Council to Discuss OI-4 Process

The Town Council tonight will discuss the manager's proposed process for finalizing the proposed modifications to the OI-4 zone (for UNC's main campus):

The starting point for continued consideration of these ideas would be to schedule a community meeting as early in March as is possible given the Council's regular meeting schedule. We suggest the following: The meeting would be convened in the evening, cable-cast, be jointly hosted by the Town and UNC, and be advertised as a Community Dialogue meeting. The meeting would be in the Council chamber, and be relatively informal. The Mayor would moderate. The Town Council and University representatives would sit at small tables in front of the Council table. Initial presentations would be offered by Town staff and University staff to cover background and set the stage. A hand-held microphone would be available to audience participants, who would be invited to offer comments, ideas, and suggestions regarding provisions of the OI-4 Zoning District. The Mayor would call on people and moderate the discussion. If a question is asked by an audience participant, the Mayor would either turn to staff to invite an answer, or turn to Council/University representatives to invite comment.

The Mayor, in opening remarks, would

1. Articulate the objectives for this meeting: to hear community comments and suggestions regarding provisions in the Office/Institutional-4 Zoning District.

2. Outline the ground rules for this discussion.

3. State that the next step, following this meeting, would be for the Town Council and UNC representatives to meet again to review the ideas and discuss the proposals for changes to OI-4. Following this discussion, a report would be presented to the Town Council, at which time the Council would be in a position to proceed to consider changes to the OI-4 provisions.

Following the Mayor's opening remarks, the floor would be open for comments and suggestions from the audience, with discussion moderated by the Mayor.

This would not be a hearing on plans for Carolina North, nor a hearing on proposals to rezone the Horace Williams property. The focus would be on the provisions, existing and proposed, contained in (or proposed to be added to) the OI-4 Zoning District.

This is for the most part a good proposal. We have not had a forum where the university could respond directly to citizen concerns. This should be a very informative discussion for all.

My major concern is item 3, the next step. I don't think the Council can know what the next step should be until the forum plays itself out. If there are substantial new ideas then an additional public hearing may be in order. If not, the town can move straight to scheduling a vote on the proposed modifications which have already had ample discussion.

A quasi-private discussion between the university and the Council does not seem to be in order. The town is already being very flexible with the process with the proposed forum (just as it bent over backwards to work with UNC on the original OI-4 proposal). It seems that for the purpose of these zoning modifications, the regular process can play itself out subsequently.

Total votes: 189

Comments

I will be there. I've been advocating for some serious improvements to OI-4 since before it was first approved. In fact, I don't think any of of the proposed changes go far enough in leveling the playing the playing field, but they're a good start. I've been pretty shocked at how negatively the UNC administration has responded so far to this modest proposal. Hopefully they will be reasonable and come to the table to work out a solution that benefits everyone.

A quick update of the discussion that went on.

The proposal is for an Oprah-style informal public meeting be held with both the council and members of the US Beef Council (UNC) attend as both sounding board, audience
and expertise.

The original proposal would have UNC and the town council to meet for a little confab to discuss issues raised in the first meeting.

Finally, there would be a full blown public hearing on the results of all meetings.

Mike Collins pointed asked why the second meeting was required since UNC had made their stance very clear

Joyce Brown asked that the legal status of item #9 be clarified.

Ruby S. was concerned about the potential for opaqueness in the process and asked that all meetings be as transparent
as possible. She pointed out that there had been previous Mayor/Chancellor meetings where some high-level issues
might've been hammered out. She also pointed out that the staff had treated a number of these issues
as "political" (and I guess avoided any direct input?? - I'm hoping Ruby will expand and clarify on my notes).
She felt that it would enhance the credibility of the negotiations if all contacts were clear, open. She
also asked "where's the accountability"?

I asked that if the original second meeting with UNC/Council went forward that a third informal public meeting
be inserted so that the public could get both an update and contribute additional items to the discussion. I pointed
out that the "all or nothing" nature of the current OI-4 proposal for Horace Williams meant that when UNC
was a "bad actor", there was no mechanism within OI-4 to discontinue further construction as per the approved
plan. For instance, the current off-site increase in lumination on adjacent property is restricted to 0.3 foot/candles,
yet it's obvious UNC/North will increase the total illumination of the several square miles around it by more than
that (just review the current light design for the buildings and parking lots). Given that, what extraordinary
mechanism should be implemented to immediately stop development until that issue (or the noise issue or the
traffic issue or the waste runoff issue or all the other issues that UNC will ultimately abrogate) is remedied.

Bill Strom said that he had additional concerns about structure of 9 additional items
and added that additional planning needs to be discussed....

He also pointed out that the council, in their previous discussion, made a whoopsy
(my words) when, instead of removing 7 million foot construction restriction on UNC
actually ended up removing any restriction or cap on building at UNC - which is
"the lion share of what UNC originally wanted" (my paraphrase).
He added that Kevin playing Oprah would be beneficial to town but that we should have
a formal meeting after that meeting instead of meeting with UNC.

Bill finally recommended a change to the process that goes straight from the informal
meeting to a public hearing (skipping the UNC/Council meeting).

Dorothy Verkerk-back's Bill on this - "UNC is talking to elected officials" - supports modifications.

Cam Hill said "he doesn't see anymore reason" to engage UNC and the Town since their
position is clear .He pointed out that "discussions with UNC are rarely fruitful".

Mark asked that we engage the public directly since UNC hasn't tried to engage them....
I hope Mark takes a minute to expand and clarify on my notes.

Ed Harrison's comments I lost.- sorry Ed.

Jim Ward - UNC is part of the community - they're invited to the public meeting. I wonder
if they appear as audience in the informal meeting ("just citizens" to paraphrase Jim), will
they be given more precedence than any other citizen?

Since I'm sitting here let me throw a fun little request also from Jim. He wants to barcode
beer kegs so that they can be tracked back to the people that sold them.....

I went to that meeting. I wasn't clear on the question. Does the city have any zoning controll over what happens on campus?

Yes the Town very much does have zoning authority over the campus, Clark. Most UNC-owned land was zoned OI-2 and OI-3 until a few years ago when (as Bill Strom mentioned) the Town lifted the agreed-upon cap (I think it was ~13 million square feet) on buildings on the main campus in return for the creation of a new zone, OI-4, which was then applied to the entire main campus. See http://www.townofchapelhill.org/planning/ for more info on Town zones and planning. Many people feel the agreement on OI-4 was one-sided in that it gave UNC great independence and security in return for simply sharing information with the Town about UNC plan's and impacts on the perimeter of the development.

The State has been known to pull a few tricks to keep Universities out of range of local planning efforts, but with the campus located in the very heart of our community, you can imagine that it's critical that both parties work together to ensure their collective well-being. Zoning and development review is a tool to accomplish that.

 

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