Horace Williams Committee meets Thursday

The Town of Chapel Hill's Horace Williams Citizens' Commitee will meet tomorrow (12/18/03, 5:30 pm, C.H. library) to respond to UNC's latest draft plans for Carolina North. This group was created to advise the Town Council on issues related to UNC's development of a satellite campus on Airport Road. I invite anyone who has been paying attention (as many of you have) to share your opinions with the committee and the Town Council.

(By the way, the Town Planning department has put up a great website with tons of resources on Horace Williams/Carolina North, check it out.)

I'll be out of town and have to miss this meeting, here's what I wrote to them:

I believe that UNC has failed to address many of the fundamental questions raised in the HWCC�s report, and I find the current proposal to be dangerous to the future of both Orange County and the University. I propose a joint planning process modeled on the 1995-1997 UNC-Chapel Hill Planning Panel which resulted in the 1997 JJR Report which was endorsed by both the Town and the University. We simply cannot thrive or excel without each other�s cooperation. One�s failure will be the other�s demise.

19,125 parking spaces, no designated transit (or school) facilities, no fiscal equity proposal, no dedication of open space, and the phased realignment of our major east-west arterial road� all of this amounts to extreme disregard for the health of the community. There are many laudable components of the plan, such as the pedestrian-friendly network of streets, and density balanced by open space. However this will do nothing to mitigate the severe impacts of developing this campus without regard for its host organism, southern Orange County. The Carolina North proposal in its current form cannot form the basis of any fair or reasonable negotiation process.

I hope that the University will take some time to think about the Chapel Hill that would house Carolina North. Will it be so attractive to desirable faculty, staff, and students if it is no longer called The Southern Part of Heaven, but instead referred to as the Northwestern Part of RTP? I would hate to see my hometown and my alma mater devolve into the thoughtless sprawl that congests much of the rest of the Triangle. There is a reason housing is so tragically expensive in Chapel Hill, and it�s not because of ample parking. No one is as dependent on our quality of life as the University. I implore the University leaders and planners to consider the critical nature of our symbiotic relationship.




Draft plan needs to be improved

Submitting Carolina North "draft" plans to the trustees for approval in March is premature. Much of the public is unaware of the effects in town as a result of this project. Many of our neighbors, who will be devastated by new roadways in the plan, do not know of the off-campus impacts.

The development is perceived as something happening "over there". When informed effects will be beyond the campus itself, the "we'll move away" response should not be what neighbors say on any trustee voted plan.

Numbers of parking spaces (commuters) and housed on-site workers appear to be far apart between the university and newspaper editors, residents, university faculty, and I'd guess most of the Town Council.

A true "draft" should not be submitted to the trustees but should actually be improved upon, particularly the "Achilles heel" of transportation. Traffic flows and actual neighborhoods north of Homestead were completely left off first round presentations despite the fact that most commuters will come from I-40. Major design flaws, including a Homestead entrance that actually redirects cars back onto Airport Road (or worse into Weaver Dairy) will not reduce the bottleneck of Airport Road.

The university should work with the Town Council BEFORE going to the trustees. The Town Council, a democratically elected body, is more receptive and effective in representing "input" from town residents. Submitting premature "draft" plans to trustees will only create a predictable obvious confrontational relationship with the town later.


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