Thu 26 Jul 2007
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They say history has a way of repeating itself.
The trustees, led by new chairman and Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry, are full steam ahead on the project. Final trustee approval is expected in September, with a plan to be submitted to the town by the end of October.
“The time of talking about Carolina North is over,” Perry said. “It is time to do something. It is time to get it on the ground before it is too late.”
N&O report from today’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting..
No more “time for talking”. Does that mean that the July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting is just for show?
As some of you know, I try to attend many of the local meetings that influence public policy. To date, I’ve been to most every Carolina North community outreach stretching back to 2005. I attended several of the UNC-LAC meetings and have watched those and the ones I missed. Arguably, UNC’s BOT meetings are as important to setting local policy – a shame that they don’t release a video or audio record of their deliberations.
I have had an opportunity to hear a little bit more about this morning’s BOT meeting and it seems that the N&O missed a little nuance.
It appears Roger Perry was asking the UNC staff to stop talking and start moving. I don’t know if that makes much of a difference in how that negatively affects community input – same effect, twice removed – but at least it is more polite than telling the community to shut up and go away.
Again, I wish I could’ve attended to hear the BOT for myself. I wish UNC would make a timely online record – including publishing minutes – available so folks like myself don’t have to wade through others interpretations.
Two years ago, when I proposed a framework for a more collaborative process between UNC and our community to work through Carolina North’s issues, several local political insiders told me I was naive and acting the fool.
Sure, I knew the history of our Town’s interactions with the University – that any discussion would have to involve five distinct parties – our local elected leadership, UNC’s Moeser administration, UNC’s Board of Trustees, local activists and Carolina North’s promoters. No doubt, that’s a lot of folks to corral.
A few months after the 2005 election, UNC did create a new framework – the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee (UNC LAC) – comprised of many, not all, of the community elements I had proposed. At that time I threw what little political capital I had behind the new UNC LAC process calling on our elected leadership to leave history behind and begin anew.
Enthusiasm didn’t equal abandonment of common sense. I was quick to point out (“Chafing: Prevention and Treatment”) when UNC started to fall back on old habits.
One of those old habits was UNC’s Board of Trustees proclivity derailing, at the last minute, the careful negotiations between UNC’s administration and our local governments.
Over the last year, the BOT did show a few symptoms of using the LAC process more as a public relations smokescreen than a new start on a truly collaborative process. For instance, when they introduced a surprising and disappointing fixed timeline before the LAC had completed their primary discussions.
Concern about the BOT was not limited to those longtime citizen watchdogs who have been participating in UNC’s new community outreach process. Jack Evans, UNC’s leader on Carolina North, has expressed his frustration with the BOT commenting one time that the Board wasn’t interested in reading a 15 page summary of the projects guiding principles.
UNC’s Board of Trustees was definitely a wild-card but the inclusion of BOT member Roger Perry was supposed to make sure there would be no surprises.
Then again, Roger Perry has tried to shut down discussion before, as I noted last September after this HeraldSun 09/27/06 report
UNC trustee and local developer Roger Perry said his sense was that UW-Madison officials essentially tell the community that the university’s mission requires it to do a certain project, and then everyone goes to work on preventing negative impacts, without trying to stop the project in general.
He said he’d like to get to that point in Chapel Hill, and that it can be somewhat “insulting” when someone not connected to UNC says they really aren’t convinced the university needs to do what it says it needs to do.
I said then
Roger Perry and the rest of UNC’s Board of Trustees absolutely must address the glaring absence of any reasonable, documented, calculable return on investment before I, a single North Carolina citizen taxpayer, will be convinced of the soundness of their plans.
So, as of today, UNC has approved a building design without producing solid documentation on the taxpaying publics return on their investment. We have a firm start date but little firm understanding of the local fiscal, environmental and transit impacts.
And, as some suspected, we have evidence that UNC’s Board of Trustees are not, possibly never were, interested in working through these key issues with community participation.
Carolina North, when fully developed, will rival today’s Hillsborough in size. I believe it will loom larger in environmental, social and economic terms.
Finally, as far as Roger, from what I’ve observed he is a patient man. Developers often are. If he’s frustrated with the pace, well, that’s forgivable. To use his new role to make haste, though, to an endpoint yet determined, well, that is neither prudent or supportable.