Julie McClintock presented the following comments on behalf of Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) to Council during Oct. 15th’s public hearing.

I had to chuckle when NRG’s request for an online progress tracking system stirred Council’s interest. Why? I proposed a work tracking system for Planning when I first got involved in local government 8 years ago (it was part of the “technology manifesto” I used to flog as old-timers might remember). The now defunct Technology Board not only endorsed this type of system several years ago but stirred Council to tentatively approve a move forward. In spite of an outside technology assessment that echoed that endorsement, there has been no substantive progress.

Over the last 8 years I’ve seen so many constructive, creative community suggestions bite the dust through inaction. I’ve also seen good ideas resurrected through repetition. I hope that NRG’s boost we’ll stir action this time around.

NRG’s comments:

Iā€™m speaking tonight on behalf of Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth.

NRG is pleased that the Town Council and UNC are taking a broad look at all the options in regard to the development of the Horace Williams tract and Carolina North. Considering the size, scope, and potential impact of this development, we feel it is extremely important to consider it in full context and to be willing to consider creative approaches. We look forward to the discussion, and would like to make a few comments for your consideration.

Community involvement and information will be critical during this process. Many in our community do not yet understand the importance of what you are considering tonight ā€“ potentially implementing a Development Agreement with UNC. To most, it is simply the latest of many processes involving the 900 acre Horace Williams tract. The most recent of these produced two useful products: The Horace Williams Citizen Advisory Committee Report and the Leadership Advisory Committee report. UNC presented a concept plan several times to the Town Council but no action was taken.

The Development Agreement approach offers both benefits and disadvantages. The chief element of this approach is that you will be settling on a framework which will contain specifics about the new campus, such as density, building types, placement, design and public facilities. While this approach offers many potential benefits, the main disadvantage is that once the agreement is adopted, it becomes impossible to modify or amend the plan without the agreement of both parties.

We are also concerned that the over-all process and schedule as recommended by the Joint Staff Working Group will be very confusing to the public. As we understand the proposal, we see two processes underway at the same time ā€“ one going on with the Trustee and Council meetings drafting an over-all agreement, and at the same time a series of text amendments working their way through Town Advisory committees and Council review.

Everyone is fully aware, especially in these uncertain times, of the need to get this Development Agreement right the first time. We are deeply concerned that the schedule may be too demanding and intricate for the public to follow and give meaningful input. It is clear that the schedule is currently being driven by a June 09 change in membership of the UNC Board of Trustees. However, Roger Perry stated at the September 25 meeting that the UNC Board of Trustees has already given him and Robert Winston the authority to represent the UNC Trustees in this matter. Additional new members are unlikely to depart from this approach.

Therefore, we would like to offer these recommendations to improve the process, should you decide to move ahead with a Development Agreement with the University of Carolina for Carolina North.

1. Input from public. During the next year, we recommend that the Council develop a specific and robust schedule for public input to your framework meetings. We suggest at least two public hearings on the progress to date on the UNC-Town discussions in order to provide greater feedback from the community.

2. If you decide to go forward with an Development Agreement, we request a longer timeline so citizens will understand what is on the table for public input. We urge you to delay text and zoning amendments until you and UNC are satisfied with the outlines of the plan. In past negotiations we have seen the staff undertake much work which was later not used.

3. Place on the town website a tracking and notification mechanism that will allow citizens to remain informed and in the loop as the process moves forward. This would be in addition to a notification and tracking system regarding ongoing development projects in general.

We look forward to sharing specific suggestions and recommendations as the process unfolds.

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