Baby step for Horace Williams zoning

The Herald reports that the Chapel Hill Town Council has voted to authorize the mayor to start discussing zoning for the 900-acre property in the middle of town that is slated to become UNC's satellite campus Carolina North. If it's true (as the article below states) that this process will be similar to how the Town developed the OI-4 zone that now applies to all of UNC's main campus then I am very afraid.

OI-4 was developed by a small negotiating committee including the Mayor and two Council members who met with the Chancellor and other UNC leaders in private meetings, and led to a process that allows UNC to push through through huge projects (the latest was over 1 million square feet) in just 4 months - a fraction of the time the town usually needs to review a simple Special Use Permit.

Mayor Kevin Foy has gotten the go-ahead from the Town Council to start talking with UNC Chancellor James Moeser about a vital aspect of Carolina North -- a new zoning district for the property where UNC wants to build its envisioned research campus.

Like the zoning applied to other property around town, that new district would spell out many of the basic rules governing development of the Carolina North property, features such as density, buffers and the types of buildings allowed.

The town and university took a similar step about five years ago, when the two parties negotiated a new zone for much of the main campus. Many of the new buildings that have sprouted all over campus in recent years have been developed under that new zone.

The council agreed this week to have Foy start the conversation with Moeser. Specifically, the discussion would be about what kind of process to use to create the new zoning district, and the council still would have to approve that process.
- North zoning talks set to begin, 1/11/07

I would like to remind the Council of the many similar efforts that came before this so that we can learn from our mistakes (as well as any successes). Hopefully we can establish a more effective process for creating and implementing zoning on a large scale. Here are a few experiences that we should keep in mind:

  • Creating (in 2001), revising (2005), and implementing (2001-2007) the OI-4 zone,which applies to a similarly large and centrally-located campus property.
  • Previous efforts to create mixed-use zoning resulted first in MX-150 zone (in the late 1990's) which was never approved by Council, and then the current regulations which are being challenged in northwest Chapel Hill.
  • Master planning efforts like Southern Village and Meadowmont (mid 1990's), which involved Town approval of a master Plan first, then allowed Special Use Permits to be submitted one at a time.
  • The town's Horace Williams Citizens Committee which laid out many specific principles for the development (and preservation) of this property in their 2004 report.

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