people have any input on which direction to take. I implore the University leaders and planners to consider the critical nature of our symbiotic relationship.

Ruby Sinreich grew up in Chapel Hill and graduated from UNC in 1993 with a BSPH in Environmental Science and Engineering. She is the editor and founder of OrangePolitics.org.

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