Full steam ahead in northwest Chapel Hill

Yesterday's Chapel Hill News looked at the rapid pace of new development in northwestern Chapel Hill, as originally blogged by Del Snow here on OP last November.

Developers have plans for at least 1,400 new housing units — more than half as many as in the entire town of Hillsborough — all within a 2.5-mile radius of the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Weaver Dairy Road.
Town traffic engineer Kumar Neppalli said the town already considers multiple projects whenever they're relevant to any one proposal, but the town cannot include projects that have not been officially proposed.

So for The Residences at Chapel Hill North, the town is considering the traffic impact of six other recent or potential developments: the Timberlyne Commerce Center on Perkins Drive; the recently completed Vineyard Square project on Homestead Road; the Larkspur subdivision, which is nearly complete off Weaver Dairy Road Extension; the Westminister Office Development off MLK Boulevard; Crosland's Chapel Watch Village; and the Town Operations Center off Eubanks Road.

Notably excluded from the traffic study was York Residential's proposal for a 374-unit apartment complex at the end of Old University Station Road because it was submitted after the Chapel Hill North apartment complex.

- chapelhillnews.com | Developers heading north, 1/6/07

Del petitioned the Town Council to establish a moratorium on development in this area until a committee can be established to lay out a clearer vision for the northwest side of town. The Planning Board also requested the Council to take some proactive steps to pre-empt and guide the growth of this area.

Also related is the recently established Rogers Road Small Area Plan, which deals with a nearby part of Chapel Hill and should address housing equity and environmental justice as well as transportation issues. And then there's Carolina North. Where is the comprehensive vision, Chapel Hill?

Total votes: 127


Well I must speak on this. I live here in this NW quadrant, and to say that we need a larger study of the area in light of the upcoming proposals is an understatement in my opinion. I absolutely cringe and cannot imagine what even one of those development proposals will do to our traffic situation here, and how pedestrian safety will be affected as well. Just because we have one of the last large areas that could be developed in Chapel Hill does not mean that we should just let it all happen and open up the floodgates. I can only say that the council was right to delay action last week on the proposal before us, and it is my intention (as well as other council members) to have a larger picture of potential development and its ramifications here. We also were concerned recently, in a similar manner, to redevelopment efforts along MLK across from Town Hall. I think it is the wise move to have a small area plan in place or something similar to that so we can make sure that development is not done in a piece meal fashion. Remember a long time ago when the Horace Williams Citizens Committee said we did not want Carolina North developed in a piece meal fashion? I don't like to hear complaints about how things take so long in Chapel Hill to get approved for development. Here is a good reason why we did not just jump and approve that SUP.

Thanks, Ruby, for bringing this issue up again.
I am surprised that it is not generating any discussion, since the massive amount of development slated for the area will definitely have a ripple effect through a lot of the town.
A number of residents in the area have joined forced (under the name CURB) and we have speculated on the reasons for this. One possibility that we came up with was that we are the NW corner-far from what a lot of residents perceive as "the Town."
The collective we (myself included) are concerned about Carolina North. Joe Capowski is quoted in the Tom Jensen's post as saying he is" particularly concerned about parking at the site, possibly the greatest area of worry for southern Orange residents and particularly neighbors of the project." Well, we're neighbors. If the Homestead Rd. entrance is used by CN, alot of those proposed 17,000 cars will be trying to avoid some of the grid lock by cutting down WDR ext to Homestead Rd-a road surrounded by 5 residential neighborhoods.
When people are exiting I-40 at MLK Jr.Blvd, what will they face? On UNC game days we have the police managing the traffic. What will happen when there are 2000 more cars in the area WITHOUT Carolina North? Is it only area residents who go to the Chelsea or use the 266 entrance onto I-40? What will happen to schoolbuses trapped in the congestion-especially when elem school 10 opens on old NC 86? What will happen to the environment, to our number of unhealthy smog days? It's great that the Town signed on to the CRed project, but will the savings in co2 production be negated by auto-centric building?
The area needs the same planning that we are asking UNC to do for CN-green building, alternative transportation, walkability, and most of, vision.

I was wondering since at least some of the development in this area is in Carrboro and there is a natural transportation route between northern Carrboro and the MLK- Eubanks intersection is collaborative planning between Chapel Hill and Carrboro being contemplated for this area? It seems like a great opportunity.

Joal Hall Broun is representing the Town of Carrboro on Chapel Hill's Northwest Small Area Planning Committee.

Carrboro has to be involved in any conversation about coordinated development because of Winmore, Carolina Commons, Tallyho, Litchfield, Claremont, OC Animal shelter, and Elem School #10.
I may be wrong, but I think that the Northwest Small Area Planning Committee that Joal Hall Broun is on does not encompass the (excuse the oxymoron) eastern part of nw chapel hill. In addition to the areas that I think the joint committee is looking at, the area bordered by I-40 south to Estes, and from Rogers Rd. east to Sunrise is the area that needs planning and vision too.

concerning CHNorth....
when the designed parking spaces were reduced from
15000 to 7500, there was the beginning of the problem.
it doesn't matter if it's a hospital/school/or stadium....
there can NEVER be enough parking, and if there were
Too Many parking spaces, well, they can be converted
to other uses relatively cheaply.
if there's not enough to begin with, conversion
from other architecture is too expensive.

Mark, I think it's the "Rogers Road Task Force" to which you are referring. (I am a member of it, but we haven't met yet.) It's true that it's definitely a part of the area that Del is talking about and that it should keep these growth issues in mind while proceeding. But the the larger issues are way beyond the scope of of the RRTF.

In addition, I hope that we won't focus on the Greene Tract as a way to solve over-development, as that might handicap the potential positive uses of the property (as housing for lower-income families, for example) without changing the real problem, which includes large homes on cul-de-sacs which force all auto traffic onto overburdened arterial roads.

Del, I could be wrong, but I believe the planning area that Chapel Hill is looking at includes the Greene Tract etc. which is south of Eubanks, north of Homestead, east of Rogers and west of the railroad tracks. Those are not the boundaries of the study, but it gives an idea of the are to be studied. So that encompasses at least aprt of the area you are describing.

The Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) for Carolina North, commissioned by Chancellor Moeser and facilitated by former Mayor Ken Broun, turned in their report to the Chancellor yesterday. At the ceremony of the final report presentation the Chancellor apparently reiterated his call for forming citizens' committees to help guide the University in future development projects.


While I think it is important for the University to get as much citizen input as possible, on as many of their projects as possible, it is important to remember that the ultimate responsibility and authority for approving such projects rests with our elected officials, whether in Chapel Hill, Carrboro or Orange County. I assume that the Chancellor does not intend that such University-created committees would replace any of our existing processes for approval, including public hearings, but simply enhance them.

The LAC's final report can be obtained at: http://research.unc.edu/cn/latest.php

George Cianciolo

Yes, Ruby, you are right. I have been looking at the area bordered by I-40, Homestead, Millhouse, and Sunrise. The MLK/WDR intersection has the potential to become a disastrous gateway entrance to Chapel Hill. The Greene tract may actually be an oasis in the midst of it all. At this risk of sounding like a broken record, we need a small area plan. There is little point to sacrificing the quadrant, just because we don't have the patience to get it right. Ironically, we could consider ourselves fortunate to be working with an area with so much proposed development-it gives us the opportunity to design it so that it interfaces and even enhances the surrounding area. We need infrastructure in place before construction begins. We need an area wide TIA to gauge the cumulative effects of all of these proposals (don't forget Carolin North). We need to ascertain the effects on Lake Forest and Lake Ellen and plan for remediation.
And, we need to think creatively. Why can't the Gateway entrance be designed to be a destination instead of sprawl?
The Walgreens parcel at MLK/WDR is being designed with an additional 10 thousand square feet of retail space. Why can't this be designed in a manner similar to Lot 5-as a plaza that is a welcoming destination for area residents who could WALK to it? (Of course, that means we need conintuous sidewalks...) Even we, here in northern chapel hill, could appreciate public art! This is the first intersection people getting off of I-40 see on their way into town-whether it will be via car, park and ride from Eubanks Rd, or mass transit. The Greenway planned along Lonebrook Drive could be extended eastward (behind fire station 4). Again, my plea-let's PLAN, not just plunge ahead.


In Rob Shapard's original article on 1 Dec 2006, he wrote:

Moeser said he still was hopeful the town and university could create it together. He said the idea would for the group to talk not about whether a project like the law school expansion would go forward, but how it could be improved. If it worked well, then the town and UNC could consider committees for other projects on the edges of campus, and perhaps Carolina North, he said.

Moeser added that if the committee were in place and gave detailed feedback, and someone came later to the council to oppose a project, the council then could say, "Where were you when this was discussed at length in this process we constituted?"

He said having critics showing up "at the 11th hour" to oppose UNC projects can cause costly delays for the university, and having a formal committee might help "prevent this sort of last-minute effort to derail projects," he argued.


I'm not suggesting that the committee approach suggested by the Chancellor might not add value to the development process. But I think this approach would need to be carefully laid out. One of the advantages of our current process here in CH is that Town staff examine applications for adherence to the Comprehensive Plan, LUMO, etc. and that information is usually available, including guidance from the Town Attorney, at public hearings.

IMHO, I think the idea of the University getting public input at the earliest possible time is advantageous both to them and the citizens. And if our elected officials were to take an active role in creating such committees that would be great. But I suspect that to do so would require the municipalities to commit additional staff resources (personnel or financial) which might be in short supply at the moment.

Fred the way your quotation describes it, the Chancellor sees citizen committees as a way to neutralize criticism of UNC's development proposals. How about the other side of the coin? I think free advice from concerned citizens should be rewarded by concessions to make UNC's growth more compatible with the long-term health of the community.

And as George pointed out, the ultimate decision should be made by our elected officials, and they are certainly not bound to follow the recommendations of University-led committees, no matter who is on them.

George, I understand that you see value to such committees. I posted Rob's story with the Moeser statement to indicate that it didn't appear that the Chancellor wanted these committees to replace "any of our existing processes for approval, including public hearings, but simply enhance them. "

Ruby, I don't see where anyone is making the case that you are.

Interesting, however, that so many were so strongly critical of the LAC process before it was even organized. Was it of any value?

There were a variety of criticisms of the LAC before it started. One early criticism was that Board of Trustees members were not going to be on the LAC. The Chancellor wisely changed course and asked 2 Trustees to serve on the committee. The LAC thereby became the first organized process by which the BOT and local elected officials spoke to one another directly. So the LAC turned out to be valuable precisely because it was changed in response to early criticisms of it. That said, I am sure there were other criticisms that were less constructive.


As a member of the LAC and having spent many hours on the process I think it was indeed of value. Many guiding principles were agreed to by all parties while some (and some very important ones such as housing) were not. But in all cases I believe that there was serious, thoughtful discussion amongst the participants and the fact that these discussions have begun (and will hopefully continue) will be truly beneficial to both the University and the citizens of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County.

Excellent point Mark, and I think my 23 neighbors and I who share a property line with what will become Carolina North, as well as those on the north end, would benefit from being able to provide input and detailed feedback. I doubt anyone would believe that UNC or the two towns would be bound by any recommendations that were generated.

Like the LAC, this could be beneficial. And yes George, I do understand that it could place another burden on the elected officials, staff and our finances. But it has been said over and over, this endeavor will have a greater impact on our community than anything ever before. Can we afford not to get it right the first time? Maybe it's time to relook our priorities and allocate accordingly.


I'm not saying that the towns shouldn't jointly develop such committees with the University because of resource constraints - only that such constraints will have to be factored in to any decision by our officials.

However, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that prevents the University from having informational meetings and discussions with the community on their own. Private developers (especially the more savvy ones) do it now and it usually results in a smoother review process for the developer. The University doesn't need the towns to be involved to set up meetings where they unveil their plans and ask for citizen comment/input. And I would strongly urge them to do so for CN as soon as some resemblance of a plan begins to take shape (i.e., even before they take it to the Trustees). I would also urge them to set up such citizens' meetings at locations and times that allow the greatest number of citizens to attend. I think such a process could be every bit as useful as "formalized" committees and a lot easier (and quicker) to organize.

George, everything you say makes perfect sense and clearly UNC could do as your suggest. I think the real question that needs to be answered is why Chancellor Moeser wants the committees to be appointed jointly.

"I think the real question that needs to be answered is why Chancellor Moeser wants the committees to be appointed jointly"

Fred, the cynic in me has a potential answer which I won't bother offering. Instead I'll just reiterate my firm belief that the University can immediately improve its development process by unilaterally engaging in open and frank discussions with its neighbors and the community-at-large. The University representatives on the LAC showed their willingness to do so. If that spirit can be carried over by the University Administration as it moves forward I think we will all be winners.

I attended most of the LAC meetings and found them
usually beneficial and always entertaining.
I believe that the Moeser-suggested committees will be valuable as planning continues, and here's why.
The LAC pursued high-level, abstract principles,
that, with a few exceptions that will be important,
are motherhood and apple pie. As an example,
everyone on the LAC agreed that Carolina North with be a transit-oriented development -- so easy. However
its true test will occur during the actual
planning when the number of parking spaces are specified
and how they will be allocated to residents and employees. This committees will be able to provide the UNC
consultant-planners some advice on such more concrete
specifications that will greatly influence the external
impact of CN.

I suspect removing parking from the university planning process will be one of the easiest and straightforward strategies for achieving carbon neutrality. Chancellor Moeser signed the American College & University President's Climate Commitment a couple of weeks ago.

Terri, it's all about money, big money.
Carolina North, as seen in the Chancellor's eyes, will be funded
by private research companies that have some connection
to UNC. And there certainly is good reason for Chan. Moeser
to diversify the UNC revenue away from the legislature,
the NIH and private gifts.

The T. Buckner Microbiological Corp (TBMC) wants to
commercialize a product that was discovered within the
UNC Biochem Department. TBMC wants to build a research
building to house its estimated 120 employees at a cost of
28 million dollars -- a wonderful coup for UNC and a perfect
tenant for Carolina North.

TBMC has a choice: It can build at Treyburn, north of Durham,
or an Carolina North. If it chooses Treyburn, each employee,
almost none of whom live in Chapel Hill or Carrboro, gets a free parking space.
If TBMC chooses CN, only about 40 pct of the
employees are able to park on site. TBMC negotiates with UNC,
saying, in so many words "We love UNC and want to locate
here, but our employees want to drive to work. Either give
us 120 spaces or we go to Durham".

What will Chancellor Moeser choose? Will he walk away
from 28 million in order to be true to the LAC principles?
As another option, would he provide 120 spaces for TBMC
while removing them from the parking space pool for
current UNC employees?

Terri wrote:

"I suspect removing parking from the university planning process will be one of the easiest and straightforward strategies for achieving carbon neutrality."

Transit uses as much energy per passenger mile as passenger cars. And this does not consider the fuel used to shuttle transit drivers around for transfers, which would lower transit's economy even further. In other words, it doesn't reduce carbon. It also turns would-be non-energy travelers, pedestrians and bicyclists, into chauffered motorists, inflating its ridership values. Transit is especially harmful when it displaces pedestrians and bicyclists or other low energy travelers.

Striving for a paradigm of low energy private vehicles.

Wayne wrote:

"Transit uses as much energy per passenger mile as passenger cars. "

True--but so what? 50 people riding one bus can't possibly generate the same volume of carbon emissions as 50 individuals driving their own cars. Plus Chapel Hill Transit uses B-20 fuel which contains 15% less carbon emissions than standard auto fuel. They have also ordered a couple of hybrid buses which will use even less carbon.

Terri, it's not true, but who are you going to believe- Wayne on one side, or the Oak RIdge National Laboratory and peer reviewed papers on the other?

We've been down this road before.


indicates approximately 3500 BTUs per passenger mile for passenger cars and for transit motor bus. Apparently someone doesn't quite understand what this means in terms of carbon output This calculation also does not consider the fuel used in ancillary vehicles (SUVs and cars) used to shuttle transit drivers for transfers. CH Transit is no better than average, and probably worse given the consequences that it is fare free

Obviously, 50 people don't ride CH Transit for ALL of its miles. Much of the time, few if any people are on board, especially including UNC down time.

Consider how people would travel if CH Transit didn't exist. Some would walk, ride a bike, carpool, or drive alone. So, 50 transit passengers have not displaced 50 car drivers. They've displaced 50 pedestrians, bicycle users, carpoolers, and individual drivers. Of course, virtually every user of the U and RU routes on campus was a former human powered traveler that was converted into a chauffered motorist. And how many discretionary (ie essentially useless) trips are made because its is free? Just get on the bus and go somewhere (home for lunch?). Easy when it's free. Heck, even walking or cycling have the penalty of one's physical effort. Free transit is kinda like the escalator vs the steps at the mall.

So what's there NOT to believe in what I say? Please be specific. And so what that we've been down this road before?


Yes, but if you walk or ride a bike you exert yourself and breathe hard, then you are emitting more CO2 than someone at rest, right? So which is really worst if you are someone who thinks the hot setup is counting carbon??

Wayne is presenting nationalized energy intensity statistics to talk about his dislike of buses. As Bruce Siceloff noted, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has the following to say about the type of comparison Wayne is using to justify his comments: (bolded emphasis my own)

"Great care should be taken when comparing modal energy intensity data among modes. Because of the inherent differences between the transportation modes in the nature of services, routes available, and many additional factors, it is not possible to obtain truly comparable national energy intensities among modes. These values are averages, and there is a great deal of variability even within a mode."

>From the same thread is the rationale for bus and rail transit at Carolina North.

Doug Crawford-Brown's CRED Students also seem to be promoting expansion of Chapel Hill Transit's bus network, as well as rail.


When you advocate for riding bicycles in the lane as part of vehicular traffic flow, I agree with you. But this argument of yours is just misleading.

You cannot use a single table from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to justify your claims that transit is as energy intensive as automobile. You may be able to justify your claim, but it's going to take the combination and manipulation of data from multiple tables.

I don't have the background in transportation planning to understand how each of these tables was calculated and I don't have the time or interest to become a transit analyst right now. But I do know that I can use BTUs per square foot to show that a 9,000 sq ft building is more energy intensive than a 300,000 square foot that uses 50 times more energy annually. Without additional description, I could recommend investing a lot of money in improving the 9,000 sq ft building and that investment would do nothing to improve our total organizational consumption of energy. Whereas I could invest half that sum in the 300,000 sq ft building and make a dramatic change in the total organizational energy consumption/costs.

There was an interesting radio program on WUNC's "The State of Things" yesterday that addressed the inappropriate use of mathematical models...and I think Orrin Pilkey would class Wayne's argument as such.

A brief description:

Mathematical models have been used to predict everything from the death tolls of the Vietnam War to the rising sea levels associated with global climate change* but are they accurate? Coastal geologist Orrin Pilkey debunks the myth of mathematical models in his new book, "Useless Arithmetic"

You can listen online here:

I don't BEGIN to understand the math...but the method and conclusions made ALL kinds of sense to me.

I see that the Council is going forward with Lot 5, in the face of opposition by Jim Ward and Laurin Easthom. I hope they are successful in bringing Ed Harrison and possibly others along with them in their demand for energy conservation commitments.

For those who are asking for a small area plan for northern Chapel Hill and for the northern transition area in Carrboro, here's a great piece on planning for sustainability:

....the dominant focus of sustainable development, at least as stated in the published policies and plans of many institutions of government, is more concerned with sustainable growth than ecologically sustainable measures, such as averting global warming, limiting resource depletion and loss of biodiversity. Further, social issues are rarely given significant concern in what is theoretically supposed to be an equal balancing of the three dimensions: environmental, economic and social. This produces a very different policy response than the traditional planning policy of looking after the disadvantaged in pursuit of the wider public good.

The relative carbon impact per passenger of buses and cars is pretty much of a red herring in the discussion of land use at CN. We all know that the environmental issues on parking provision go way further: heat island effect, runoff, walkability and volume vehicle delivery via public roads to name but a few.

"Yes, but if you walk or ride a bike you exert yourself and breathe hard, then you are emitting more CO2 than someone at rest, right? So which is really worst if you are someone who thinks the hot setup is counting carbon??"

I think people should stay in bed asleep. There, their BMR is at it's lowest. Of course, the lethargy might kill you.


"Wayne is presenting nationalized energy intensity statistics to talk about his dislike of buses. As Bruce Siceloff noted, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has the following to say about the type of comparison Wayne is using to justify his comments: "

I bring those up figures as a mere starting point. Run the numbers on CH Transit specifically, and find out that it is no better average. Further, the passenger miles per unit energy of transit does not take into account what I have repeatedly stated: not all passengers on CH Transit (or any short haul transit) are ex-car drivers, and not every trip on a fare free service is a non-discretionary trip. CH is very hilly, and that is a real fuel economy killer, especially the heavier the vehicle. Therefore, is is abundantly apparent that CH Transit uses more energy/fuel than if it didn't exist and everybody got around in other ways.

And Patrick, don't infer that I dislikes busses per se. They are nice in museums and they have value for moving large amounts of people with similar origins and destinations. They are sometimes great for drafting on downhills.

I mainly dislike lies or misconceptions about the value of short haul busses. I obviously dislike the energy inefficiency of typical transit systems and the fact that they, especially fare free, turn non-energy using non-polluters into less exercise chauffered motorists. I guess I also dislike face fulls of diesel fumes, having to stop behind them mid-block, as well as the destruction of smooth pavement.

I do like taking the bus when it rains. It saves me the slop of bicycling. But then, I've got to smell perfume, body odor, and be subjected to infectious disease.



Your building analogy is backward when it comes to transportation energy efficiency.

Large busses cannot easily become more energy efficient with investment because they must be large with big engines in order to carry the expected passengers at their peak times. The only way to get them more efficient is to have more passengers throughout the day/year during off peak, and that is not likely to happen here.

I doubt the hybrid busses will help. The added weight they haul in batteries and engine will offset the gains. And $200,000 is a big price to pay. They will put out less emissions, which is good. But they will probably break down more.

On the other hand, personal vehicles can easily get smaller and much more energy efficient. There is a huge amount of work on this. And, there is potential to increase their occupancy (more car pooling).


Wayne, you have been warned before about your behavior on OP. Please don't abuse this forum or its participants. You have posted 5 comments in the last hour, some of which crossed the line. Your comments will be moderated from now on.

Others, please keep in mind that Wayne is a troll and seems to intend only to disrupt and control the discussion here. I am open to suggestions about how to better handle this while maintaining a safe, inviting, and fair environment for discussion...

I don't agree that Wayne is a troll. I typically learn from his posts, even when I don't agree with him.

Wayne--the MPO is revising their model and will have new data available, hopefully in March. That data, in conjunction with the carbon inventories being done for each of the towns in Orange County and the county should be able to give us a better idea of the carbon contribution from transit. Plus Durham is going through the same inventory process so that should improve our ability to model all this based on park and ride stats, etc.
Public meetings on the inventories and possible reduction strategies will be held later this spring although they haven't yet been scheduled.


The specific data for the fuel economy of individual transit systems (and thus their carbon contribution) is available online: fuel used; miles driven; passengers served; passenger miles, etc. It's not transparent, but it's there. These figures are supplied by the transit systems. Simple arithmetic can then determine passenger miles per gallon.

For CH Transit's fixed route busses:

1,823,092 vehicle revenue miles in 2004
11,623,549 passenger miles in 2004

533,718 gallons biodiesel/kerosene used in 2004-5

Therefore using simple arithmetic, CH Transit busses get
3.416 actual mpg and 21.778 passenger mpg

This means that in 2004 CH Transit used as much diesel as if every passenger instead drove alone in a diesel car getting 21.778 mpg. Note that a Volkswagen Jetta diesel gets twice that economy.

If hypothetically CH Transit didn't exist, not all its former passengers would drive a diesel car with 21.778 mpg. Many would not make the trip at all, or would walk, bike, carpool, or drive vehicles with better economy. If CH Transit transported only displaced car drivers, its passenger mpg would be much worse than it currently is.

A few years ago I did the same analysis for an earlier year (2002?) and it was about 20 passenger mpg.



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