The Estes Dr./MLK, Jr. Intersection: Crossroads to Chapel Hill’s Future

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

The following letter does an excellent job summing up my reasons for delaying the July’s abbreviated community review process for the ciritical Estes Drive/MLK, Jr. intersection, the two congested transit corridors and the surrounding area which includes UNC’s Carolina North campus.

The current CH2020 proposal calls for us to plan in haste and repent in crisis.

This intersection is a bulls-eye for development activities and lies at the crossroads of competing goals: creating an appropriate gateway to UNC’s Carolina North, managing a critical transition point between Downtown and North Chapel Hill/Carrboro and East Franklin St., supporting the new transit framework for MLK, Jr. and acting as the template for the ring of development around Horace-Williams Airport.

In many ways, it is one of the most critical areas in Town and deserves a thorough, deliberative and broad-based community evaluation before moving forward.

The following letter asks Council to take the time to “get it right”.

June 23, 2012

Dear Mayor and Town Council,

We are residents of Estes Hills, Huntington-Somerset, Coker Hills, Coker Hills West, Mount Bolus and Coker Woods and would be affected if zoning changes are made to the Town’s land use map in our area.

The Estes Neighbors group strongly recommends that the CH2020 Plan expand the scope of the proposed Estes Corridor study to include all or most of the ‘MLK South future focus area’, and develop a robust, deliberative and broadly inclusive community outreach effort to build a consensus for managing development prudently within that focus area. Two hundred and eight of our neighbors have signed on to that vision.

By definition a small area plan needs to include a larger area than the small strip along Estes Drive. The Estes/MLK,Jr. intersection is a critical element of several overlapping concerns: a gateway to Carolina North, a current traffic bottleneck, and a key transition point between downtown and north Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

We recommended a focus area plan that covers Estes Drive Extension to Seawell School Road and MLK from Homestead south to Hillsborough Street, including Carolina North. Further, the focus effort must answer the following open questions:

(1) What land uses in this MLK South focus area are most compatible with the new Carolina North campus, the biggest change in our Town for decades?
(2) How will future development be effectively integrated with the Carolina North MLK transit plans to ensure continued mobility for residents, commuters, and transit access to Carolina North?
(3) How will the anticipated development affect our neighborhoods?

Summer is not the time for this critical planning effort. Many stakeholders are away on vacations, the Council is not in session, no clear process has been described, and not enough time will have passed for residents to have adequately digested the new CH2020 plan. Fall is a better time to start a robust, inclusive and sustained community process,
ensuring both strong participation and one resulting in broad community support. We anticipate several rounds of discussions and community evaluations of draft proposals extending into 2013.

Our recommendation: We request that the language making the Estes Corridor study a priority be removed. See p.45 of the Implementation Chapter in the June 25th DRAFT Comprehensive Plan.

Not only is this narrow strip of land an insufficient basis for planning, we also don’t know of any instance in the 2020 discussions where such a study emerges as a priority. We think it makes good sense to complete an integrated area plan for the MLK and Estes focus area before any changes are contemplated for Estes Drive.

In addition, we ask the Council that the final Comprehensive Plan contain a detailed process to develop area plans for all future focus areas, including:
(1) participation by citizens;
(2) adequate time to do the job;
(3) enough data to support assumptions and justifications; and finally
(4) how area plan recommendations will be turned into changes on the zoning map.

We ask that the area plan process be built in consultation with the affected neighborhoods, the University, property owners, businesses and interested residents. We envision something much more detailed and rigorous than the 15-501 south discussions, but shorter than the Glen Lennox process for all these areas. Development within each of these areas will impact not only the surrounding neighborhoods but all of Chapel Hill.

Thank you for considering these changes.

Sincerely,

David Ambaras, Mary Andersen, Stephen P. Berg, Kim and MaryEllen Biechele, Jill Blackburn, Watson Bowes M.D., Laurie Cousart, Rose Marie D’Silva, Glen H. Elder Jr, Verla Insko, Patty Krebs, Fred Lampe, Ross and Winsome Leadbetter, Emily Lees, Ronald C. and Sue Link, Julie McClintock, Sarah K. McIntee, John Morris, Priscilla Murphy, Nelson and Diane Price, Sandy Turbeville, Pat Lowry,Will Raymond, David Robinson, Steve Rogers, Gretchen Stroemer, Susan Swafford, Misako Toda, Alan Tom, Barrie Trinkle, and Cathy Walker

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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