Initiating matters

As we've mentioned before here on OP, the Town of Chapel Hill is preparing to revise its decade-old Comprehensive Plan (CP). In addition to documenting something of a shared vision of the community, it is also used as the basis of the Town's LUMO (Land Use Management Ordinance) which contains the actual policies and regulations with which all developers must comply. In an attempt to ramp up the process of creating this community document, the Town Council is trying a new approach: they decided to empanel an "Initiating Committee" (IC) that will lay out the process through which the actual CP wil be created.

Once the IC's work is finished, the Town will establish a Coordinating Committee and Stakeholders that will guide and participate in the creation of the actual content of the new CP. Some people seem to be hoping to have the 12-member IC represent every perspective in Chapel Hill, but I actually think it's more important to have a committee that brings an understanding of the many facets of democratic public participation, and enough knowledge of land-use planning and local government to have a sense of what types of information will be useful.

The key to the new Comprehensive Plan's success (and the Town working together toward our common goals) is to effectively engage a wide range of people who have a stake in Chapel Hill's present and future. If people are not bought in to the plan, then every step the town tries to take in the next 10 years may be questioned by residents who don't understand or agree with the strategies.

For example, I think the Town wants to encourage people to use their cars less and to build a community that is more friendly to transit, cycling, and pedestrians.  This also means limiting sprawl, and accordingly building more densely in central parts of the town. Many Chapel Hillians may share the goal of protecting the environment, but they adamantly disagree when that goal is manifested in proposals to create taller buildings, even when they are proposed in our downtown and on high-capacity arterial streets. To me, this is just what is needed and where. To others, this density will ruin our community. Which will it be?

Hopefully the answer isn't either/or, but what a good comprehensive planning process can do is bring people with disparate ideas together so that we can better understand and maybe even share some of each other's values. We have to figure out what the areas are where we do agree, and also establish a process for how to handle the unavoidable disagreements.

Since the goal is to engage a wide range of people from across the a community in developing the Comprehensive Plan, I'm hoping the Town will go above and beyond it's usual public outreach methods. If we get a chance to try some new approaches, perhaps this can be a model - or at least a test lab - for better civic engagement that can be employed for other Town projects in the future.

I understand through the grapevine that the Initiating Committee has been selected, but I haven't yet seen a list of the members. The Council's process on this has been less than transparent, which I think sets a bad precedent. But regardless of this frustrating first step, I will be observing the upcoming process with deep interest.



I'd like to see this committee address the landfill issue, immediate and future. Can we site it in Orange County in a way that mitigates the obvious downside issues, and make amends with the folks near the current landfill? For those who want us to buy local, I hope they also advocate for taking care of our waste on a local level too. Classic land use issue. Hard to do in this economy but that's why we have creative people working in local government and visionary leaders.  

I believe the Council will be formally appointing the IC tonight, but I couldn't find it on their agenda last time I looked.I'm posting from my phone right now, so to be brief: thinking about the Rogers Road area is a good suggestion, but we need to keep in mind that it is the County government that owns and is responsible for the landfill. Chapel Hill completed a Small Area Plan for the Rogers Road area in 2009 so I think we can assume that it will at least inform the CP if not being a formal part of it.

Ruby, you've done such a good job of framing the complexity and issues of the CP process; I can get right to the carping. What really does the process serve other than the Town and Council's ability to claim they do things?The key ingredients are awareness, participation, and understanding. But the problem is always the same: ins (participants) and outs (the entire rest of the community until a development proposal arrives on some neighborhood's doorstep). But then we can say, look how many committees we had; look how many hearings we had; look how many times we invited you to find out and participate; look at the special website we provided you; look at the values we share that are reflected in the plan. Human nature. Do the plan. Take the bows.Small landfill comment: the towns and County jointly owned a property that was to be the new landfill (Greene Tract). Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha...........cracks this old fool up.  

As a member of the Initiating Committee, we recieved the following list yesterday of members:

  • Kathy Atwater
  • Elliott Bennett Guerro
  • Gordon Merklein
  • David Knowles
  • Lee Storrow
  • Jason Baker
  • Jim Curis
  • Julie Brenman
  • Allison DeMarco
  • Joy Steinberg
  • Jim Merritt
  • Rob Maitland
  • Scott Beavers
  • Anita Badrock
  • Doug MacLean

Thank you, Lee! I was just about to e-mail the town clerk to find out if the committee had in fact been selected.Congrats on your appointment. 


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.