Community Meeting on UNC Master Plan

Guest Post by Linda Convissor

Friends and Neighbors,
A you know, we are in the midst of a major building program on campus. The campus master plan, which was completed in 2001, guides this campus development.

Midway through our historic building program, we recognize that it is a good time to evaluate and update the plan for main campus. The update process began with a number of initial planning workshops held this past winter to assess current conditions and identify the scope of the update. Issues of pedestrian connections, green space, transportation and parking are some of the issues being looked at.

Next week we will hold a meeting to solicit additional input from the community and invite you to attend. The meeting will be held on Thursday, May 19, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. in 116 Murphey Hall.

If you are unfamiliar with the 2001 master plan, it is posted at It is also available at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

Jill Coleman, Landscape Architect in the Facilities Planning Department, is the project manager for the update. Jill is available at 843-3246 or As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions prior to the meeting.

Visitor parking information is at: Should you need to drive to campus and haven't seen the new Rams Head project, you might enjoy parking in that deck on Ridge Road and walking upstairs to see the landscaped plaza above it that serves both as stormwater mitigation and a pedestrian plaza connecting north and south campus.

Please share this with your friends and neighbors.

Linda Convissor

Linda Convissor is the Director of Local Relations in the Office of University Relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She can be reached at and 919-962-9245.



Thank you Linda, an expeditious free flow of information is always helpful.

Is there something we could look at documenting UNC's proposed specific alterations in the master plan? I'm slightly familiar with some of the campus discussions, but I haven't tripped across any documentation pulling together the details of those discussions, could you give us a reference?

As one who likes to prepare before a meeting, I understand the desire to have a preview before showing up. I've had to come around to see that the type of planning we are doing is a very iterative process that relies almost entirely on visuals and conversation rather than text.

A significant part of the update is "simply" updating the master plan map to reflect what actually has been built since 2001 and what is now in design and/or construction. Although the new construction closely follows the original plan, there has been enough variation in building shape and slight shifting of location to require changes to the drawing just to get to the present date. We are still working on the drawings to get everything accurate.

What we learned during the campus master plan is that walking people through the the drawings and ideas works best and we plan to use the same process this time. I hope you'll be able to join us - our meetings usually generate a lively discussion with lots of good feedback.

I'm hoping to attend, but if I can't is there any chance it could be webcast?

I don't think we are there yet.

Hi, folks,
I pulled up the 2001 version of UNC's Master Plan, as referenced above, but it doesn't incorporate the many changes that have been made in the plan since then.
Where, before Thursday, can we see a more up-to-date version, with the subsequent modifications (some of which are already built)?

What you are looking for is exactly what I was referring to as "simply" updating the plan. It is incorporating all of the built, under construction and in design pieces into the map. We have to have a good snapshot of where we are to work on going forward.

We will have an updated plan on Thursday, but I fully expect you and others will identify places where more work is needed.

The 2001 plan that is on the web is exactly that - the plan as it was approved.


Linda, if people first see the plan on Thursday, how will they get feedback to UNC after spending some time actually reading and analyzing it?

My problem with UNC's (cited above) March 2001 "approved" Master Plan is that it shows a 64 unit family housing building dropped onto my house, school and property. My first awareness of this was via a big color UNC graphic in the Chapel Herald. I panicked and complained, vocally and in letters in the Herald and the Chapel Hill News. If I knew how to attach documents to these posts you could read those now.

UNC's subequent construction maps have pictured buildings on property that they actually own. This demonstrates some sensitivity to the human beings who live at the edges of their expansion plans. Access to those revised maps would stand UNC in good stead. In advance; not at tomorrow's meeting. Then, concerned citizens could join UNC in moving forward from a more up-to-date position, and we wouldn't feel we have to rehash old traumas.

For example, check out:
go to item X, and pick up the map on page 2 (from 3 July 2001).
It shows the Perimeter Transition Areas, where the UNC property abuts (and abuts and abuts) adjacent neighborhoods. That map shows UNC building on its own property. They have bought or are buying more Mason Farm Road houses since then, but that's a different thrust.

Both Jill Coleman and I would be pleased to receive comments. My email is, phone 962-9245. Jill is, phone 843-3246.

There are two different documents related to development on the main campus. If I can follow up on Diana's post to explain the differences.

The campus master plan is a planning document that has no time line associated with it. Approved in 2001, it was the document that illustrated the responsible capacity for growth on campus, including among other things, the location, size and scale of buildings, new roads, and a transit alignment to connect to the TTA corridor to Durham.

In contrast, the development plan is a regulatory document that is approved by the Town under the OI-4 campus zoning. The development plan identifies growth within a specific time frame.

The campus master plan identified new locations for student family housing, including buildings on land that the University did not own when the plan was adopted and does not own now. There were numerous meetings with the Mason Farm neighborhood as that part of the plan was developed and the plan reflects ideas that came out of those meetings.

The development plan regulating campus construction identifies buildings that we intend to build by 2010 - and consequently does not include any property we do not own.

There is much more in the both the campus master plan and the development plan than what I said above; I just wanted to clarify the difference between the purpose of the master plan maps and what Diana called our 'construction maps'.

Campus neighbors and the larger community were active participants in the master plan. Diana, you were one of the most regular attendees and participants in that process and the regulatory process with the town that followed. I know the construction period has been difficult and I think everyone is looking forward to when it is over and the 300 or so student families move into the buildings later this summer.


Hi, Linda,
Thank you for your offer to "receive comments", but now I wonder if that is just another version of UNC's representatives' willingness to "listen".

Here's why I ask:

(1) last Friday/May 13th/six days ago I emailed you, thus: "What about more detail about how the UNC planners are using citizen input to create a better product?"

(2) yesterday, preparing for tomorrow's meeting with UNC, I emailed Jill Coleman, thus: "Do you have a current diagram/picture of UNC's planned landscaping for the area next to (west of) my house at 1207/1209 Mason Farm Road that I can see?".

No response so far.

UNC's growth wish is seen as a major threat to adjacent neighborhoods. I have been distressed by the whole process for five/fifteen years, depending on what you count.
Who will answer such requests as those above, one quite simple?
I look forward to receiving your and Jill's comments.

Hi, Linda,
Well spoken.
Our posts crossed, but are not in conflict.
See you tomorrow.

Thank you Linda for taking your off hours to answer some questions. Like Diana, I've been trying to triangulate today's reality against the 2001 Master plan, the OI-4 development plan, comments made in front of Council 2001, comments made to them since, comments made in the press 2001, comments made in the press since, the FPC project plans, current and future, and "reality" as its currently expressed by actual completed and in-progress construction (to the extent of even looking at publicly available satellite photos). With all that, I've yet to arrive at a succinct picture of where UNC thinks its at and where its headed.

Now, I'm no planning expert, but it seems like there should be some kind of documentation demonstrating the delta between vision and implementation - if for no other reason than to keep yourselves from stepping on each others toes. I hope tomorrow's meeting is seen as a beginning of a discussion and explanation of that delta, not the end.

Thanks again, see you soon.

Here's the view from space.

As I understand this process, UNC developed the master plan to 1) ensure that new construction on campus would be consistent with the historical portion of campus--visual consistency--rather than a mismash of 18th century and 1950's concrete block; 2) as enrollment began to increase in the mid-1990s the ensure that construction plans would meet the needs of the changing campus profile. S

Unlike software designers who have learned to document design changes as they write the code, the university didn't modify the master plan as the design (along with modifications) was being implemented. Now that they want to update the plan, the first step is to document where the 2001 plan varies with what was actually done. While a software engineer might end a project with a full codebook in hand, the university needs to backtrack to get there before they can go forward. At least this is my understanding right now........

By the way, the master plan, as I understand it, presents the vision of where the campus was in 2001, where it wanted to go, and the design principles/values of the university and community (walkability, open space, tree protection, etc.). What I find interesting is that many of those principles/values seem to align closely with the principles recommended in the HW report. Since those principles are already being implemented on main campus (such as tree protection, stormwater quality, etc.), could someone explain to me why there is such a hew and call for the University to respond to the HW report? I know the master plan represents main campus only, but doesn't it seem logical that if the university is already practicing these principles on main campus, that they are likely to continue on with them at CN?

Five to fifteen years of distress is a lot of stress. It sounds so painful. My understanding is that you are now alone surrounded by UNC. Do you feel that by not selling you will be a constant reminder to UNC and the community of how the town/gown relationship can fail? I'm trying to understand your predicament. It is compelling. What would UNC have to do to make selling palatable?

Terri, as you might remember from my earlier posts on current bond financed construction of campus, about $165M has already been spent and $250+M is committed, with these type large projects there's typically extensive documents to work off of, something that isn't always the case with software.

In years gone by I was a construction inspector for several large (multi-million $$$) projects across the state. Whenever there was a change of an even seemingly minor nature, a change order would be processed to document both the discussion surrounding the change and the change itself. Again, with the scale of development at UNC since 2001, it's hard to believe that a consistent audit trail of documented changes doesn't exist. In fact, given the competence of UNC's project management staff, I'm almost sure such a trail of documentation does exist in some form. I think what Diana is asking for, and I know what I'm asking for, is a somewhat detailed summary of those changes of a substantive nature (say building locations or footprint) that happened since 2001 at UNC. I can understand why such a summary doesn't currently exist (maybe the historical deltas were not reflected in realtime and UNC needs to play catch up) but it seems like such a document is integral for tomorrow's discussion or further discussions along tomorrow's lines.

To add to the confusion, I understand there's a delta between both UNC's 2001 vision and the technical execution under OI-4, so that summary will have to dilineate between the two.

Finally, as you say, it seems that some of the proposed principles in the HWCC report are currently being executed upon on main campus, so the reticence of Ch. Moeser to "redline" the report is doubly confusing. Surely he could quickly step through the report, recognize those parts his administration is currently acting upon, and highlight that alignment. Similarly, he or his administration could "redline" those principles which are unacceptable. Why is doing this expeditiously so important? The HWCC report is the start of the discussion, not the endpoint. Let's say UNC agrees with all the principles embodied in the report, we still have to hammer out what the practical implementation of those principles means. As you well know, "the devil's in the details" and those details, gallons of runoff, particulates per cubic meter, footcandles per acre, etc. will take some time to work out. Continued delay on the start of the process only gaurantees further delay downstream - a delay that clearly lies at UNC's current administrations feet.

Will and others,

Having read through the Master Plan, this thread and others, it seems clear to me that you don't understand or are not willing to accept the process the university intends to follow. You seem to think the university has a plan that you are being asked to critique. That, after all, is the way we have all learned to interact with local governments. But the university's proposition is much more inclusive. Rather than critiquing, you are being asked to participate, become an active partner in the planning process. Tonight's meeting isn't about identifying the strengths or weaknesses of what has been done. It's an *update* of the plan; a way to begin engaging those who intend to participate in the larger design process. In order to get to the next step in the design process, they need to verify that the plan accurately represents the university's and the community's perception of what has been done so far. It's a first step in a much larger planning process.

In this type of participatory design, the role of evaluator must be suspended if the process is to be effective. In one sense, this is a virtual reality process. We are going to enter the master plan from 2001 and we're going to see what has been done, does this view compare with our sense of external reality. This is not about "receiving comments"; its about partnering with the university.

Cognitively, this is one of the best ways to learn, but its also the most difficult for adults since it is not what we are used to. This participatory approach says that there is no concrete, fixed reality; only what we collectively agree on. That's a process that requires understanding the perspectives of others. If you don't know what your neighbors and colleagues think/believe, you can't really participate with them in designing something to meet collective needs.

This process is about engagement rather than endorsement. Engagement doesn't mean that all of your opinions will be addressed in the way you want, but it does mean the process will be transparent and when your opinions are not incorporated you will know why. This is the very essence of the open government process that you say you want Will.

Terri, what you are saying sound nice, but I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that "This process is about engagement rather than endorsement." Can you explain your logic?

Terri, I do understand what today's meeting is about both cognitively and politically but thanks for clarifying anyway....

Usually when you discuss changes to something there's a description of the previous state and the current state (my hair was short, now it's long - we planned in 2001 for the campus to have X acres of impermeable surface by 2005 and we now have Y acres instead - we envisioned a chiller plant here in 2001 and we actually put it there in 2005, etc.) At this point, I'm only trying to evaluate what was generally proposed in the 2001 Master Plan, what was generally done to implement that plan and what the delta was between the two. Given that, I should have a context and requisite understanding to participate.

You aren't being asked to evaluate anything. You are being asked to participate in updating the plan. The process is where the delta will come from Will, not from your independent efforts away from the group.

One more thing since I'm in full lecture mode this morning. You seem to think that open government is about government making all their records available to citizens. To me, open government is breaking down barriers between government and citizens. By that perspective, citizens have as much obligation to government as government has to citizens. Open government doesn't support 'gotcha' tactics; it encourages citizens to work with government to identify what is working and what isn't and to jointly fix the problems--not affix blame or criticism. At the heart of open government is a presumption of shared vision and goals and the responsibility for ethically and respectfully creating and managing a community to the benefit of ALL, not just the few who are most vocal.


I'll be happy to comment on what I think open governance is sometime else (as opposed to what you think I think) but I can assure you I'm not trying to play "gotcha" with UNC over the Master Plan. UNC has invited citizens to review the current state of affairs and, it appears, to participate at some level going forward, I'm just trying to be prepared by doing my homework. Obviously I've thrown you into lecture mode somehow, so, rather than risking an additional tongue lashing maybe covering my morals, ethics and general hyegine, I'll leave it at that....;-)

See you later.


Through my reading and listening I interpret the process used to develop the master plan as one that is consistent with what is called constructivism in educaton/philosophy. In education, there has been a huge shift from behaviorial approaches to learning (assumes that if you modify an individuals actions repeatedly they will eventually act correctly, whatever correctly means) to cognitive theories. Cogntive theories of learning run the spectrum from most controlling to totally open ended, but all assume that learners must understand something in order to truly change. The visual picture is that we have gone from pouring knowledge into someone's head to working with them to build a bridge. This means that we move from considering a fixed reality to a reality that shifts according to our understanding and our agreements with one another. Is there a reality that we are supposed to discover or is reality what we individually or collectively construct? Fixed realities are endorsed but you engage in building a constructed reality.

This evolution in thinking about how people learn is slowly creeping out into other aspects of our day to day life. Open government is one of the leading edges right now, facilitated through new communication technologies such as OP.

There are major forces at work against this approach to learning and collaboration, such as No Child Left Behind legislation that ties learning to test performance; nuclear options; shifting from old methods of communication, such as editorials, etc. Such a shift would move us away from authoritarian leadership models.

There are equally strong forces at work pushing this concept forward, such as open source, e-democracy, and participatory planning processes. E-democracy and participatory design are both strategies for ensuring the the voices of the governed/impacted are as clearly known/heard as are those of government officials.

I wasn't here when the university developed the 2001 master plan so I didn't participate in that process. My only guide to their intentions is the text in that plan and their recent communications. Your experience in public meetings etc is also important and I understand that you and others here think the process was not carried out as it has been described. But in an open government/constructed reality, that means citizens have the obligation to improve the process through continued engagement in the process. As I read Will's posts, he is trying to force the process back into something he can critique/evaluate.

So my recommendation is that those who participated in the earlier process have an obligation to help make it better. Is this iteration really as open and engaging as you think it should be? If not, what are the factors (other than history) that could be changed to make it more inclusive and engaging? If we are constructing reality, that means we are also constantly improving our interactions with another. To do that, the process can't start with judging how well the university has done at updating the plan.

Please understand Ruby that I am not trying to minimize any of yours or Diana's negative experience with the university. I'm absolutely certain you have legitimate complaints. Nothing is going to bring back Diana's beautiful, quiet wooded neighborhorhood. If I was queen, I would put a moratorium on all university expansion beyond its current boundaries. I would also put a moratorium on all new developments in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Right now, I think developers are constructing our community's reality and that is being enabled by a fragmented planning process (not a criticism of the planning dept or board). What I really like about the process described in the master plan is that it isn't fragmented. It looks as the whole campus environment as a single ecology. But I see less attention paid to the larger ecology of the surrounding community and that is something I plan to watch as the update unfolds.

What is all this stuff about cognition and learning, Terri? You said earlier "you don't understand or are not willing to accept the process the university intends to follow." Please tell me what information I am missing, and why isn't it posted on the UNC website? I haven't seen anything about a "process."

All Linda's letter says is that the purpose of this meeting is "to solicit additional input." I believe that is true, and I appreciate the opportunity. But I think you are reading a lot into it to say that the community at large has been invited to "become an active partner in the planning process."

I also agree with what seems to be your intention to be open-minded and collaborative about working with UNC. But you either don't know or are not willing to accept the implications of much of the recent history in this arena.

The 2001 planning process involved a few community meetings as well, but the actual plan was guided by a UNC-selected group of people (as it probably should be). When Jonathan Howes presented it at a town forum, I asked him why the Horace Williams tract was not included in the master plan. I thought it should be holistic as you say, Terri. He said that plans for Carolina North were not well-developed enough to be included in the Campus Master Plan. I believe he said that they hadn't even started thinking of CN yet. Less than a year later, a Carolina North draft plan was released by UNC consultant AyersSaintGross that had clearly been in the works for quite some time. In addition to UNC officials lying to the community, I think it's a problem that they didn't want to include a huge proposed satellite campus in their plan.

I will definitely be hoping to see Carolina North integrated into the plan this time. Another piece that you probably don't know, Terri, is that I served on UNC's own advisory panel for Carolina North. It consisted of a handful of meetings over the course of a year in which very few substantive issues were discussed and even less feedback was incorporated back into the proposal.

I can already hear you saying that this is all in the past. That we need to engage and move forward. I agree. So if the University in fact wants the community to be an "active partner" in the planning process, what have they done to make that possible? Why don't they release the plans before the meeting so that people can develop meaningful responses and suggestions? Why don't they post any information about it on their community web site? Are there public gatherings for the community to process and discuss the plan, and for UNC to publicly respond to the town's concerns? Are there any other opportunities for community input besides attending this meeting or e-mailing folks at UNC?

I live on this "delta" and it's muddy here and the trucks have been beeping dawn to post dusk for way too many years now and I am going to this afternoon's meeting to evaluate how UNC's growth push will affect the quality of my remaining life and I will generously offer my seasoned guidance to anyone interested. It's my alma mater and I want it to be its best.

Sorry if this post is overlong; I am sometimes slipshod about the editing phase.

Life on the Delta/In the Interest of Full Disclosure:
Regarding my 9:55 pm on 18 May (above) frustration about UNC facilities' at that time non-response to my request to know their landscaping plans around my house, they have now responded, and I am happy with the prospect of discussing their landscaping plans and walking the relevant border land on Monday.

That feels like good human/human interaction and maybe even collaboration and I applaud them.

Fewer than 10 residents, not associated with the university planning team, attended last night's community meeting. Any theories on why such a low turnout? (see Diana--very short!:))

Aw, Terri, now I do feel guilty, as I told you last night I would.

As for the low turnout, I am puzzled. Is there really so little interest in understanding what UNC is doing? Yes, the rain and how to get there offered challenges, but, really, just ten non-UNC? And most of them were the same concerned thoughtful regulars.

You really shouldn't feel guilty Diana. You were dead-on right.

Would town hall have been a better venue?

I think the synergy of multiple factors contributed to the low turnout.

Publicity - the first I heard about this was the OP post on May 16 for a May 19 meeting, short notice
Time - 5:30pm is difficult for people whose work day ends at 5-5:30pm and a commute is involved
Parking - although clear parking information was stated, parking is more convenient at Town Hall or the CH Library

I think attendance would have been better if the forum had taken place at Town Hall or the CH Library with a later start time.
When and where was the event publicized? It was on the UNC Our Community website, but somewhat buried, at the bottom of the page, I did not notice it until the OP post. It would have been better placed at the top of the page

As I said at the meeting, I think there were/are lots of things they can do if they are interested in having meaningful community input on the campus master plan.

Having the meeting in a place that is physically accessible and politically inviting to more people would be a good start.

Off the top of my head, other ideas include: posting information about the changes online, taking feedback online, publicizing it in the papers, getting info to people before community meetings so that folks can digest it and respond, having more than one meeting in the community, having a panel of local citizens learn more about the plan, organize community meetings on it, hold public discussions, and give advice to UNC.

I'm not saying they have to do these things. Ultimately it is their plan, and they should have the final say over it. But if they want to say that they solicited and incorporated community input, they have to do more than hold one invitation-only meeting on campus.

Ms. Convissor has posted the May 19th power points here. The 30M PDF doesn't seem to be missing anything I noted from the meeting though the format makes it difficult to zoom in on some of the maps and plans. That said, it is a good sign that UNC overcame its hesitancy to release this preliminary information in order to encourage discussion.

How preliminary?

Please note that the Power Point images illustrate maps and sketches that are works in progress and draft images. In some cases they are not complete and corrections of drafting errors are still being identified. The images are draft only; they are still under development and have not been approved.

The slides are presented here for discussion purposes only; with the exception of slides from the original campus master plan, these slides do not represent a finished product.

Now that UNC has released their notes, I plan to publish some of mine from the same meeting.

Thanks Linda for following through....

You'll note that the slides are in black and white rather than their original color; we had some technical difficulties getting the PowerPoint up quickly. I also just noticed that the two slides of the Development Plan which read just fine when I looked at the CD now have a big red X across them.

I expect these problems will be fixed by the end of next week. In the meantime if you look at the update maps at the end, it is very hard to distinguish existing from proposed buildings.

Please bear with us as we work to make the site and its contents more user-friendly.


From today's DTH:

Moeser said the meeting's end marked the beginning of the next chapter of the project.

“This is a very important date for this University,” he said.

“I would like to think that this is the beginning of a collaborative relationship with the people of Chapel Hill and Carrboro.”

This from Moeser during the BOT meeting on closing HWA. Ummm, what happened during the meeting that elicited this pronouncement? Wish I'd gone (I assume BOT meetings are open to the public) and had some of the koolaid they were drinking.

It must've been some strong stuff to get Chan. Waldrop to spout the following feltergarb:

Tony Waldrop, vice chancellor for research and economic development, outlined the case for Carolina North to the trustees, restating the selling points of the project.

A recent study completed by Market Street Services found that the first two phases of the project will create more than 7,500 permanent jobs, $433 million in salary and personal income and $600 million in business revenue.

Waldrop also said an additional 9,000 jobs will be created as a result of construction.

I guess State organizations don't have to adhere to the normal rules of the road.


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