Entering Ephesus

I might have heard something about this before, but in reading the annual update from the Town of Chapel Hill's Economic Development Director, I realized that the Town is not just beginning but actually finishing a plan for the area around the intersection of 15-501 and Ephesus Church Road (including Eastgate and Ram's Plaza). 

It seems strange to me that the plan was created under the Economic Development office instead of the Planning Department which generally leads the creation of small area plans. The study was designed to look at "current transportation conditions, define future land uses and offer solutions for the existing transportation network. The ultimate goal is to encourage reinvestment in properties within the study area." No doubt the Ram's Plaza area could be serving the community better in many ways. It's very interesting that this small area plan aims to connect economic development with land use and transporation planning. You don't see these issues connected often enough, in my opinion. 

Anyone want to join me in reading the report (http://www.ci.chapel-hill.nc.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=8980) and seeing what we think? 


... am I really the only person interested in this?

During the first one, those in attendance took part in an activity to rate a variety of options for the redevelopment via a slide show (slides of retail space, green space, apartment complexes...). The second meeting provided a summary of the results of that activity, which I could not stay long enough to hear. There was also a presentation of potential plans for the area. Town consultants led the presentations, but Dwight Bassett led off both events. Not sure why this is under the purview of the Economic Development Dept. versus the Planning Dept., maybe it has to do with the fact that much of the redevelopment concerns commercial property including Rams Plaza and the former car dealership.

I went to the summary presentation at the Library and a similar presentation on the new downtown Master Plan. Both were impressive efforts to improve these important areas, especially the linkage of economic development, transportation, and land use. And this is only a few years after setting up and economic development office. In contrast, Orange County has had economic develpoment districts on the books for nearly twenty years and has almost zero economic develpoment to show for it. Maybe soon the county will have real plans to show how these districts can be developed in a way that links ED, Trans, and LU, as well as provide for the development of affordable, private-market-developed housing ('starter homes") adjacent to the districts, but tied into the same wastewater treatment facilities and tapping into the same internet infrastructure.

Ruby, you're definitely not the only person interested in this, and thanks for keeping up this excellent habit of yours. The transportation part of the plan -- something I asked for 9 years ago, as a new Council Member -- is especially important, and has some flaws in it (a weird re-design of Ephesus Church Road) . As well, there is another transportation (transit) study coming along this Spring which oddly recommends eliminating most of the existing transit service from this planning area. As someone who goes through this planning area on bike, in a car, in a bus and on foot, I believe that it needs all the good road design and transit service the community can stand to supply. A majority of the actual residents within the study area itself appear to be Latino, in Chapel Hill's cheapest apartment complexes. I hope the build out of this plan does not eliminate their presence.    Ed Harrison

I just got an email from the Town that said the Council will discuss the plan at their May 16 public hearing. If you haven't read the plan yet, there is still time left to give input.I personally think that the transportation & greenway component of the plan would be a huge improvement over what is happening currently, but am thoroughly underwhelmed by the lack of open space. The Parks and Recreation Commission suggested that the plan include sitpulations for safer pedestrian crossings, especially at the Lower Booker Creek Greenway, and I hope to see that discussed at the hearing.


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