A Busier Week: University Square Meeting, Aug. 18th

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

In listing the roll of important events this coming week, I accidentally left out one that promises to be quite interesting.

Cousins Properties Inc., which is leading the redevelopment of University Square for Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings Inc., will host a public meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18, to discuss the long-term vision for the site and the proposed initial phase of the project. Representatives of Elkus Manfredi Architects of Boston will provide an in-depth presentation of the development plans, shaped in part by a previous public meeting on Oct. 15, 2009. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Suite 133-G of University Square, next to Ken’s Quickie Mart.

More information here.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this or most of the other events I’ve highlighted and will be relying heavily on our local media and hyper-local media (‘blogs) for updates.

The list as it now stands:

Coming Events: Summer Slumber? Not!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Summer in Chapel Hill can be somewhat slow as far as community initiatives. Council is on hiatus. UNC downshifts. Most folks have their hands full dealing with the heat, their jobs, kids home from school, vacations.

Summer, though, is not always a time for sluggish vigilance. For instance, I learned many years ago UNC’s favored tactic of launching potentially controversial development initiatives or making, quietly, substantial changes to existing development plans, during the summer doldrums. While UNC’s transparency has improved since the Moeser era, the record is sometimes spotty. For instance, as summer began the sharp contrast between UNC’s commitment to transparency during the Carolina North development agreement process and the quiet introduction of site proposals made June 21st to the Corps of Engineers.

While the cat is away….

UNC, of course, isn’t the only local institution to strategically start or stop potentially unpleasant, at least to the public, initiatives while most residents are off-line. The County, Town and other local groups have counted on a somewhat soporific citizenry ignoring substantial shifts in direction in the heat of the summer. While counter to the many pledges of greater transparency, the trick often works.

Mid-summer policy shifts, though, also happen as staff, freed from pesky community and elected folks intervention, make strides on the pile of work before them.

One good example, the local Municipal Planning Organization’s Hwy. 54-I40 corridor study, has moved forward at an accelerating pace. The MPO, a joint effort by Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham to manage regional growth, is formulating a set of development policies which will have wide ranging impacts on Chapel Hill’s eastern entrance (somewhat marred already by ugly East54, et. al.).

Public comment was to be cultivated during three outreach sessions but that input, at least based on my reading of the current draft, owes more to fitting public commentary to an established agenda than changing course based on valid public concerns. The clock is ticking on this initiative, which simmered during Spring and is reaching full boil now. Council will be asked to review the plan mid-September, and, as of now, hasn’t really set a schedule for Chapel Hill residents to weigh in (in other words, what is before us now might substantially be what is adopted).

While, at first glance, the Hwy 54/I-40 corridor study might seem a bit abstract, of little consequence now, its tenets will come into play quite soon when developer Carol-Ann Zinn pushes Ayden Court v2.0 this Fall. Ayden Court was a proposed development which ran afoul of fowl. Concerns about maintaining a local waterfowl conservation area played a role in v1.0’s demise.

There are many other pots simmering, some of which are beginning to emit steam.

Two meetings, the Glenn Lennox Neighborhood Conservation District which shifted from information gathering to its next phase and the presentation of the latest Campus-to-Campus Connector draft proposal, have already occurred (don’t worry, I made copious notes which I plan to turn into posts …. soon … ).

Here’s is a short list of coming events and meetings which you might want to consider attending as August speeds to an end:

  • Saturday, Aug. 14th, 11:30am-6:30pm. Rogers Road Back to School Bash. More here.
  • Saturday, Aug. 14th, 5:30pm-7:30pm. The People’s Channel Live from Carrboro’s Orange County Social Club. More here and WCHL1360 report here.
  • Monday, Aug. 16th, 5:15pm at Town Hall Council Chambers. Public Information Meeting: IFC Community House Men’s Shelter.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17th, 5:30pm. 1st floor conference room. Civilian Review Board Council Committee. Controversial citizen review board to monitor Chapel Hill Police Department.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17th.

    ORANGE COUNTY, NC – The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 during its regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Department of Social Services Office, 113 Mayo Street in Hillsborough.

    The Public Hearing during the meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the potential uses for funds from a possible one-quarter cent (1/4¢) additional sales tax in Orange County, NC.

    During the 2007 legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly granted county boards of commissioners the authority to levy, subject to voter approval, an additional one-quarter cent county sales and use tax.

    On June 15, 2010, the Board of Commissioners approved a resolution calling for a special advisory referendum on November 2, 2010 on a potential one-quarter cent (1/4¢) additional sales tax in Orange County. The November 2, 2010 ballot question will ask Orange County voters to vote either for or against a local sales and use tax at the rate of one-quarter cent in addition to all other state and local sales and use tax.

    It is projected the one-quarter cent county sales and use tax would generate approximately $2,300,000 for Orange County on an annual basis. If the voters approve the referendum on November 2, 2010, implementation would not start until April 1, 2011 and generate approximately $575,000 during the remainder of current fiscal year (FY 2010-11) that ends on June 30, 2011.

  • Thursday, Aug. 19th, 5:30pm. HR conference room Town Hall.Planning Board Shelter Committee.
  • Monday, Aug. 23rd, 5:15pm. Chapel Hill Town Hall Council Chambers.Ayden Court Development review.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

Community Oversight of the Planning Board

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

My previous posts tracking requests for information, feedback and general commentary to our Town staff and elected folks seem to be fairly popular.

I’m going to continue to post correspondence which might be of public interest.

The Town’s Technology Board (now defunct) was the first advisory board I regularly interacted with. The first meeting I attended was about six years ago (I was a lowly citizen then, not a member). I presented the group what I called a “technology manifesto” of proposed technology enhancements for the Town.

The “manifesto” outlined five major areas for improvement including cost saving initiatives, use of open source software, adoption of open standards, broadening community outreach via the Internet, tracking both the planning process and other relevant Town business processes, publishing Council and Town Manager emails, what is now called social networking sites for direct interaction between citizens and Town, WIFI to bridge the digital divide, public fiber infrastructure as an economic development differentiator, website accessibility, etc.

It was quite a list. The Technology Board seemed a bit stunned (or maybe bored) but, even so, they did me the courtesy of listening as I outlined my plan of action.

I continued working on those items when I became an official member of that board. Some of the initiatives have moved forward. Others languish. None have been completed.

One issue I brought forward was on-line video of Council and other important advisory board proceedings. Because of the sketchy minutes many advisory groups kept, I also wanted audio of all board proceedings.

When the Town lagged in their effort to put Council meetings on-line, I took it upon myself to upload (here) as many as possible. Finally the Town contracted with Granicus (which uses Microsoft’s proprietary technology) to do the same.

Now we have video (here) which is easily accessible for those folks running Winblows. Mac and Linux users are kind of cut out (see the problem with not using open standards?).

Anyway, long windup to another in a long line of re-requests. In this case, online video documenting the proceedings of our Planning Board (pretty common elsewhere, important when minutes lag Council approvals or don’t adequately capture debate).

Last week the cable-customer supported People’s Channel presented their annual report. As part of that report, they expressed an interest in doing more coverage of governmental events.

I sent this to the PC’s Director Chad Johnston Nov. 11th:

Hey Chad,

I’d like to follow up on Kevin’s comments last night.

I’m not sure if you are aware of my several year effort to get Council to broadcast advisory meetings, but I believe this is what Kevin was referring to.

In terms of priority, I have asked that the Planning Board be the first in line. As you know, the Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Many other communities already broadcast their deliberations.

Do you think TPC could assist the Town in that effort?

Thanks

Here’s what I asked Mayor Foy the same day:

Kevin,

Since you brought the issue up last night. As you know, I’ve been calling for more extensive coverage of advisory board proceedings for years. Priority one, I believe, is broadcasting and posting video of all the Planning Board sessions. This is quite common elsewhere. Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Beyond their process, which we could do a much better job explaining, zoning issues as a whole seem somewhat opaque to the wider community.

Televising their proceedings would go a long way towards involving our community at a point where their concerns can have the most impact.

I hope you will put this on a fast-track with Chad and company.

Thank you

To date I’ve had no response from either Chad or Kevin. I’ll update folks should I hear from them on what I think would be an excellent improvement to our governance process.

Broadcast Localism: More Fun To Be Had…

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Chad Johnston just posted this over on OrangePolitics.org about this weekend’s Peoples Channel fundraiser (July 21st, Horace-William’s House, 6-8pm):

Hey folks,

Just wanted to give an update on this really cool event! Food and drink will be provided by:

  • Benjamin Vineyard, Anathoth Community Garden from Cedar Grove,
  • Cane Creek Farm Pork,
  • Yugela’s treats,
  • Matthew’s artisan chocolates,
  • Sari Sari Sweets,
  • The Farmer’s Daughter,
  • Curryblossom Creations (Vimala’s food) [Vimala’s food!!!! Absolutely delightful Indian].

Now if food wasn’t enough to entice you, check this out!

Local artist Tama Hochbaum will be present to talk about her work, “The Way I See Us: Family Portraits” currently hanging in the Horace Williams house.

AND, Alan Toda-Ambaras will be playing cello…if you don’t know Alan, you’re in for a surprise! Here’s a bit from his bio:

“Alan’s performances have gained enthusiastic reviews. In Paris, he “touched the public and the jury” (musique.france2.fr). The Washington Post noted that Alan “has the poise of a seasoned performer” and “showed off his strengths convincingly in the demanding repertoire.” And another critic declared that Alan’s playing “proved remarkable by any standard. . . . Toda-Ambaras is worth seeking out and hearing.”

And I might add, he’s only 16!

So come on…eat some great food, drink some wonderful wine, and support local media and arts!

Hope to see you there!

Chad Johnston
The Peoples Channel

For directions and more information, look at my Friday the 13th post “Broadcasting Localism: A Peoples Channel Fundraiser”.

UNC’s Carolina North Lurches Ahead

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

[UPDATE] Allison Gunn posted the same notice over on OP, with this additional note:

“For further information about campaigns to alter the development, see the Friends of Bolin Creek website: www.bolincreek.org” .

Also, I contacted Tiffany Clarke to see if they could video the proceedings. She’s currently looking into that – maybe the folks at the People’s Channel could lend a hand?

[ORIGINAL]

I haven’t been posting much about UNC’s Carolina North project (note: new website:carolinanorth.unc.edu) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping an eye on recent developments.

For instance, reviewing in detail the Final Report of the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee [PDF] which will supposedly inform UNC’s development plans.

Of course, UNC might take advantage of Town Council’s recent leap from the environmental high ground, complete crushing of citizen’s concerns and rush to sprout 120′ to 135′ buildings Downtown to scale their plans upward (or downward in the environmental case).

The community will have an opportunity to review and comment on UNC’s vision over the next couple months starting March 27th (I’ll be in Nashville, unfortunately).

UNC’s outreach here is a notable improvement over years past – at least at the presentation level. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate the general community’s feedback as the project progresses.

Folks, the clock is ticking on this – the UNC Board of Trustee’s are rushing to a decision next October – so please weigh in now so our community can get the best result.

The University will host a new series of meetings about Carolina North for the campus and local communities on the last Tuesday of each month through May, beginning Tuesday, March 27.

You are invited to attend one of two sessions on March 27. The first session will be at 3:30 p.m., Room 2603, School of Government, Knapp-Sanders Building. The presentation will be repeated at 5:30 p.m. in the same location. Parking is available in the Highway 54 lot and Rams Head deck. The School of Government parking deck is available only for the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

University representatives will present potential uses of Carolina North and three conceptual approaches to its development. Attendees will have opportunities to ask questions and share comments. The feedback will help the university as it develops a concept plan for the UNC-owned property.

The conceptual plans that will be presented draw on the guiding principles developed by the Leadership Advisory Committee for Carolina North, an ecological assessment of the property and sustainability strategies.

At the same time the university is working on its plans, several supporting studies are under way or planned involving the campus and various government and community entities. Topics include transit, transportation and fiscal impact.

University officials believe Carolina North, the 900-plus-acre tract located about two miles north of the main campus in Chapel Hill, represents an unprecedented opportunity to develop a mixed-use academic community that will benefit the campus and the community.

The university’s Board of Trustees has directed the administration to submit a development plan for Carolina North to local governments by next October.

For more information about Carolina North, go to the website, http://carolinanorth.unc.edu.

Tiffany Clarke
Carolina North
304 South Building, Campus Box 4000
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-4000
Phone 919/843-2025
Fax 919/962-1476

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