Round four

This Thursday will be UNC's fourth and final (?) "community meeting" to get feedback on plans for Carolina North. I missed the last meeting but I've been reviewing the presentation and comments from May. June's sessions will be Thursday, 6/21, at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. in the School of Government, room 2603. (The 5:30 session duplicates the 3:30 session.)

The original three concepts have narrowed to two (below), one that follows the airport runway's east-west axis (left), and another that goes north-south (right). I instinctively feel like the east-west plan works better and feels more cohesive, but I don't really have enough information to understand them.

I must say, I find the info much harder to follow not having been there to hear the plans explained. Also (possibly related) it doesn't feel like UNC is doing much to respond to any feedback that goes beyond the surface of these concept plans. A lot of comments collected by UNC focused on transportation, such as the transit alignment, whether and how UNC will get people out of their cars, pedestrian and bike connections, impact on existing traffic patterns, and the road connection to Homestead/Weaver Dairy Extension (which is in both plans). There were also many concerns about proposed energy solutions, and a general preference for the east-west plan. The housing questions, well-articulated by Carrboro Mayor Chilton and others, don't seem to be addressed by UNC at all.

At this week's meetings, UNC will have narrowed the plans to one concept and promises to get more in-depth. I wonder how much of our time they will spend on irrelevant program presentations? These have been included in every session so far, and every time the community asks for more time with the plans and less time with the PR. Let's see if UNC listened.

Total votes: 117


I forgot I also wanted to ask, does anyone think the recent hearing on AHEC at the state legislature will have any impact?

It seemed to me that folks were repeating the same concerns that have been stated for several years. I don't see any reason that UNC or their legislative allies will be any more moved now than they were before.

This will be the presentation with all the detailed answers - like which side of the street parking is on ;-)

Seems to me that you are both asking for concrete, detailed plans when UNC is still working at the conceptual level.

I think that how UNC will get people out of their cars and into transit is as conceptual as it gets.

How can you discuss the mechanics when the nature of the transit is under study?

What do you mean "how those those gray triangles specifying parking" are going to be used? I assume they will be used for parking, don't you? Now if you're asking for specifics such as who will be allowed to park there, cost of permit, etc., you're beyond conceptual. Plus, the campus already has those policies in place. The question of whether campus policies on parking will extend to CN is a policy rather than a design question.

I'd like to see the formula Jack Evans is using so that he can blithely assert that there will be no net gain in traffic (as CN is being recast as an overflow campus). Or how MLK, Jr. can be adapted to be the main arterial into campus.

As I understand it the university has adopted a design constraint, as requested by the community, that there be no net gain in traffic. As for MLK being adapted as a main arterial, I think what we have seen is that by continuing to insert the new road coming off Eubanks, against community wishes, the university is saying MLK can't handle all the new traffic.

I'd like to see the two watercourses draining the SE corner be placed on their maps.

From what I've seen all the waterways are represented on the maps. The university has simply made the decision that they are willing to sacrifice those on the eastern side of the property in order to protect Bolin Creek.

I'd like to see some thought on the mix and location of housing, etc.

I saw the private housing locations marked on both maps at the last meeting. It's interwoven along the exterior perimeters to the north and west of the campus. As for the mix, I believe they have agreed to abide by a design constraint of 2,000-3,000 units which was discussed in some detail after the last meeting. Unfortunately, I can't find the link to that discussion right now.

The last round, where a power plant was placed right at the nexus of the within-CN transit corridor and the rail corridor, destroying the BEST opportunity for true transit-oriented development in the site, did not inspire confidence.

Also, the idea that said power plant might be fired by natural gas could also be a huge lurking land mine.

Terri, while I'm not looking for absolutes, I'd like to hear more how, conceptually, those grey rectangles specifying parking are going to be used. I'd like to get a back of the envelope estimate of the role of on street parking and UNC's ideas on mediating run off from those vehicles.

I'd like to see the formula Jack Evans is using so that he can blithely assert that there will be no net gain in traffic (as CN is being recast as an overflow campus). Or how MLK, Jr. can be adapted to be the main arterial into campus.

I'd like to see the two watercourses draining the SE corner be placed on their maps. I'd like to see some thought on the mix and location of housing, etc. I'd like to see some thought - so far missing - on traffic issues from the Alamance side of the property.

And where's that signature building?

"How can you discuss the mechanics when the nature of the transit is under study?"

How can you plan the site when the nature of the transit is under study?

Terri, consider what Evans and company has said they're delivering to the BOT this Fall - it's more than a design document. And you saw how quickly UNC went from design to digging on Main Campus - we're in the chute.

As to what Mark said "Amen Brother".

Which comes first the chicken or the egg? How can you conduct a transit feasibility study in the absence of any data? At the last meeting they provided estimates for square footage by function, estimates for how many employees will be new vs relocated from elsewhere in town, number of parking spaces, etc. Now they can start plugging that data into transit and finance models. Once they have the models, then they can start looking at logistics.

As for the speed of development on main campus, there was a bond issue that provided financing for that expansion. This time they need the conceptual plans to funding.

Seems to me that the process is solid. The problem is that you just don't trust them. Two different issues.

Terri, just trying to find some "there" there... Wouldn't you agree that the change from research campus to overflow campus was a fairly large conceptual leap ;-)?

Main campus development was fueled as much by Moeser's administrations quest for legacy as by money, but you have a good point. Still, Evans and company have asked for some significant upfront bucks to get started.

I can't find the full breakdown of estimated space allocatioin, Will, but by what I can reconstruct from past threads, I wouldn't call this an overflow campus:

2.5 million square feet planned:
315,000 sq ft for centers and institutes (relocations)
75,000 sq ft for First School (probably not now)
500,000 sq ft housing (taxable)
525,000 sq ft corporate partners (taxable)
(there was also a hospital clinic--which is the only "overflow" function I see on the list)

Mark Chilton's comments about housing at the LAC
meetings were right on, and it is beginning to seem that
UNC will not heed them. Consider:

CN proposes 2 million sq ft of space for employees to
work at the end of phase one, the 15-year mark. By usual
planning ratios, which agree with main campus ratios,
of between 250 and 400 sq ft per employee, there will be
5,000 to 8,000 employees working on site at 15 years.
UNC proposes 500K sq ft of housing at CN. Assume
500 units of 1,000 sq ft each, and assume one CN worker
lives in each unit. Then between 6 pct and 10 pct of
employees will come from CN-provided housing. If there
are 1.6 CN employees per unit, the between 10 pct and
16 pct of CN employees will also live at CN. Either way,
the housing is inadequate to substantially mitigate the
Chilton-described housing impact on the local towns.

Jack Evans' reaction, namely that many of the
CN employees will simply be moved from other UNC-owned
or UNC-rented space, is weak, I fear. As long as the NIH
keeps providing the grants, UNC will continue to grow, and
the UNC-vacated space will be filled quickly.

A couple of questions:

“How can you discuss the mechanics when the nature of the transit is under study?” [Terri Buckner]

"How can you plan the site when the nature of the transit is under study?" [Mark Chilton]

Speaking of Nature, how can anyone think of anything until the environmental report has been analyzed?

The North - South plan put the power plant and playing fields in the wetlands, speaking of Nature.

I reckon Horace Williams is chuckling fiercly over this, and I'm fairly certain he would have not wanted any of his land used in the fashion that UNC has drawn up thus far.

In a 1943 article on the release of Winston's Horace Williams - Gadfly of Chapel Hill reviewer Roy M. Brown cited, When Professor Williams came to Chapel Hill, science was gaining a new importance in the University curriculum. "Williams sensed danger ahead. He feared that Carolina would become so scientific that philosophy, aesthetics, and fundamental thinking would be crowded out. This tendency he set himself to combat, at all costs and without let up."

Having attended the CN sales presentations I've noticed that the core is hollow. There's no talk of the forest from the ground up, and I keep repeating myself. Still, I believe UNC is conveniently morphing its educational mission without regard to a coherent philosophy, much less "fundamental thinking."

Chapel Hill Town Council has asked us to remain engaged and to let them know what "we" want.

Quite of few of us want 75% of the land out there off the table, in perpetuity.

Basically, Joe, we can either invest more money in housing at CN or more money in making the transportation infrastructure/operations big enough to bring CN workers from farther away. The questions is: Which approach is more environmentally, scoially and economically sound?

My guess is high quality housing at Carolina North, built in proportion to the jobs being created there.

Ruby asked above...

"Does anyone think the recent hearing on AHEC at the state legislature will have any impact?"

I suddenly have this sinking feeling that we're going to be forced to continue living with the airport and that CN will be built around it. According to the recent legislative hearings, it seems there's a powerful move afoot by AHEC and local private pilots to make this happen. Has anyone else heard this?

J. Nicholls

Mark, I hope that you'll discuss that up on Thursday. Joe

"Which approach is more environmentally, scoially and economically sound?"

I would prefer for the towns and the county to get their economic houses in order so that we don't end up with a mill village, aka company town, in the middle of Chapel Hill. I understand the concerns about transportation (environmental), but the only reason housing at CN is such a huge concern is that there is such a large imbalance between residential and commercial/industrial development in this community.

What are the economic and social impacts of expecting the university to expand into a business other than research and education? For one thing, residential housing will cost more if the university builds it since they must adhere to stricter building codes. Then they will have to add more staff to manage the property--whether its leased or handled through a conditional ownership agreement (tenure of employment). And they will have to deal with many, if not of the same, issues the Community Land Trust and Empowerment are facing. Since individuals cannot purchase state land, anything the university builds and sells will have to be co-owned by the individual and university, just like the Land Trust. The costs of reconditioning property after turnover has become onerous enough that the Land Trust and Empowerment have asked the towns to contribute to property management staff salaries. I really don't want to see educational funding competing against property management.

I'm also concerned about a large voting bloc that owes its existence to any organization. If housing was more affordable in this community, for residents and local governments, would we still be having this discussion?

"What are the economic and social impacts of expecting the university to expand into a business other than research and education?"

UNC is the single largest landlord in the county. They own and manage thousands of dwelling units already. The problem is that those units are overwhelmingly of just one format.

See for more extended comments about the scale of the problem.

Fortunately the plans presented at the last meeting estimate only 2.5 million sq ft built out instead of the 8 million originally proposed and that Mark Chilton developed estimates for. I noticed that Mark Peter also used the 8 million sq ft estimate in one of his recent posts on OrangeChat.

I noticed that Mark Peter also used the 8 million sq ft estimate in one of his recent posts on OrangeChat.

I did? I made a comment on another OP thread about the number of employees, but don't recall posting about sqft.

Terri, it was my understanding at the last meeting that the 2.5 million GSF was for the first 15 years, and that the 6.2 million GSF is still the 50-year goal.

Regarding the contining saga of HWA...

I'd like to share with you portions of a letter recently submitted to members of the NC legislature by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association:

“The closing of Horace Williams Airport has been a matter of some concern throughout North Carolina. For several years, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), on behalf of its more than 10,000 members in North Carolina, and 412,000 members nationwide have been working to protect this important airport.
Horace Williams Airport is a vital access point to North Carolina and the region's air transportation system. Properly supported, it would be an invaluable asset to the Chapel Hill economy and community.”

The letter goes on to say:

“It is important to note that the initial plans for Carolina North included the airport as part of the development. The original planners apparently understood that the presence of the airport will enhance the attractiveness of Carolina North to biotechnology and other corporate partners, while also retaining the essential transportation infrastructure necessary to support the medical school's rural health care outreach efforts.”

My question to those of you who know more about the way the system works than I do:

Can we (and our town council members) somehow prevent legislative action for keeping the airport at its present site while Carolina North moves forward around it? If that does happen, it will almost certainly mean several hundred additional acres will be used for development - which in my opinion would be catastrophic .

If you want to read more about AOPA's recent lobbying efforts to keep HWA where it is, visit:

I don't think the Town of Chapel Hill has any formal power to do anything about the closing of the airport - and indeed no local government in NC has any power to second guess the Legislature (because our local governments only exist to the extent that the Legislature created and empowered them).

But we have the power to make our feelings clear to our local legislative delegation. I hope Sen Kinnaird, Rep Insko and Rep Hackney will not let this situation play out the way you fear, J. Nicholls.

There are lots of folks here at the session now. Many more people are coming out who have not been observing the entire time.

Parking is on the Raleigh Rd.

E-W proposal. Height along spine 5-6 stories, lobes 4-5 stories, feathering to 3-4 along Estes and 3 stories backing on neighborhoods.

Geothermal in "open space" town commons/squares (drew a smile from Joe Capowski)

First phase a "C" from Piney Mt. on the North carving out towards the current HWA hanger complex (kind of skirting existing muni-facilities) crossing on to Estes meeting up with Airport Rd.

Long section along Estes roughly E. of large student lot (on the West) - covering the existing open storage area for the planes - extending west covering the remaining patch of woods just east and south of current airport control structure.

Town parking rations - 15 years 5,200, 50 years 13,500
UNC estimates - 4,700-5000, 10,500-11,600

based on 2004 estimates

The assumptions and design has changed completely yet they stick with these numbers?

50 years, 50 years, 50 years is the advertised time - it appears on a number of charts - suggesting we're dealing with a long buildout.

Ed, Bill, Cam, GeorgeC, Joe Cap. Diane V.

Rob, Jesse, Dave - media

Supposed to be 25 mins of presentations - we're into 40 mins of UNC proposals

Got a feeling Jack isn't taking any questions from "troublemakers" today...

Question on AHEC - is there a plan B. Evans dance and weaves...

Evans refers to BOT resolution to close the airport

Ruby on Bolin Creek being close to connector road...

I've heard Ruby and others mention missing watercourses/paths/etc. several times over the last 4 meetings without their input being cycled back in....

In response to Phil Deuschetel's question on limiting height to 6 stories - Evans - that's flexible - it's not off the table....

Long time resident - what impact will CN have on the two towns in terms of driving new development (creating pressure to develop existing neighborhoods and driving folks out), in terms of costs of new services

On the previous point - it's interesting how Evans seem to say 6 stories was the limit of human-scale, comfortable size

He glanced over at Cam and Bill - maybe thinking of their Lot #5 beast?

"the University doesn't want to become a financial burden on the Town" - Evans

Someone bringing up that the original novel design has mutated into a very pedestrian design...

Evans referred to the ongoing fiscal study (which, I don't believe, there's a requirement to finish prior to the BOT handoff).

Gentleman asking about mix of housing - percentage of student, family, employees, etc.

Evans - what won't be out there "undergraduate housing" - no core housing on CN

possible grad student housing - single professional to small family ... estimated 500,000 sq/ft - no idea of breakdown - will adopt a "demand driven" approach to allocations

"Commercial development" - necessary component argues one resident...

I asked about the next steps in rolling out this plan to the BOT - no real change in developing a plan - even given change to an overflow campus and the AHEC concerns

Bill asks about water usage - bouncing it against OWASA's plans for the next couple decades

Evans - water exclamation is a necessary part of phase I

Question - is school site part of phase 1?

Will there be underground parking under these buildings?

Evans - Likely so.

Question - Will you use the rail line for transit?

Evans - more practical to have an express bus between CN and UNC Main Campus.

GeorgeC - Why not build park-n-rides first...

Continue to wonder if we're not just seeing floorplans of a castle in the sky, given the heavy pressure to keep an/the airport. At the very least, suspect pressure to delay, delay, delay groundbreaking while demanding re-design around an airport (regardless of what Evans referred to as "serious safety issues") or funds to build a new one.

The official University position -- understandably enough -- is that the BOT et al want planning to go ahead, so that's what they'll do despite the heavy pro-airport activity that continues. Have to wonder, though, whether the University is lobbying as actively as the pilots -- who managed to get the recent hearing all for themselves, with no notice except to themselves -- and if not, why not? Has the GA even seen one of the CN plans?

Off-the-record chatter after the session with some univ. people: 1. The Hackney-Epting connection in the House is the determining one -- the Senate would close the airport in a heartbeat. (My comment: fascinating that in the post-Black era there wouldn't be more worry about possible and visible conflict of interest re: well-funded lobbyists.) 2. Most persuasive concerns by those trying to get the airport closed revolve around safety, something not seen in the media coverage.

Would the local governments consider banning certain types of research at CN?

Check out this article on bio-warfare:

They should go ahead and ban this activity anywhere in their jurisdiction.

"The Hackney-Epting connection in the House is the determining one"

I had no idea that they were business partners, though I did know that Mr. Epting is a pilot and keeps his plane at HWA. Even if there isn't any impropriety, it seems to me that Rep. Hackney should have removed himself as far as he could from the issue - instead of being the one who called for the legislative meeting to begin with. Oops.



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