Carolina North: Community needs to wake up and show up!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008


The Daily Tar Heel’s Emily Stephenson chimes in here (DTH ‘blogs). A story on yesterday’s poor turnout here.


Earlier today (Nov. 19th), UNC’s Board of Trustees approved the draft Carolina North design guidelines making the proposal official UNC policy.

This evening, the first in a series of informational/public feedback sessions on Carolina North was held. With the creation of the Carolina North development agreement well on its way, the Council’s explicit call to advisory boards to attend, if possible, and the aggressive schedule to meet next July’s commitment, I expected a fairly full house.

Crowded house? Not the case.

The meeting started with roughly two dozen citizens in attendance. By the time Jack wrapped his presentation covering UNC’s design intent the group of interested citizenry was down to 19. At the end of the Dr. Owen’s presentation, covering the development agreement process, only 17 non-staff/non-press folks remained. Of those, eleven were drawn from the “usual suspects” ( Fred Black, Joyce Brown, Fred Stang, David Godschalk, George Cianciolo, Lynne Kane, Mike Collins, Loren Hintz, Ed Harrison, Bob Henshaw, me).

Disappointing! As Carolina North’s development director Jack Evans noted this evening, the formal process for approval has begun. The first phase of Carolina North is on its way.

Chapel Hill residents need to wake up and show up.

Every resident will eventually be affected by Carolina North’s development. At least 5 advisory boards will be consulted on both the outline and details of the development agreement. Community groups like the Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (well represented this evening) could play key roles in shaping the discussion.

There is quite a bit of work before the community. If we follow Pal Alto’s trajectory, the development agreement – which is, as Dr. Owens pointed out again this evening, essentially a binding legal contract – could swell to 200+ pages over the next 8 months (that’s 25 or more pages of detailed legal requirements per month – a heavy responsibility). Those pages will dictate development over a long period. Once set, unlike zoning ordinances, the ability to tweak conditions requires mutual agreement. Mistakes could be difficult to correct.

The community has a tremendous opportunity to shape the outcome at Carolina North. Both UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council agreed to involve the public at every point in the process. But, so far, Chapel Hill’s citizens have not turned out.

The negotiations between UNC and the Town will continue to accelerate. The momentum is building rapidly. My concern is that by the time citizens go into reactive-mode – recognizing missing elements in the plan, trying to wedge in protections beyond those outlined – the inertia will be too great and the time too short to significantly change course.

Now is the time for public concern. Now is the time for community involvement.

Because of the extensive impacts Carolina North will have on this community over the next several decades, I’ve asked Council to “bang the drum loudly”, to go beyond simply inviting the public into the process. We need to seek out folks, develop multiple avenues of engagement and draw them into the discussion. That said, at some point it comes down to whether our citizens want to shoulder their part of the burden and work on behalf of folks that will live here decades hence.

Chancellor Thorp on HWA Closure: Not until we have to…

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

UNC’s Chancellor Holden Thorp takes a postion (“Carolina North: A Glass Half-Full Perspective”) on Horace-William Airport’s closure.

One of the most vexing issues, though, has been the future of Horace Williams Airport. As you know, it occupies the heart of the Carolina North acreage. It’s the flattest part of the tract and, therefore, the best place to build Carolina North. So we have to close it.

Now, I realize it doesn’t take a lot of analysis to figure out that closing the airport is important for the future of Carolina North. But figuring out HOW to close the airport . . . that’s another story.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this. The AHEC program is an extremely important asset to this University and to our state. Our doctors, nurses, other health professionals, and our MedAir pilots are as committed public servants as you will find. The work they do and the service they provide are fundamental to who we are as a university. And we are telling them that we have to close their airport to build Carolina North.

I have analyzed all the options, and I’m convinced that we really do have to close the airport to make Carolina North all that it must be. I’m equally convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. It gives the county zoning authority, and it turns over the siting and development to a public body with greater expertise than we have.

For AHEC and MedAir, I think a move to RDU for the short-term is workable. But for the long-term, we owe it to our doctors to appoint the airport authority to see if there’s a better alternative.

We have said all along that we wouldn’t close Horace Williams Airport until we had to. With today’s challenging economic climate, we anticipate that funding for initial Carolina North construction likely will be delayed. Our state appropriation for planning and infrastructure for the Law School relocation to Carolina North is frozen, at least for now. And Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., our partner for the Innovation Center, has put new projects on hold, although they have affirmed their interest in our project.

So, as I posted last night, the University maintains their stance that closure is contingent on Carolina North’s building projects moving forward.

I am disappointed that Holden continues to maintain that the only path to serving AHEC’s needs involves a new general aviation facility. This fixation makes no sense at this point and counters UNC’s own consultant’s recommendations to move AHEC to RDU.

Holden is “convinced that we should fully support the airport authority authorized by the General Assembly as the best way to pursue creation of an airport in Orange County. ”

Sure, the airport authority, with the sovereign powers the State granted it, is probably the best way to get an airport built in Orange County over local residents’ objections.

Where, though, is his concern for the Authority’s other duty – to factually justify the necessity of a general aviation facility? The Authority’s duty to “support the missions of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill or the University of North Carolina Health Care System” has to balance against the significant local impacts, the $60-100 million price tag, the infrastructure costs shoved onto local residents.

I applaud Holden’s willingness to engage the community in the discussion via his ‘blog. I wish other local officials took a lesson from him.

I already left him a comment on his post. I hope folks weigh in with their thoughtful and considered input.

Hat tip to Fred Black for highlighting Holden’s comments.

Carolina North: Nov. 18th Meeting Notes

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Tonight’s meeting (background) was well attended . Many of the folks attending were there to send the message “No Airport!”. Chapel Hill News reporter Eric Ferriri did a pretty good job covering that part of the meeting over at OrangeChat.

The Chancellor was missing in action. I think that is two of three meetings now.

The Council-Trustee sessions allocate two public comment periods, before and after the main meeting. Jim Ward, responding to tonight’s turnout, suggested doubling the time for public commentary from 10 to 20 minutes. I believe the 8 folks signed up had adequate time to get our points in (though I could easily spend a few hours going through the detail divergences in UNC’s proposals, ways to flesh out the development agreement, setting goals/metrics/methodologies to measure compliance, etc.).

After thanking staff for producing a nearly complete agenda a few days before this meeting (unlike the few hour lead times of the last two meetings), I took a few moments to ask some questions and add some suggestions to my earlier list.

CAMPO’s Racetrack 5 Miles Long

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

The Durham-Chapel Hill Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Commission (DCHC-MPO) has formed a special advisory task force in conjunction with Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) “to recommend a plan for major transit investments in the Triangle area.”

Their charter?

This commission will play a critically important role in the development of a unified vision for future transit investments in the Triangle area. The recommendations that the commission develops will be forwarded to the Transportation Advisory Committees (TACs) of both the DCHC MPO and the CAMPO for use in the formulation of their Long Range Transportation Plans.

Thanks to Patrick McDonough for the heads up.

Part of their agenda is to reevaluate the Triangle Transit Association’s (TTA) Regional Rail plan.

Though not averse to appropriate rail deployments, I’d like to see our community support the cheaper, more flexible Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) approach before plunging back into a rail-centric system.

Regional transit policy needs an “evergreen” process to address our community’s rapidly changing needs.

The commission membership has some real local talent, including former Council member Gerry Cohen (of the excellent NC Bill Drafting ‘blog) and Chapel Hill Planning Board member George Cianciolo (GeorgeC on OP).

Gerry kindly fills out the list of appointees:

Here is the membership list of the new 4 county transit planning committee, CAMPO are the Wake/Johnston appointments, DCHC-MPO are the Durham/Orange appointments. Bio sketches are from the staff memoranda.


Bill Cavanaugh, (Co-Chair)
Former chairman, chief executive officer, and president, Progress Energy Chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Member of the National Academy of Engineering Board of visitors at the University Of North Carolina Kenan Flagler School Of Business Advisory Board of Tulane’s School of Engineering Board of Directors for Research Triangle Foundation

Smedes York, (Co-Vice Chair)
Mayor, City of Raleigh, 1979-1983 Raleigh City Councilman, District E, 1977 to 1979. President of York Properties, Inc. Board Chairman York Simpson Underwood and McDonald-York Past chairman of the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry Past chairman N.C. State University Board of Trustees Board of Directors of the Research Triangle Foundation YMCA of the Triangle North Carolina Amateur Sports Trustee of the Urban Land Institute Founding Co-Chair of Regional Transportation Alliance

Tom Bradshaw
Mayor, City of Raleigh 1971-1973 Secretary of N.C. Dept. of Transportation, 1976 – 1979 Member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County Managing Director, Public Finance Dept., CitiGroup Global Markets, Inc.

Daniel Coleman
Attorney, Liveable Streets Partnership, Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association

Trish Dowty
Vice President of the Corporate Services Division, SAS Property, Procurement, and Logistics Management, CTI Data and Denelcor, Inc. Board of Directors, Cary Chamber of Commerce

Greg Flynn
NC Dept of Public Instruction School Planning NC Division of Forest Resources Architect

Mike Hendren
Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce.Board of Directors, Chair of the Government Affairs Committee

Jodi LaFreniere
Morrisville Chamber of Commerce President Member – Business Alliance Leadership Team Member Regional Transportation Alliance

Jennifer Lewis
Graduate Research Asst., Department of City and Regional Planning, UNC-CH Transportation Planning, Town of Chapel Hill Transportation Planner, The Louis Berger Group

Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair
Vice President at Large – North Carolina Electronics and Information Technologies Association (NCEITA) Regional Transportation Alliance – Vice chair of Regional Leadership Senior State Executive, VP Strategy & Implementation, Global IT Delivery – IBM

Mack Paul
Past President – Triangle Tomorrow Chief of Staff and legal counsel to Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker Associate General Counsel for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Warren Sawicki
Fuquay-Varina – Chamber of Commerce Retired Manufacturing Executive

Frank Timberlake
R.F. Timberlake and Company
President Carolinas/Virginia Chapter NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Association)

Ed Willingham
2006-07 chair of the Regional Transportation Alliance Executive Vice President for First Citizens Bank’s Triangle Region

Frank Price
President of F. L. Price & Associates Chair – Clayton Planning Board

Gerry Cohen
Director of Legislative Drafting, NC General Assembly Former Member-Chapel Hill Town Council Former Member-Chapel Hill Transportation Board

Tim Reed
Conservation Co-Chair of the Capital Group Sierra Club

Ex Officio Members:
Joe Bryan
Chair, Capital Area MPO TAC Commissioner, Wake County

Charles Meeker
Vice Chair, Capital Area MPO TAC Mayor, City of Raleigh

John Brantley
Director, RDU International Airport Commission member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County

Rick Weddle
President and CEO of the Research Triangle Foundation Vice Chair for Governmental Affairs – Regional Transportation Alliance Commission member – Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County


DCHC_MPO appointees (Durham/Orange)

Cassandra Atkinson, Ph.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration Director of Community Research and Technical Assistance Initiative Project Director, Transportation Management Bachelor’s Degree Program North Carolina Central University (Chancellor Ammons’ nominee) She has written several grants with the NC Department of Transportation and conducted research on transportation management needs.

George Cianciolo, Ph.D. (Co-Chair)
Member, Chapel Hill Planning Board Member, Chapel Hill Community Design Commission Former chair and member, Chapel Hill Transportation Board (six years) Former member, University of North Carolina Leadership Advisory Committee Associate Professor of Pathology, Duke University Medical Center

Carolyn Elfland
Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Services University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chancellor Moeser’s nominee) The University’s transportation planning, transportation demand management, and transit functions are within her area of responsibility. Member of the partnership committee that guides the Chapel Hill Transit system Represented the University on the 15-501 and 54 corridor studies

Robert (”Bo”) Glenn
Chair, Durham Open Space and Trails Commission Member, Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission Member, Tarwheels Bicycle Club Served on the Durham Housing Authority for over 20 years Senior Budget Analyst, Office of the Governor, State Budget and Management Former Congressional Fellow for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Portland, Oregon) Master’s in Regional Planning and Public Administration

Chris Harder
Vice chair, Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) Board

Cal Horton
Former Town Manager (16 years, until 2006), Town of Chapel Hill As Manager, he has been a regional leader on transportation issues.

Sandy Ogburn
Member of the Board of Directors of several organizations in the Durham community, including the Durham Community Land Trust and the West End Community Center Former member of the Durham City Council, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO, and the Triangle Transit Authority Board of Trustees

Bernadette Pelissier, Ph.D.
Chair, Orange Chatham Group of the Sierra Club Member, Orange County Planning Board Member, Orange County Commission for the Environment Former member, University of North Carolina Leadership Advisory Committee Ph.D. in Sociology. Recently retired from the Federal government

Roger Perry
Chair, Triangle Tomorrow President, East West Partners (member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Transportation Alliance) Member, Board of Trustees, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Served on the Board of Visitors of UNC and Executive Committee of the Center for Real Estate at UNC’s Kenan Flagler School Past chair, Triangle United Way

Mike Shiflett
Member, Durham Inter-Neighborhood Council, Northgate Park Member, Board of Directors for the Coordinating Council for Senior Citizens President and CEO, American Labor (member of the Durham Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Transportation Alliance) Member, Durham Chamber of Commerce, Transportation Committee Served on US 40 HOV task force, Durham Comprehensive Plan, Travel Demand Ordinance Task Force Former member, Orange County’s Economic Development District Transportation Task Force

Holly Reid
President, Board of Trustees, Eno River Association Co-Founder, Walkable Hillsborough Coalition

Sam Nichols Jr.
Senior Vice President, First Citizens Bank Durham Chamber of Commerce, Transportation and Economic Development Committees

Ex-Officio Members:

TAC Chair, Alice Gordon (Orange County Commissioner)
TAC Vice Chair, Becky Heron (Durham Coounty Commissioner)

TTA has entered the ‘net realm in soliciting community feedback with their online Design Game.

You can vote your wallet on transit priorities there through March 9th, 2007. The choices are a bit slim but at least you can lend your weight towards options you endorse.

University Station: “Absurd” and “Absolutely Ridiculous”

Monday, February 19th, 2007

The University Station project – a development hugging the South-side of I-40 on Chapel Hill’s North perimeter – is up for review tonight (Feb. 19th).

Local resident John Doyle called Townhall to comment that the proposal was “absurd”, “absolutely ridiculous” and emphasizes that he’ll “make sure” any Council members approving the plan will not serve again.

John, 2007 is an election year 😉

Other citizens chimed in [PDF] on noise, traffic and other relevant issues.

Concern is growing about imprudent growth in our NW corridor – folks are starting to organize.

I’ll be interested to see if the “rah rah” growth wing of Council shows a bit more sensitivity – especially considering the increasing role their buddies at RAM Development are playing to the NW – this evening.



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