Engage Now in the NC54 Planning Process

Given the time of year and Durham’s recent problems in protecting the Lake Jordan watershed, the fiscal impact of mitigating damage which might well be shared by Chapel Hill’s taxpayers, I was tempted to title this post “Trick or Treat on NC54?”

Even if the “development process is broken in Durham”, as LaDawnna Summers, who resigned from Durham’s Planning Commission over the Lake Jordan mess, it is important that both Chapel Hill’s elected folks and greater community engage directly in the NC54/I-40 corridor planning process.

Thirty years ago, when I first came to Chapel Hill, I drove into town on the scenic two-lane NC54 (I-40 from RDU on was still a set of dotted lines on a map). The beautiful pastured hills to the north are now covered by Meadowmont. The woods and vales to the south, by the Friday Center and office parks. And the majestic hill-side entry to the University? Now obscured by the “anywhere USA belt-line architecture” of the road hugging East54.

The process starts Wednesday, Nov. 18th, 2009 from 5pm to 8pm at the Friday Center [MAP]

What: NC-54/I-40 Corridor Study Public Workshop #1
Who: Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO), City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill
When: Wednesday, November 18, 2009, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education
100 Friday Center Drive Chapel Hill, N.C. 27599-1020

Fast Facts:

  • The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO) will host an interactive community workshop on November 18 to obtain guidance on developing a blueprint for mobility and development in the NC-54/I-40 corridor, a critical gateway linking the City of Durham, Town of Chapel Hill, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • The NC-54/I-40 corridor serves as one of the major gateways between Chapel Hill and southwest Durham, with its interchange with I-40 consistently ranking as the top congested location in the region. Development pressures within the corridor coupled with mobility and capacity issues have highlighted that the existing and planned transportation infrastructure is insufficient to accommodate growth and address land use and transportation problems.
  • To develop land use and transportation strategies to preserve this important corridor, the DCHC MPO, the City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill have begun a corridor study to analyze short- and long-term land use issues and multi-modal transportation problems, evaluate opportunities and challenges, and recommend short- and long-range land use and transportation solutions and strategies along the corridor.
  • The vision of the DCHC MPO is to develop and implement transportation plans that are multimodal and that fully integrate land use and transportation issues. To achieve this vision this study will:

    • Clearly define a realistic “blueprint” for an integrated growth and mobility strategy for the corridor;
    • Establish a development framework that strengthens multimodal travel options and reduces vehicle miles of travel;
    • Improve operations, safety, and travel time; and
    • Categorize strategies into near, mid-term, and long-term phases.
  • A critical component of this study is public outreach and involvement. Three public
    workshops will be held as a part of this study, which should be completed in June 2010.

    • The first public workshop on November 18 will present the community profile and
      solicit input on issues, opportunities, and trends to guide the development of future
    • The second public workshop, tentatively scheduled for late winter 2010, will evaluate
      alternatives and seek public input in the selection of the preferred scenario.
    • The third workshop, tentatively scheduled for spring 2010, will give participants an opportunity to review and refine the corridor master plan and provide input on setting priorities for multimodal transportation and land use strategies, implementation strategies, and phasing.
  • Once the study is finished, the final master plan will be presented to the local and regional
    policy boards and used to inform transportation/traffic analysis, land use decisions, project
    planning, and funding priorities.

    • The total cost for the study is $257,432 with 80 percent of the funding coming from federal transportation planning funds and the remaining 20 percent funded jointly by the City of Durham, Durham County, and the Town of Chapel Hill.
    • Residents interested in joining a group of citizen contacts for this study should contact Leta Huntsinger with the DCHC MPO at (919) 560-4366 ext. 30423 or via email at leta.huntsinger@durhamnc.gov. For more information about this study, visit www.nc54-I40corridorstudy.com .

More on Summers’ resignation:

From the Ray Gronberg of the Herald-Sun, “Planning board member resigns in protest”, Oct. 15th, 2009

A member of the Durham Planning Commission has resigned in protest of the county and city governments’ handling of zoning cases in the Jordan Lake and Falls Lake watersheds.

The member, county appointee LaDawnna Summers, announced her decision Tuesday night, less than 24 hours after County Commissioners voted 3-2 to remove watershed-buffer restrictions on a 165-acre tract off N.C. 751 next to Jordan Lake.

Elected officials in the process brushed off a unanimous recommendation from the Planning Commission that had urged them to keep the buffers in place and launch an independent survey of the lake’s boundaries.

Summers in her resignation letter said she had concluded from that decision, and an earlier vote by the City Council to rezone land in the U.S. 70 corridor for a new shopping center, that “our development process is broken in Durham.”


2 responses to “Engage Now in the NC54 Planning Process”

  1. Terri Buckner Avatar
    Terri Buckner

    I know this is silly, but I also miss the big blue tarheel feet prints leading the way into town.

  2. Administrator Avatar

    Not silly, it was a nice distinctive touch.

    East54 does have some merit irrespective of what I think of its look and feel, the way it has changed the dynamic at our eastern gate. Even if Council lopped 1/3 of the affordable housing component off of Phase II to take in lieu monies, that its Gold LEED (which it still doesn’t guarantee energy efficient), that it might eventually serve as a transit-based development, there are some valuable lessons to learn here.

    First, we need to improve community-outreach significantly. As you might recall, I’ve been pushing Council to invite folks not just within 1000 feet of these large developments into the process. That invite can’t be a simple notice to attend a meeting at Town Hall. For East54, the Planning Dept. should’ve taken the presentation on the road – met the public in places and times convenient to their lives – used technology to help visualize the mass of development within its context – engage frequently as possible.

    We are making some progress. The tracking system the TB talked about and using the Town’s website to publish specifics is helping (if you know where to look, that is!).

    Second, there continues to be a disconnect between neighborhood protections – like NCDs – and the approval of these projects. Part of the problem is we don’t have a cohesive vision of what Town should look like. Part of the problem is Council didn’t stick to our touted principles or consider the negative impacts beyond the property line when they wanted to satisfy the urge for mixed-use, high density, transit-oriented LUXURY condo projects. Where is the balance in that?

    There are a number of reforms and improvements we can make as a consequence of the lessons of East54 and Greenbridge. We need to do it soon so that we can apply them to University Square’s redevelopment and the eventual buildout of Carolina North.

    My hope is the Visioning Task Force will supply some suggestions for doing so – we’ll have to see if that really happens.

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