Chapel Hill 2020: What Do You See?

Visioning Forums

The Town of Chapel Hill visioning project is designed to engage the Chapel Hill community through a range of outreach efforts to both inform and gather public comment on community values and future growth.

The information will assist the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force, a group of volunteer citizens appointed by the Town Council to prepare recommendations on what growth should look like over the next 10 years.

The visioning forums are just one of a number of ways that the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force will be obtaining information about the community over the next 7 months.

As part of this initial outreach, Chapel Hill residents are invited to attend community forums, draw on visioning walls, and participate in online surveys as part of "Chapel Hill 2020," a community visioning project scheduled June 1-7.   

The forum questions are "What do you value about Chapel Hill now?" and "What are three dreams you have for Chapel Hill in 2020?"

A series of nine community visioning forums will be offered in neighborhoods across the community and at different times of day throughout the week.

The forums will be led by a team directed by Vaughn Upshaw, a UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government faculty member who specializes in long-range planning and visioning for public governance.

Participants will work in small groups for about 1-1/2 hours to generate common themes about values and visions for the future of Chapel Hill. The structured forums are designed to begin and end promptly, and will be offered at the following times and locations:

June 1

3 to 5 p.m. Monday, June 1, at UNC-Chapel Hill Davis Library (Room 214)

6 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 1, at Meadowmont YMCA, 301 Old Barn Lane


June 2

5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, Town Hall (HRD Training Room)


June 3

5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, Hargraves Center, 216 N. Roberson St.


June 4

4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 4, Chapel Hill Fire Station No. 4 (Training Annex), 101 Weaver Dairy Road


June 5

1 to 3 p.m. Friday, June 5, Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Drive


June 6

3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6, Community Center (multipurpose room), 120 S. Estes Drive


June 7

1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 7, Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Drive

3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 7, YMCA, 980 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Other Options for involvement this week:  Visioning Stations

Residents are invited to share their values and visions by drawing or writing on large pieces of newsprint that will be arranged at sites around town, including the following:

3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at Southern Village Farmer's Market

8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, June 6, at South Estes Drive Farmer's Market at the University Mall

10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 6, at the Southern Community Park Dedication

June 1-7 at a visioning station arranged at University Mall

Another Option for involvement:  Online Survey

An online survey posted at will allow residents to submit their values and visions related to Chapel Hill today and in the future. The survey will be available June 1-7.

For more information about Chapel Hill 2020, visit the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force website at or call the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department at (919) 968-2728 or



The installation at University Mall is currently not well marked, so only the idle curious tend to actually walk into the space to find out what's there.  Despite my gut distaste for "vision" as a verb, I'd like to see a large window banner there to draw people in. I hope the other "visioning stations" (argh) will be well publicized. Otherwise, I am skeptically curious about the eventual "product" of this project: e.g., if what I love about Chapel Hill is the number and availability of independent businesses -- theaters, book stores, car repair shops, bakeries, video rental, galleries, jewelers, restaurants, etc. etc. -- how much can town planners really do if the economy (or a landlord) favors the chains?   Or is figuring that out part of the project?

Priscilla, the verb is "envision."  Let's keep it that way.  I look forward to seeing how Chapel Hill's visioning exercise is conducted. The end product will almost certainly be a document compiled from dozens or hundreds of sticky notes.  Valuable?  Not if things get out of hand, as often happens when everybody wants a pool, or a library, or pie in the sky.  We see this happen when participants confuse "visioning" with "wishing."  It's heartening to see that the team leaders are based in Chapel Hill, not imported from far-away places.    

"...the verb is "envision."  Let's keep it that way."  I'm with you on that, but doesn't that make the gerund/verbal noun "envisioning", which isn't any better than the weird gerund "visioning"  -- and I still don't see why "vision" doesn't do it, in the first place.  "Here's our --  __visioning __ envisioning __ vision   --for the future."

I vision a return to hard and fast grammar rules and elimination of all words added to the English language since around 1940.

Hi everyone.  I just moved from Pittsburgh to Chapel Hill.  We've only been here one week and we love it.   It's great to be in a progressive and forward looking area for a change and it is cool to see that municipal leaders are asking for input on what the citizens care about.  If the majority of the citizens want to ban chain stores from the central business district I don't see what is stopping the municipality from changing the code.  This is why the survey's and visioning sessions are important.  Many towns around the U.S. have already adopted bans on chain stores.  Asheville's downtown seems to have few, if anym chain stores and that is one of the things we like about it.

Btw, I am a green / sustainability blogger at "Green is Good". Please check it out.

I work in S Village, so I may try to attend the station at the farmer's maket there, workload permitting - I'm a customer-service type, so my ability to participate in this activity is nebulous at best.  The online survey - which would be more convenient - does not seem to be operational.

The survey works, the URL above just got split in half somehow.  Click here for the survey.

For this purpose, does "Chapel Hill community" include Carrboro?

I think a better question is, considering it's location, why is Carrboro considered separate from Chapel Hill in any way to begin with?  Think about it for a minute.  This thread is about what Chapel Hill will be like in 2020 and yet it's unclear to people whether Carrboro should be included in the discussion too.  The fact that there's even any question about the issue shows how ridiculous it is that Carrobro is a separate entity. Consider if instead of Chapel Hill there was East CH, West CH, North CH and South CH, all equally sized.  Would it make sense to talk about a 2020 plan for one or two of them while ignoring the others (and Carrboro too)?  If we were talking about NYC or some giant metropolis then dissecting it into sections of manageable size would make sense, but the entire area of CH and C combined is small. Perhaps when Carrobro was first formed back before electricity there were valid reasons for it to be a separate entity but now it's just one more example of a political entity perpetuating itself soley for its own benefit.

Carrboro is a community that continues to be organized politically to benefit its citizens. And, in my opinion, it benefits the greater good beyond its borders when it takes leadership positions on policies and supports progressive activity.As was mentioned before, a good general rule of thumb for representative locla government is that a jurisdiction of about 5000 allows the representatives to ably communicate with the citizenry and thus represent them better. Carrboro is somewhat close to this concept.

Your first sentence is 100% absolutely correct.  After that you go off the rails.

is intended to be Chapel Hill's planning jurisdiction, because this is linked in some ways to the adopted Comprehensive Plan and other adopted plans. But anyone can drop in. No one's checking IDs at the door. My experience has been that good ideas come from all over the place.  Ed Harrison

Carrboro is part of what's great about Chapel Hill.  Hopefully, there's some vice-versa-ing about that.

Carrboro, by definition, isn't a part of Chapel Hill at all.  That's the problem.  It can, and it does, pretend it's a town in the middle of nowhere when it suits is purposes and then pretends it's a part of a larger community surrounding a large and growing university when it suits it other purposes.

Perhaps I should have been clearer, but I didn't say Carrboro was "part of Chapel Hill."  I said it was "part of what's great" about Chapel Hill -- i.e., part of what's great about living in Chapel Hill is being next to Carrboro.  That's why I said I hoped the reverse was also true -- that part of what's great about living in Carrboro is being next to Chapel Hill. Seems Jose doesn't agree, however.

Agreed that Carrboro and Chapel Hill are joined at the hip in more ways than one.  In fact, we often claim Chapel Hill as home to people we meet in our travels.  Carrboro sounds like the middle of nowhere to folks who have no frame of reference. (Utne Readers know we're in the top 10 of this or that desirable category.)  Jose, this is a prevalent situation in municipalities flung off big cities like Atlanta and Dallas for example.  Not a problem.  You tell your seat-mate that Bethel is just outside Cincinnati. Eventually you start saying you live in Cincinnati. 

I participated in one of these sessions  on Sunday at the Library.   I can only speak from my own experience.    I just don't get much out of these things in general.     They are too vague for me.  I  need an element of HOW in every converation about WHAT we want, and these forums don't really do that for me.    After an hour and a half, we agreed  that our dreams were to keep a village atmosphere, have a vibrant Franklin street,   and maintain open space, sidewalks,  and bike trails.  Wow.    I'm not surprised--is anyone else?   I would like to talk more about:    Hwo do we do that?   What is non-negotiable,  what isn't?   What kind of built environment feels like a village?  How much more open space do we want, and where?   Where do we want sidewalks?  What does  "a vibrant" Franklin Street mean?  what kind of shops/dining/office/landscape  constitutes "vibrant?"   How do we pay for this?  The facilitator was very nice and good,  the participants were great, I met some great newcomers to our community.   That's not the issue---I just think that when you convene people for some period of time,  you should maximize the work product you get.  Someone once reminded me to look around the room and think about the value of all the participants' time, and to make sure the meeting produced that much overall value, or you were doing the participants a disservice.   I It was interesting.   Was it thousands of dollars useful?  (the cost of the facilitator  and of people's time who participated?)  That's a question for the task force.   The people I met were, for me, the best outcome of my participation.  

On the topic of growth... I recently heard some commentaries on WCHL with people for & against growth.  But being against growth just doesn't strike me a realistic option.  It's like asking are you for or against cold weather during winter?  Either way you better have collected the logs for the fire b/c it is coming... well unless global warming has its way =p  
"Raleigh-Cary, N.C., and Austin-Round Rock, Texas, were the nation’s
fastest-growing metro areas between 2007 and 2008, according to July 1,
2008, population estimates for the nation’s metropolitan and
micropolitan statistical areas and counties released today by the U.S.
Census Bureau.Raleigh-Cary saw its population climb 4.3 percent between July 1, 2007, and July 1, 2008, to 1.1 million."In a niegbhorhood like the research triangle, there is no question about if we grow, the only question is how we grow.  We have to embrace growth to do it right, not hide from it & just let it happen in an unorganized way.  Being anti-growth just seems like a cop out instead of having to make hard decisions about how we grow.

I'm sorry but one week of public input, announced at the beginning of that week, is not effective. It strikes me as a way for the Town to say "but look we invited your input in all these different places" but without having actually laid the groundwork to engage and incorporate a wide range of voices. As someone who has to arrange childcare or schlep an infant with me, more lead time is needed for me to put anything on my calendar. Undertaking this effort in this way may serve to actually decrease public trust and make people feel even less invested in the results of the process.  I hope the Town will improve upon this current effort and hold more advanced-planned input sessions and do more public education in person and online about planning and visioning.  Also I'm glad to see that there is an opportunity for online input (, and I hope that can be better promoted in the future.

"I'm sorry but one week of public input, announced at the beginning of that week, is not effective. It strikes me as a way for the Town to say "but look we invited your input in all these different places" but without having actually laid the groundwork to engage and incorporate a wide range of voices."Entirely agree; goes also to question of what the product is actually expected to be.  Re: timing - over the years, I've come to be suspicious of events scheduled between Memorial and Labor Day, especially on short notice, that could have an impact on the future of the town.

Ruby et al,Without speaking directly for the Task Force I think I can safely say that I'm pretty certain the Task Force will arrange for more (and better advertised) oportunities for citizen input.  These first sessions were arranged by Council & Staff to get the process going quickly but they were in no way meant to be the entire source of citizen input.  The input gathered from these sessions will be used to help the Task Force decide what questions it might focus on first but the entire process will be open to additional and continual input from the public.  Please bear with us as we get organized and begin what we hope will be a very productive effort to determine how Chapel Hillians want to see their community grow over the next decade.  

I'm glad to hear that you are on the Task Force, George. As you know I am full of opinons about Chapel Hill's past, present, and future and I would really appreciate the opprtunity to be involved in this process of shaping the community in which my son will grow up.

One week is insufficient - for a few reasons.  I think folks on this forum were probably savvy to the solicitation for input, but I don't think that it was very well-known around town, and this is potentially critical stuff.  Wiggy links to online surveys are likewise an issue:  if the link don't work, input will be limited.And last - I think affordability in town and access to potential avenues of change are a serious and escalating crisis to the not-so-affluent folks in town, which includes me, and if you struggle to get places or can't get out of some menial job to get to an ill-advertised event on the other side of town, then the town is essentially not going to be hearing from the folks that it probably MOST needs to be hearing from.

This survey is not active at this time and cannot be taken.

It would seem that much of this effort must revolve around Carolina North.  What its effects will be and how the local communities will respond (or react) to the growth that it will entail. There has to be a major, meaningful focus on Carolina North, or the whole exercise will be pretty useless.Further, a lot of jawboning on what people want or envision sounds good in principle, but it pales in comparison with having first an accompanying meaningful education effort, learning about what other areas have done and are doing, and how, and how to translate such possibilities to meet clear objectives that people develop and agree upon.  All of this is probably too much work, but it would be worth it.Here are a couple of objectives tied to what others do/have done around the US and world:--Develop within clear boundaries surrounded by a Green Belt area that is sacrosanct.--Take care of those who need help.--Provide commons areas with zero cars. --Provide areas where people can work, shop, go to school, and play, all without needing a car.  

"Develop within clear boundaries surrounded by a Green Belt area that is sacrosanct." This area is already an international model with respect to this issue, Weaverguy.  Carrboro, Orange County and Chapel Hill established a Rural Buffer and an Urban Services Boundary in the late 1980's, long before most folks had ever heard of such a thing.  And I might add that local elected leaders (myself included) have mightily resisted efforts to change that boundary.I don't know much about Chapel Hill's current (en)visioning process, but I suppose that part of the objective is to contemplate how the town might grow, while maintaining the Urban Services Boundary as it now exists.

Mayor Chilton, From your comment above can we conclude that you oppose Mayor Foy's proposal to put the county solid waste transfer station in the rural buffer?  Significantly less than sacrosanct respect for the rural buffer, wouldn't you say?  Thanks for your thoughts.  Rick Kennedy

I am not absolutely certain where that site is, but I think it is not in the rural buffer.  That said, it seems like it has the same problems that the Eubanks site did.

The trouble is that state law allows a different group of elected people to change zoning pretty much at will.  Town Boards are often cowed by developers' attorneys, many of whom are playing games (win or lose, they get paid).  Present company excepted, most communities have a whole lot of real estate people and developers on town and county boards who vote for growth and expansion, any growth and expansion, for various reasons good and bad.  Most people are too busy to notice the dimunition of their quality of life before it is too late to do much about it.  So, Carrboro's efforts in this regard (which are not really all that effective, I don't believe) must be viewed as temporary until there are radical changes so that zoning and accompanying decisions are actually permanent. (Which all leads to a certain amount of futility in doing planning exercises and the like. ... ) Just because Carrboro will not provide services (and are we really only talking about the ETJ, anyway?), does not mean that development cannot occur outside its boundaries.  Water and sewerage treatment can be accomplished, such as at Briar Chapel where they are going to irrigate trees as a means of final "disposal" of sewage.And now Rick comes along and blows the whole contention out of the water by pointing out that the transfer station is way out of town and there's really nothing the Town Board can do about it....but of course, you can and should come out with a position on the matter inasmuch as Carrboro's trash would go there.  (The whole idea of sending the trash out there reeks in many ways.  People should manage their trash in their own backyards...then they will make it not reek.  But that is a subject for another thread.)

Well, yes and no.  The county does control zoning in unincorporated areas.  But we have an interlocal agreement about the Rural Buffer, so they cannot act unilaterally on that area.  However the present rules do allow some low density development - probably should allow less of that.  However, the lowest density zoning allowed by NC law is effectively 1 unit per 10 acres, so that type of development will continue regardless of local zoning.Briar Chapel is in Chatham County and was approved by County Commissioners who were later voted out over the matter.

The point is made that such matters depend upon who is in office.  What we need are permanent decisions to level the playing fields and get development and land-use planning done right. 

True, although nothing is really permanent in this world.  Interlocal agreements are a step in the right direction, though.  For example, I think the Orange County Joint Planning Agreement is in place for the next 10 or 15 years.  Similar approaches could be used in other areas, and I think Hillsborough may gradually be moving in a similar direction with Orange County.  But I am not up on all the details on Hillsborough, of course.It would be great to move toward joint planning between Orange and Chatham Counties, but that has often been a sensitive topic in Chatham County.  We are currently compiling an intergovernmental work group between Chatham and Orange local governments and I have recently been appointed to it, although I have heard nothing about when the first meeting will be.  I suspect that joint planning between the counties will be one of the topics of discussion.

The elephant in the room is why people constantly assume things such as clear boundries surrounded by a sacrosanct Green Belt corresponds to a clean environment.  The reasoning seems to be "The fewer cars I see, the fewer cars exist" or "The more trees I see, the more treest exist."  Of course, by this same reasoning the best thing of all to do for the environment would be to remove all cars from this area and replace them with trees. How does having people live far from work rather than near help the environment?   How does havng a bunch of people that work at UNC live at Briar Chapel six miles down the road while having empty land close to UNC help the environment?  It helps me, since I live close to UNC and own a home and it makes it more pleasant for me to not have to deal with all those people all the time, other than rush hour.  But I'm honest enough with myself to admit that it doesn't do anything for the environment. Go to the South Columbia St / 15-501 overpass some morning during rush hour and check out all the cars.  The roads look like New Orleans ten hours before Katrina hit.  And it must be that way in the afternoon rush hour too.  Because those people live down there and we don't see them other than at rush hour, does that mean those cars don't exist?People talk about how we're tearing down paradise and putting up a parking lot here via growth.  But the new people here aren't materializing out of thin air.  They're coming from somewhere.  In the places they're coming from, more paradise is being created.  Houses are selling for 10 K in Detroit.  For the price of a house in CH/C you could by 20 in Detroit and tear down 19 of them and live in one surrounded by paradise.  The town of Flint, MI is talking about converting a big chunk of its area consisting of concrete and roads and houses back to nature. You can do that when your population shrinks by 85%. There's all the paradise you want out there.  But the problem is that nobody wants to live in paradise per se, rather they want the beautiful scenery of paradise while also having the benefits of civilization (including jobs), and in our case also the massive benefits of living close to a giant, world class university.  I don't blame them.  I want it too.  But I also want to be honest with myself.

Because it certainly isn't good that my wife drives to Raleigh once a week to shop at Costco (for her business).  Or to Southpoint for Target.  Etc etc.  It is not a conincidence that we have huge retail spots right over the border in almost all directions.  And it isn't good for the environment that we shut these businesses out of building in CH.

"And it isn't good for the environment that we shut these businesses out of building in CH."No it isn't.  But how many neighborhoods do you think are going to step forward and offer their neighborhood or an area adjacent to their neighborhood for siting such businesses?  It's always easier to endorse growth when it's not directly affecting you.

and certainly borne out by the criticisms of Greenbridge and East 54.  But of course, growth happens whether we really want it or not.  In this case, I am impacted because the roads out of town are jam packed because our community is not vibrant enough to allow most folks to work, shop, and live in the same place.

Green belt areas are only part of the solution.  The other part is forcing development to occur within existing municipal boundaries, getting counties into the act as well, and making changes in zoning law (at the state level) to make zoning permament.  There should be no Briar Chapels and the like, but rather there should be far greater housing density within existing boundaries.  This approach starts to make public transportation more affordable, along with other obvious benefits.Of course we should eliminate as much car use and as many cars as possible to help the environment (and the economy, by helping cut down on the  need for foreign oil, military for same, etc.).  In some ways, we may be getting there...the new big structures on the way into Chapel Hill off of I-40 near Glen Lennox are a start, albeit a very poor one because the housing prices there are really rediculous and geared for the wealthy.

I don't go to Target or Costco in Raleigh or Southpointe, etc. What's better for the environment? 

but I can't afford the options locally

can't afford for you to be shopping at those places...

I would argue that if you can't afford to buy locally, then you can't really afford whatever it is you're buying because of the burden of the hidden costs that your purchases place on the rest of society.

Ok. Chill pill. It's not a sin for someone to shop where they can get the most for their family on the paycheck they have. Instead, offer them a way to make the local options more attractive.  


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