Density, 2008

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

In forming the new Comprehensive Plan initiating committee, the Mayor studiously avoided recruiting members of the Sustainability Visioning Task Force who challenged the narrow approach foisted upon that effort by staff.

The concerns raised by those committee members (Sustainability Task Force: The Whole or The Sum of the Parts? ) are unlikely to be addressed by the currently constituted group.

Without those dissenting voices, the Comprehensive Plan Initiating Committee will most likely craft a process that is targeted towards a particular outcome rather than one that will illuminate and resolve the discrepancies and omissions in our current Comprehensive Plan discovered by that task force.

Those gaps have led to development outcomes which our community has found troubling.

December, 2008 the Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth held a forum on development density which highlighted some of the issues which have to be addressed in the new plan to meet the future needs of this community. It’s a long forum but worth reviewing to get a sense of the rising tide of negative community reaction to the current “rah rah growth at any cost” approach which has failed to yield the advertised results.



Easthom on Being a Good Councilmember

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Laurin, a sitting member of the current Council ruminates this evening on what makes a good Mayor and Councilmember.

Public service is not a right, but a privilege. Holding public office can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Being a good mayor or a good council member certainly comes by trial and error and by experience itself. The bottom line is to never lose sight of what drew you to the position in the first place.

Laurin, a one-termer (so far), is up for re-election with Mark Kleinschmidt, Ed Harrison and recent appointee James Merritt.

With elections almost 8 months off it appears that the jockeying for position has begun.

More from Laurin here.

Multi-modal Design I Appreciate

Thursday, February 19th, 2009


Today’s Chapel Hill News carries an interesting story from Jesse DeConto on concerns circulating around the misfire (not to sugarcoat it) known as East54. The story, which was as much about how the “dense/tall growth at any cost” Council majority’s vision is running up against reality, as it was the anonymous “I could be in Atlanta or Charlotte” East54.

OK, even though I wasn’t thrilled with East/West Partner’s “virtualization” of Chapel Hill, I did credit them for committing to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) standards (though Council wasn’t clear on what to do if the project didn’t meet those goals).

But does that justify such a pedestrian (to be nice) heap?

I expressed my concerns about the trade-offs – minimal setbacks, in-lieu monies instead of affordable square footage, height on Highway 54, traffic patterns, etc. – but was in the minority as the project sailed through an orchestrated “public review” (count me in as one of East/West developer Roger Perry’s “vocal minority” that unfortunately points out that the current sustainability political palaver is parading sans clothes).

Though the story tried to be balanced, it appears, as reported here to have raised the hackles of a few folks.

I understand the realities of today’s news media but I really wish the CHN had spent a bit more time using the “wayback machine” to contrast today’s political posturing from the more “veteran” of the Council folks (including those up for re-election) with what they stood for when they were more than happy to push East54 (and Woodmont) right on through based on a strange read of sustainability.

More on that later.

Bill Strom, following his usual strategy of playing to his “expertise” in transportation, said

“It’s a change in the development pattern, but the guiding principle there is that it is at a regional rail stop,” said Strom. “In order to get federal and state support for these projects, you have to have density organized in a way that promotes ridership.”

Yes, approval of that pile of nondescript architecture, looming over the Glen Lennox neighborhoods and serving as the “de facto” gateway to Chapel Hill, was justified by a rail stop coming sometime mid-century.

This is what passes nowadays for cogent analysis.

In any case, I’d rather leap off the train ala “Slumdog Millionaire” than alight on East54’s commercial doorstep.

Is there an alternative I believe is better?

Sure. Look east to Durham’s new multi-modal public transit station which will serve the Bull’s ballpark, the “white elephant” (Durham’s County jail), Downtown Durham and the American Tobacco complex. Downtown shopping, the Durham Performance Center and Theater, the Durham public library and Arts Guild is not that far away.

The glass heavy design (not sure the role environmental concerns played there) would not be fitting for Chapel Hill but every time I drive by the construction site (finishing this month) it seems like the unfolding design complements Durham’s retrofitted Downtown. Of course, like other Durham projects, the budget was blown – not unlike Chapel Hill’s Town Operations Center.

Central. Convenient. Complementary to its urban environment.

More on Durham’s multi-modal transit station backstory from the Urban Planet forums.

Dec. 10th: The Density Discussion

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

In my application for the Council seat, I called again for Council to sponsor a thorough, wide-ranging and comprehensive community discussion on development density.

How high, how dense?

Last Spring, Council decided to end their pursuit of high density development zones. We need to restart that discussion. We should take the recent work on twisting RSSC into a palatable high density zone and start fresh with the density discussion.

Our community might not embrace high density, but if we’re going to allow high-density development to go forward civic duty demands we have a clear, honest and open discussion among not only Council and those developers wishing to use a new zone but the wider community.

We won’t have to wait on Council to initiate that discussion. Dec. 10th, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) is holding a forum meant to begin a community conversation on acceptable limits to density and growth.

Dear NRG neighbors and supporters:

Mark your calendars for December 10, 2008!

Chapel Hill 2020: where are we headed?

Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth will hold a public forum on growth, density, and the future vision for our community on the evening of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

As our community has grown, the need for a community-wide discussion on how we want our town to look has become acute. More and more citizens are expressing uncertainty and concern about what degree of density is most appropriate for our community, and where the best locations for it might be.

NRG believes that our region will develop best if it develops based on a comprehensive vision that is understood and endorsed by informed citizens. The goal of this forum is to kick off a community-wide discussion of these issues. NRG will be broadcasting more information as the agenda and speaker list firms up. But for now:

– Mark your calendar for this event

– Please forward this e-mail to any and all potentially interested friends and neighbors

– Please send any questions to NRG by return response to info@nrg nc.net

Thank you, and please watch for more details on this important event!

Julie McClintock and Kristina Peterson

Co-Chairs, NRG www.nrg-nc.net (email) info@nrg-nc.net

Like they say, mark your calendar for what promises to be an interesting event.

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