New year resolutions?

Council meetings resume one week from tonight. Here’s a glimpse of what may grace the agenda in 2012:

Homeless shelter’s Good Neighbor Plan: A Better Site representatives are participating in the meetings, but IFC won’t allow the proceedings to be recorded. A Better Site wants teeth to the plan, consequences if the tenets are violated; a shelter advocate wants a plank that specifies no crosses will be burned on the shelter’s lawn. The lion may be lying down with the lamb, but as Woody Allen says, the lamb isn’t getting much sleep.

Development downtown: The bills are beginning to come in for the cost of cleaning up the toxic material on the 140 West site. What will this do to Roger Stancil’s every-penny-accounted-for budget?

Development on the edge: The Edge, a proposed commercial development north of I-40 and west of N.C. 86, will likely take shape in the coming year. Rams Plaza has a new owner, and another developer already has approached the town with plans to upgrade nearby low-income housing. And don’t expect Roger Perry to give up so easily on plans for a high-density, mixed-use development in Obey Creek.

Yates Building takeover report: Some in Chapel Hill were shocked by police carrying assault rifles to clear a building on West Franklin Street and arrest miscreants who broke into it. The town is investigating. Look for a report early in the year.

Water works: OWASA will finalize the planning for moving from a Level I to Level II Jordan Lake allocation as the back-up water source for times of drought. The board also will undertake a rate study and review OWASA’s salary structure this year.

CH2020: What do we want Chapel Hill to look like in 10, make that 8, years? The vision of some concerned residents will be unveiled.

New comprehensive plan: What does Town Council want Chapel Hill to look like in, oh, the future? Council members will begin hashing out their vision this year.

Cell phone ban: The National Transportation Safety Board has been urging states to ban hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving. North Carolina is considering the ban. But Penny Rich wants Chapel Hill to be first; thus, she’s proposing an ordinance that police say they can’t enforce. Oh, and she wants to exempt hands-free phones (what’s in her SUV?) and calls between parents and children, and spouses (a slap in the face to those who can’t legally marry).

Meet or tweet: While Rich recognizes the distraction some cell phones pose to some drivers, she and Donna Bell see nothing wrong with tweeting during council meetings when they should be participating in the meeting. Let’s hope they leave their cell phones at home during council meetings this year and pay attention to what we’re paying them to pay attention to.

Howard Lee’s charter school: Council doesn’t have a say in this, but because anything that happens in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system could affect housing demand, taxpayers will want to pay attention. Former Chapel Hill Mayor Lee has started an education foundation and has stepped in to help people frustrated by the slow pace of closing the achievement gap between blacks and whites. A charter school, to be named for him, would attract under-performing students, many of whom are minorities, thus draining racial diversity from the public schools.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. George C

     /  January 3, 2012


    I’d like to suggest a correction to your statement/prediction: “New comprehensive plan: What does Town Council want Chapel Hill to look like in, oh, the future? Council members will begin hashing out their vision this year.”

    Last spring the Council at that time put into motion the Chapel Hill 2020 process in which the citizens of Chapel Hill were asked to come up with a new comprehensive plan. The Council, of course, has the final say as to what gets adopted and they can, of course, reject part or all of what the citizens come up with. But I don’t believe that was then, or is now, their intent. So the burden of crafting a good, no excellent, comprehensive plan really falls upon the citizens/stakeholders of Chapel Hill. Hopefully those who haven’t yet gotten involved will have made such involvement their most important new year’s resolution. In June, criticisms and complaints from those who chose to not get involved won’t carry a lot of weight with either Council or those who did invest the effort.

  2. Terri Buckner

     /  January 3, 2012


    I would like to know more about what constitutes a comprehensive plan. In the past, it has always seemed like a land use document, but the 20/20 process is going far beyond land use. For example, in the Nurturing Our Community group we have a goal on increasing access and support for locally grown/produced foods. Community gardens do impact land use, but other aspects of the goal that we’ve been discussing, such as branding notice for restaurants that serve locally grown foods isn’t land use. From what I’ve read on the Buzz blog, others are addressing non-land use issues also. So is this really a comprehensive plan or is it a combination of comprehensive and strategic plan?

  3. George C

     /  January 3, 2012


    I would say it is definitely both.

    The Council and Town Manager are obviously interested in the CH2020 process providing the land use component of a comprehensive plan. The Council and its advisory boards have been struggling for several years now on how Chapel Hill should grow (where, how much, what it should look like) and a well-thought-out land use component in the comprehensive plan should provide that guidance to not only the Council, the Manager, and the Town Staff, but also to developers, citizens, and outsiders who want to know what Chapel Hill’s vision of its future is.

    But the Council and Manager also asked that the citizen’s/stakeholders determine what services/aspects of Chapel Hill they value, what things they could do without, and what things they would like to see in the future. And those questions and answers help constitute a strategic plan. Of course the questions and answers aren’t enough by themselves: as the theme groups have been asked to do in their work sessions, you need to think about why something is important (whether to retain or to acquire) and how you will keep or retain it.

    Someone asked the question in the last theme group work session I sat in on: “Is this a visioning exercise or a planning exercise”. My answer was that it is both. We first needed to establish the stakeholders’ vision of where we wanted to be in 2020. Now, as those goals are becoming defined, the theme groups need to make clear, to both the other theme groups and to the other 99+% of the stakeholders who aren’t at the meetings, why those goals are important. And then we need to determine how we can achieve those goals: what are the major obstacles (e.g., costs, regulations, lack of necessary technology [ies]). If something would be achievable only with new technology (e.g., managing our solid waste locally instead of exporting it) what is the likelihood of developing such technology? Can we utilize partnerships with the University to solve some of these issues?

    From my perspective the “how” component will be the most difficult. I’m confident that the theme groups are giving thought to the “why” component of their goals as they’ve been setting them. There will obviously be a lot of potential impediments to the “how’s” but I’m hopeful that the collective ingenuity, industriousness, and competitiveness of this community will not let lofty goals be discarded too early.