A local TV station broadcast the arrival of Air Force One on Tuesday and live-streamed the coverage to the giant video screens at Carmichael Arena, where a near deliriously happy SRO crowd in Carmichael and an overflow crowd in Woollen Gym watched President Obama step onto the tarmac and shake hands with various political leaders, including our own Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
Having the opportunity to chat up the president would be well worth the endless PowerPoint presentations Kleinschmidt had to endure to get to the point in his career where he receives an invitation to greet the president. And a seat on the aircraft carrier to watch this past season’s Tar Heel men’s basketball team play their season opener. What more is there for him to achieve in local politics?
Well, bringing to fruition a new comprehensive plan would be one thing. The CH2020 visioning process will soon wrap up, and its report is expected to yield more than just a building code manual.
According to CH2020 leaders who spoke to the Friends of Downtown yesterday, the report will delineate some areas where redevelopment should take priority, some places that should be left as is, and a change in the way we conceive of zoning. CH2020 leaders hope to move toward form-based zoning. Rather than leaving the council to fight over each zoning change, the new comprehensive plan would spell out what buildings in a zone should look like (height, massing, setbacks, etc.) If a project fits the form of that vision, the town planning staff can give or deny approval, and the use can change as long as the buildings don’t.
CH2020 leaders also are open to adjusting the rural buffers, which were put in place to encourage infill development and prevent Chapel Hill from becoming a mini Los Angeles.
Another version of the CH2020 plan coming out in mid-May will be more reader-friendly. Once a final draft is written, the council can vote to receive it (basically, saying, “Thank you very much, goodbye,”) or adopt it (giving it the power of a development ordinance).
Welcoming a new comprehensive plan may not be as thrilling to Kleinschmidt as meeting the president, but the crowds who’ve donated countless hours of their lives to the process will cheer every bit as loudly as those in Carmichael Arena when President Obama took the stage.
– Nancy Oates