UNC researcher and Chapel Hill native David Schwartz turns his analytical eye toward some of the factors that may be fueling our mayor’s apparent urgency to approve Form-Based Code initially in the Ephesus-Fordham area. Schwartz realizes there is more going on with the Ephesus-Fordham issue than simply the mayor wanting to impress his colleagues in the Mayors’ Innovation Project, but there is a striking discrepancy between the planning procedure and outcome described in the MIP-funded report and what has actually transpired. Here’s what Schwartz has to say:
As some of you may know, Mayor Kleinschmidt serves on the steering committee of an organization called the Mayors’ Innovation Project (MIP). This group will be holding their summer meeting in Chapel Hill this August. In 2012, MIP awarded a $20,000 Technical Assistance Program grant to Chapel Hill to develop a form-based code for the Ephesus-Fordham area. This grant was used to hire consultants who, together with Town staff, produced a January 2013 report called “Form-based code guide: Making performance work for Chapel Hill.” This report contained many admirable and progressive goals and recommendations, almost none of which were actually put into practice; nor can they be found in the Ephesus-Fordham redevelopment plan (i.e., the proposed rezoning and draft form-based code) that the mayor is now pressuring Town Council to pass ASAP.
Here are links to 1) the application the Town submitted for the MIP grant and 2) the project summary.
It is clear from these documents that the mayor envisioned, and perhaps still envisions, applying form-based code to multiple areas of town beyond Ephesus-Fordham, and that the progressive goals the mayor and town staff advertised for this project, such as responsible growth, environmental sustainability, affordability, and community support, have been largely jettisoned in order to pursue the single very narrow, short-sighted, and ultimately unsuccessful goal of stimulating commercial redevelopment in EF.
It is difficult to understand why the mayor is in such as hurry to approve a rezoning plan that hundreds of town citizens and several council members feel is poorly conceived, irresponsible, and inconsistent with the community’s stated vision for the area. It may be that he is eager to be able to tell his MIP colleagues when they come here in August that he has “accomplished” the governance project for which the organization provided funding, even if the accomplishment resembles what MIP funded in name only. I suspect that if the mayor’s colleagues on the steering committee were to advise him in this matter, they would say that it’s more important to get the plan right — to first do the necessary infrastructure and fiscal planning and to craft a code that does more than simply promote further gentrification — than to get it passed quickly.
In the meantime, perhaps MIP should ask for their $20,000 back.
– David Schwartz