Carolina North - Where we are now

[The following was sent out by e-mail to NRG supporters. Julie McClintock agreed to let us publish it as a post on OP as well.]

Hello Neighbors,

We all saw the headlines earlier this summer announcing approval of the Agreement for a new 250 acre UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

The new campus, Carolina North, will house classroom, research, mixed use development and business incubator space. Because of its size (3 million square feet over 20 years), and central location on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at the current site of the Horace Williams Airport, this project will have far-reaching impacts on the community. 

Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG) worked with the citizens of Chapel Hill and Carrboro throughout the planning process to highlight your concerns and ideas about Carolina North. Attached is a brief report titled “Report to Residents: Key Points in the Carolina North Development Agreement” that summarizes how issues important to our community are addressed.  

We advocated with Town and the University to see these key issues and guiding principles incorporated into the Agreement as a result of your input:

  • Traffic planning rather than reacting
  • Neighborhood impact mitigation
  • Pedestrian and bike path connections between Carolina North and the main campus
  • Parking constraints
  • Preservation of natural spaces
  • Minimizing adverse environmental impact

Our work is not done. Citizens will need to continue to provide input to the development of Carolina North, especially regarding impacts on transportation and other critical community issues. The Chapel Hill Town Council passed a Resolution in June requiring development of a plan to ensure that the community is kept informed and public participation is solicited on key decisions as Carolina North development progresses.

NRG will continue to work with the Town and the University to track the important on-going issues of Carolina North and ensure citizen participation in future decisions affecting the community. We look forward to a productive dialog that will benefit us all, and enhance the quality of life in Chapel Hill.

Please visit the NRG website --  htp://   -- for more information.  See attached summary report (below or download as PDF).

Thank you for your participation and support.


The NRG Working Group for Carolina North

Ed Bassett, Larkspur
Shelly DeFosset, Hillsborough
Bob Henshaw, North Forest Hills
Madeline Jefferson, The Oaks
Pat Lowry, Hillsborough Street
Julie McClintock, Coker Hills West
Janet Smith, N. Boundary Street Neighborhood
Doug MacLean, Morgan Creek
Penny Rich, Ironwoods
Chris Sandt, North Forest Hills
Mickey Jo Sorrell, North Forest Hills
Molly Starback, Elkin Hills
Peter Starback, Elkin Hills
Alan Snavely, Pine Brook Estates
Tim Williams, North Forest Hills


Report to Residents:

Key points in the Carolina North Development Agreement
Prepared by Neighbors for Responsible Growth, August 2009
This report summarizes selected provisions in the Carolina North Development Agreement,
approved by the Chapel Hill Town Council on June 22, 2009.  It focuses on issues
important to residents living in close proximity to either Carolina North or to the
transportation routes that will serve it. During the ten months prior to final approval of the
Agreement, Neighbors for Responsible Growth (NRG) worked with citizens, University
officials, Town Council members and staff to craft language that would address the
interests of all stakeholders.   
The Town and the University decided to take a long-term contractual approach to the
development of Carolina North, rather than going through the standard building-by-building
permitting process for large developments. Pursuing a Development Agreement offered
both parties certain advantages. The Town benefits from UNC’s long-term commitment to
help fund transit and other public infrastructure, its adoption of environmental safeguards
and a compact footprint on the Horace Williams tract. For UNC, the Agreement brings
increased flexibility to respond to changing conditions on the ground during the first twenty
years of this large-scale development.
The final Development Agreement can be accessed online at:
Note: Numbers in brackets in this report refer to specific Articles in the Carolina North
Development Agreement.    
No issue will impact northern Chapel Hill and Carrboro more than the expansion of the
transportation system that will be required to move people to and from Carolina North. The
language in the Development Agreement on transportation planning has strengths and
weaknesses [5.8]. Both parties recognize the important roles that public transit (e.g.,
buses), bike and pedestrian paths and caps on the number of parking spaces at Carolina
North will play in limiting the number of new cars on local roads. The primary shortcoming
is that negotiation of many of the targets and improvements identified in the Agreement is
put off until unspecified future dates. Unfortunately, serious consideration of many of the
transportation planning issues did not take place until the end of the Development
Agreement process. For this reason, in part, traffic mitigation should remain a serious
concern for area residents.
• Infrastructure first.  NRG worked to include a provision that requires that
transportation improvements necessary to maintain acceptable levels of service
for our roads be in place before new buildings can be occupied. [5.8.14f] 
• Parking.  Parking at Carolina North for the first 800K square feet of development
will mirror the ratio of parking spaces per person on the main UNC campus,
which means as many as 1,525 new parking spaces will be allowed [5.8.7].
Parking ratios for subsequent phases of development under this Agreement will
be negotiated later.
• TIA updates.  Many assumptions for transportation planning are based on the
results of the Transportation Impact Analysis study [TIA]. After the TIA is updated
this fall, the next update will occur no later than 2015. A schedule for updating
TIAs after 2015 must be determined at a later date.  NRG lobbied for a more
frequent update interval.
• Greenways. The Agreement recommends a new Town/University partnership for planning
and funding bicycle, pedestrian and greenway improvements [5.16.1]. It also requires that a
recommended plan for an off-road bike path linking Carolina North and the main campus
be included in the first Annual Report [5.16.2]. Several specific improvements are called for,
although NRG was disappointed that the timeframe for putting them into place was spread
out over such a long period of time [5.16.9]. The University has publicly indicated that it is
willing to consider a more ambitious schedule for implementing important
bicycle/pedestrian facilities Council-Trustees Work Session 6.16.09:   
Neighborhood safeguards.
Residents living in close proximity to Carolina North expressed concern about a number of
important issues during the planning process. Key issues include:
• Traffic calming. The following roads have been identified as candidates for
traffic calming measures: Piney Mountain Road, Hillsborough Street, Seawell
School Road, North Elliott/Curtis/Caswell Roads, Northwoods Road, North
Lakeshore Drive, Barclay Road, and Airport Drive [5.8.15]. No traffic calming
measures will be implemented without prior input from area residents.
Implementation may be complicated for roads that are owned and maintained by
the NC Department of Transportation.
• Parking on neighborhood streets.  This issue is not addressed directly in the
Development Agreement, but the Town already has a process in place that
provides neighborhoods with the option to either adopt a parking permit program,
prohibit parking during certain hours of the day, or some combination of the two.
For more information, contact the Town of Chapel Hill Traffic Engineering
• Noise impacts [5.24]. The Carolina North development will adhere to the Town
of Chapel Hill’s existing noise ordinance. The ordinance contains exemptions
(Sec. 11-40 of the ordinance) that allow for construction as late as 9pm on
weekdays and weekends. Neighborhood impacts will need to be monitored and
reconsidered as part of each site development permit application [Exhibit J.11]. 
• Light impacts [5.25].  Lighting design for Carolina North will be based on a “dark
skies” approach that minimizes glare, the height of light mounts, and spillover
onto properties adjacent to the Carolina North property. 
• Perimeter design improvements [5.23].  For construction along the borders of
the Carolina North property, the University will have to notify all property owners
within 1000 feet and conduct public meetings to discuss the potential impacts. 
Public Participation and Notification
Public participation and notification will be critical to ensuring that the impacts of Carolina
North on citizens and neighborhoods are minimized and effectively mitigated, especially
since so many important decisions are put off until later dates. NRG stressed the
importance of public participation throughout the process and recommended a resolution
during public hearings in the spring.
• Public participation plan. On the same night that it approved the Carolina North
Development Agreement the Town Council also passed a resolution that requires
the Town Manager to put together a comprehensive proposed plan on public
participation to be submitted to the Town Council in January of 2010 (Resolution
• Regular reviews. The Agreement calls for periodic assessments of the
effectiveness of the Agreement that include broad public participation [4.16]. The
first assessment must be completed within three years.
• NRG pressed for the need for public participation in other areas of the
Agreement as well, including Sections 5.8.12, 5.23.3, 5.27.5.    
Other Issues of Interest to Citizens
Although Neighbors for Responsible Growth identified transportation planning and
neighborhood safeguards as the areas most in need of citizen input, there are other
important issues covered in the Agreement that will impact our communities. The Town of
Chapel Hill and UNC attained agreement on several issues of importance to the
community, such as preservation of open space, storm water management and
sedimentation controls. 
Work began on open space preservation back in 2004 when the Horace Williams Citizens’
Committee identified this need to the Council. Final Council negotiations with the UNC
Board of Trustees brought significant University commitments to a compact footprint for the
new campus, as well as protection for sensitive natural areas to be preserved in perpetuity
and other land to be protected for a period of years [5.5.1].  
We encourage citizens to familiarize themselves with the Development Agreement, as it is
a document we will be referencing regularly during the next twenty years.
Next Steps?
It is uncertain when the University will begin breaking ground at Carolina North given
economic conditions. The first building was slated to be the Innovation Center, although the
economic downturn has set the original schedule back.  
Of the items mentioned in this report, Neighbors for Responsible Growth will be focusing its
efforts this fall on the update of the Transportation Impact Analysis in December and the
public participation plan that the Town Manager will submit to the Town Council in January.
We look forward to working with the Town and the University on implementation of many of
the items in the Development Agreement.
NRG would like thank the hundreds of citizens who actively participated during the process
leading up to approval of the Development Agreement.  
If you have any questions, please contact NRG at .
© Copyright 2007-2009 - Neighbors for Reponsible Growth
Download this report as a PDF at:



For the sake of arguement I'm going to suggest that long range planning for Carolina North (CN) is mostly a waste of time. About as useful as predicting the weather for Thanksgiving.Transportation and neighborhood impact will be crucial, especially when you read the lofty goals of UNC administrators for CN. The full development of these goals could be an economic gold mine for Chapel Hill or a environmental nightmare. But we have no idea now whether anything will ever be done and if it is, what will be done.  The first "reality" may be the innovation center and a law school. As of now, probably not in my lifetime.It would be wise - but sneaky - for UNC to let everything sleep, maybe even NRG will go to sleep. Why waste any energy on vapor development? The Development Agreement is good until somebody wants to do something, then we'll find out if ink really does disappear.Public participation is an illusive process, often used as a front for a few people to get their way and not really a voice of the community. How do you know when participation is being gamed? When some group, having adopted a phony inclusive name, says they speak for the community, or even surrounding neighborhoods.We will have to keep an eye on the University and we will have to keep an eye on those who want us to see or hear what they believe. 

If we take the approach of this commenter, we should all exit Town Hall meetings and give up on the democratic process.  The Development Agreement is a legal document between the Town and UNC that takes precedence over all decisions.  I urge eveyone to read the Agreement and see what was accomplished, most notable a compact footprint, protection for natural areas, and a guarantee that transit improvements will accompany buildings on the ground.  No question that there are a lot of decisions that were put off into the future.  That is why NRG will continue to press for active public participation and yes we will need to stay alert. See or Town website for link.  Julie

"The Development Agreement is a legal document between the Town and UNC that takes precedence over all decisions."The North Carolina General Assembly takes precedence over all decisions.I'm not sure where I urged abandonment of the democratic process. The democratic process is a qualitative experience based on inclusiveness of the participants.By the time the University got through with its democratic process on CN, so far, it would have probably signed an agreement with North Korea's Dear Leader just to get its participants to the relief of high dose anti-depressants.  Had a major International RTP type research/business project been up to bat first with money in hand and need for a million square feet of building with horizon to horizon parking, you would have had a real experience in public participation, Julie.It certainly would have been more exciting than a innovation center or a law school.I digress, sorry. We should all be vigilant and we should all contemplate how we can improve community participation.    

Roscoe's right on target in saying that much of this is probabaly either moot or premature is.  So much of CN planning is very distant, wishful pie in the sky as long as we have a bad economy and people happy with the status quo.  Also on target, though, is his suggestion that there are those who are or will be gaming the process.  The contrast between how specific some recommendations in the report are about street and neighborhood, compared to how general others are, suggests gaming on the part of specific groups (some of whom are OP friends, I have to say).  It will be interesting to see if the planning board or any other part of town administration is pressed to set some infrastructure changes in motion before ground is actually broken -- and what/where, exactly, those changes turn out to be. As often said, if it's not in your backyard, that probably means you're going to put it in my backyard.

There has been so much discussion, it seem like this is all talk.  When the economy improves UNC will go forward with the development of a new campus.  The Development Agreement will set the framework.Julie


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