The Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan

On June 25, 2012, the Town Council unanimously adopted the final draft of the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan.  

The plan and associated reports are available at or on the Council’s agenda for June 25 (with staff and manager’s memos)

The Town staff will share information about next steps on the blog and through town emails.  You can subscribe to Town updates here and you can follow the Town on Facebook and Twitter here.

Stay Tuned!

Earlier drafts and background information:

108 thoughts on “The Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan

  1. I reakly like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website
    yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plzz answer back ass I’m lookijng to construct myy own blog and would like to
    find out where u got this from. many thanks

    • In response to Dame Jane Goodall…

      Yes, hope is vital. But so is being intellectually honest and morally courageous enough to speak out loudly, clearly and often about what is real, according to the lights and science we possess. We cannot make a difference that makes a difference if we continue not to question the ubiquitously broadcasted delusions by the world leaders of my generation who are leading our youth down a ‘primrose path’ to surely precipitate the utter extirpation of global biodiversity, the irreversible degradation of Earth’s environs, the reckless dissipation of its limited resources and the destruction of life as we know it. The very thing our leaders claim to be protecting and preserving for children everywhere and coming generations.

      “The greatest danger to our planet is that we lose hope – especially if our youth loses hope. Because, if we have no hope, we give up and stop trying to do our bit to make a difference.” – Dr. Jane Goodall

  2. Sarah McIntee says:

    Steve S., Yes. Collosal is a good word for our situation. We are emitting our way towards increasing probability of collosal failure. We don’t even know the odds. Congress keeps zapping the satellite/earth monitoring programs that would help us to find out. Our prospects for warming is even enhanced by the earth’s place in the solar system, as they have recently determined that the earth is near the inside of the “Goldilock’s Zone” for habitability, making us closer to the prospect of becoming a “Venus” boil away situation than we should be. By adding CO2 to the atmosphere, we are hastening our having a Permian-Eocene boundary extinction, where we lose 90% of the species living on the planet. We are doing this more rapidly than any natural processes short of having a large meteor hit the planet. If you are reading the science literature at all, it is too easy to wonder how long humanity, and the rest of life, have. We could be selfish and realize that you and I will be long dead when it happens, or we could be doing our best to change how we live so that those living in the future have better odds, whatever those odds may be. Politically, the first thing a majority of us need to do is to admit that we do care about our trajectory into the future.

    • Somehow we have got to do many things differently, do them much more ably,
      and do all of them simultaneously, collaboratively and fast. Ready or not,
      like it or not, we are presented with a planetary emergency.This is the time
      for making necessary behavioral changes by thinking globally and acting
      locally. Science and common sense will give us direction. What we cannot do
      is sit on the sidelines. No, we cannot afford to sit this one out. All hand
      are needed on the deck at this critical moment in the history of our
      planetary home. Our generation is simply not stepping up to the challenges
      before us. The consequences of our failures appear colossal and profound
      with regard to the prospects for future human well being and environmental
      health. The very last thing a responsible person is to do in such
      circumstances is consciously and deliberately choose to remain silent, I
      believe. Are we not participants in and witnesses to yet another
      preposterous failure of nerve? When are the leaders going to speak out in an
      intellectually honest way and act with a sense of moral courage? How
      terrible are things going to have to become on Earth before
      the-powers-that-be begin to talk about and do the right things, according to
      the lights and best available knowledge they possess? Whatsoever is real and
      true must be acknowledged if we are to respond ably to climate
      destabilization, pollution, biodiversity loss, resource dissipation,
      environmental degradation and overpopulation,but the manufactured ‘nothing
      is wrong’ reality is well-established and those who speak truth to power
      are consistently marginalized and ignored. It is difficult even to imagine
      how much can be done in such unfavorable circumstances. Still our efforts
      are vital because the-powers-that-be are living in a fool’s paradise, and
      the stakes are such that the things that are not being acknowledged will
      likely destroy life as we know it on Earth. We know how to stop
      overpopulation humanely.The gravity of this and other looming human-driven
      global threats are understood and could be confronted with a long overdue
      determination to do what is necessary. All of the world’s human resources,
      including overrated intelligence and technology, need to be deployed in
      order to overcome the emerging and converging wicked problems looming
      ominously on the horizon.The-powers-that-be could save the world if they
      acted with the intellectual honesty, moral courage and power they possess to
      sound alarm bells, forcefully warn the world, and call out loudly and
      clearly for changes toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate
      enterprises. But most of the necessary changes are unlikely to happen,
      The-powers-that-be want to maintain the status quo, come what may. They lack
      the moral courage and the imagination to save the world we are blessed to
      inhabit as a fit place for habitation by children everywhere and coming

      • Good people of Chapel Hill,

        Please do keep speaking out. As the sages of old have shouted out to us in every present moment over the centuries, Speak out as if each of you is a million voices, for it is your silence primarily (not the dirty work of evildoers) that is killing this world.

    • The AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population was founded in 2001. Since that moment I have seen it as a moral imperative to continue the work I’ve been doing for many years now: getting the message out and explaining to as many people as possible that human overpopulation of the Earth is occurring on our watch, that it poses profound existential risks for future human well being, life as we know it and environmental health, and that robust action is required starting here, starting now to honestly acknowledge, humanely address and eventually overcome.

  3. Sarah McIntee says:

    Steve Salmony, et al, as someone who has followed Lester Brown’s initiatives with World Watch Institute since I was a teenager, I am quite aware of the problems we, as a species, have with over population of the planet. I am quite aware of the dominance our species, and the detrimental effects humans have on the limited resources on this planet. You are not going to find anyone more concerned than I am about life on this planet, which is EXACTLY why we need to pay attention to how each person used resources like energy, food, and water. I disturbs me greatly that we are not only poisoning the planet, we are warming it up. Reducing humanity would do quite a bit to improve our situation. However, how we use resources in America is very wasteful. We are destroying the planet by driving around in automobiles when we do not need to. I would like our growth, as a species, to actually be reduced from the 7 billion it is today. I would like our country to make birth control free and to make sure we encourage people to not have large families. That is not the problem here in Chapel Hill. Here in Chapel Hill, we consume more resources than most of the other people on this planet. The growth of the species is a different problem from how many and much of resources we each consume here in Chapel Hill. There are two basic ways to live in harmony with nature; the rural way and the urban way. There is no suburban way of living in harmony with nature. Suburbia is an artifact of automobile transportation. It is too wasteful to have a gentle footprint on the planet.

    The first way is to have a few thousand acre farm and with a village of about 50-100 people in the middle, where everyone works together as hunter, gatherer, farmers. Here in the village, they have to make everything from scratch. They have to compost and make terra preta soil to build up its nutrients. They are self-sufficient and do not depend on any outsiders for food, water, energy, clothing, etc. They stay put there, Nobody travels to other countries, not even to neighboring counties. Everyone is using animals for labor and transportation, with solar hot water, adobe bricks, and maybe a wooden wind turbine for a water pump. This is not unlike how the Amish live, for example. It is a valid way of living, but it is not anywhere near how we are living here in Chapel Hill.

    In my family, we do grow things in our yard, mostly wild flowers, and I occasionally make a salad of violets or nasturtiums in the early spring, but I am not able to grow my own food in town here. I do not make my own tools, I do not make my own clothing. I do many things, like cooking, from basic ingredients that I buy at a store. I sometimes can or freeze local produce and I often make my own bread–but I do not make glass jars, nor do I mill my own flour. I am not self-sufficient, despite the fact that I still do many things as a handy person My grandmother grew all her veggies on a lot next to her duplex in Philadelphia, but that was not normal urban living. She also sewed all of her clothing and baked her own bread. She did these things because she had to to make ends meet and she knew how to.

    The second way to live in harmony with nature is to live in concentrated pockets of humanity, in a city, where there are markets for trade to take place. Trade means that no one has to make everything themselves. Everything is shared, like in a village, but the larger network is what sustains individuals. People get around to obtain resources by walking, biking, and using greener technology forms of transportation, the greenest of which would be some kind of electric trolley on rails, with power generated by greener technologies. Cities are able to have advanced technology, like metal tools, ceramic dishes and bricks, libraries, cultural arts, and foods out of season. Trade is very important.

    The rural village is one way, the city is the other way. Here in Chapel Hill, we have to choose. If we wanted to become a village, we would kick a lot of people out, reclaim the land, give up travel, hospitals, and universities, to go back to subsistence living. I don’t think Chapel Hill can do that. I think Chapel Hill is a city. It acts like a city, albeit, a very wasteful city. We have way too much pavement here. We can’t walk to get all of our needs met, nor can we use transit to do our shopping. We can’t ride our bikes safely around town to get to doctor appointments. We spend way too much on everything because everything involves using lots of power, burning lots of coal..We should be using electronic communication to virtually travel rather than using jet fuel, we should be using solar, wind, and anything else that doesn’t involve burning carbon fuels.

    Chapel Hill is not a village. Chapel Hill is a city that needs to use its resources better. Fitting more people into town is smarter because it means these people don’t have to drive here every day to get to work. Density is necessary to make a more efficient city, one where we can walk to get things, ride bikes, use transit, use small electric personal vehicles using energy generated in greener ways.

    You and many others are confused about how we have chosen to live. We are urban people. We are networked with other cities, other countries, we like eating food out of season shopped in from elsewhere. If we are going to do that, we need to use less energy for shipping. We shouldn’t be using diesel trucks. We need to not be burning carbon fuels.

    I highly recommend reading the studies put out by the World Watch Institute. You should understand that we are economic creatures that depend on urban economics, not village economics. We do need to grow more food locally. We do need to learn how to do somethings ourselves, but we do not have to, and should not have to, ditch the economic and resource management advantages that urban living gives us.

    • Dear Sarah McIntee,

      There is much that you report with which I agree. We are not at an impasse. Much work has got to be done by individuals like you, but also by many other people working within organizations and institutions so that instrumentalities of governance adopt the kind of sustainable practices you are recommending. Because there is so much to be done, we have no time to waste. Ideas are good but actions are what matter now. We need action not only at the individual level, but also at the local, state, national and international level. This necessary work is impeded because many too many responsible people have chosen willful blindness and elective mutism regarding “the human predicament” confronting all of us rather than electing to speak out about what could somehow be true, according to the lights and scientific knowledge they possess. What is happening now here is not being sensibly acknowledged and reasonably addressed by virtually all organizations, including the predominant environmental organizations. The limits of the natural world and the necessity for human behavioral changes toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are everywhere ignored and denied. Business-as-usual activities that are marked by seemingly endless economic and population growth…at all levels… is extolled as virtuous. Consequently, human institutions cannot be changed and the challenges before us cannot be overcome.

      People in large numbers must begin to speak out regarding what they see. Most are not doing so. I have become scared of people who cannot see what is obvious to you as well as frightened of people who do see what is happening and yet consciously and deliberately refuse to speak out about what is occurring on our watch. Truly, this is the great tragedy of our time. ‘The brightest and best’, the silent ones, the ones with unshared knowledge of the human-driven aspects of the global predicament looming ominously before us, are failing science, the children, humanity and all that exists.



  4. Sarah McIntee says:

    Smart Growth has to do with how we better distribute what we have and how we use the landscape. It doesn’t refer to absolute growth of human activities in any shape or form. It has very much to do with concentrating human activities in order to become less energy expending overall. The growth of Chapel Hill is part of an overall economic trend to concentrate human activities to minimize our footprint in order to protect the rest of the planet and our future. As energy costs increase, assuming that we wish to survive and minimize our carbon footprint, it is imperative that people become closer together to minimize travel and HVAC costs. We do not have, as yet, in any abundance that has much effect, ways of traveling distances or heating/air conditioning buildings, that doesn’t require producing carbon emissions. Until then, humanity will need to return to pedestrian and cycling distances from each other.

    • Dear Sarah McIntee,

      We appear to be at an impasse. You seem to be unwilling to connect what is going on ‘locally’ to what is happening ‘globally’. The sum of what is occurring in the villages, towns and cities on the planet produces, literally, the human numbers, the large-scale business enterprises, the melting ice, the climate change, the Fukushimas, the oil spills, and ‘the everything’ that is destroying the planet as a fit place for human habitation. The Town of Chapel Hill is a part of not apart from these human-driven activities. You suggest that “concentrating human activities” will solve our local problems. I beg to differ. Such ideas as this and other ideas concerning “smart growth” are part and parcel of what is soon to become patently unsustainable, at on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth.

      Please recall a phrase that the United Nations and sensible leaders everywhere have been broadcasting widely for years. The four words to which I refer could be considered a shibboleth for humanity. They are simply put, THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY. Such a call for action leads to sustainability, I suppose. From my perspective, you are thinking locally and acting locally….. and, therefore, suggesting a solution that is unsustainable.


      Steve Salmony

  5. More than two decades of mounting evidence confirms that the existing scale of the human enterprise has surpassed global ecological limits to growth. Based on such limits, The No-Growth Imperative discounts current efforts to maintain growth through eco-efficiency initiatives and smart-growth programs, and argues that growth is inherently unsustainable and that the true nature of the challenge confronting us now is one of replacing the current growth imperative with a no-growth imperative.
    Gabor Zovanyi asserts that anything less than stopping growth would merely slow today’s dramatic degradation and destruction of ecosystems and their critical life-support services. Zovanyi makes the case that local communities must take action to stop their unsustainable demographic, economic, and urban increases, as an essential prerequisite to the realization of sustainable states.
    The book presents rationales and legally defensible strategies for stopping growth in local jurisdictions, and portrays the viability of no-growth communities by outlining their likely economic, social, political, and physical features. It will serve as a resource for those interested in shifting the focus of planning from growth accommodation to the creation of stable, sustainable communities. While conceding the challenges associated with transforming communities into no-growth entities, Zovanyi concludes by presenting evidence that suggests that prospects for realizing states of no growth are greater than might be assumed.

    The No-Growth Imperative: Creating Sustainable Communities under Ecological Limits to Growth…

  6. Steven Earl Salmony says:

    Dear Susan McIntee,

    Sorry to be slow responding, but even now I find it hard to know what to say next. That you do not see a connection between the economic and population growth in Chapel Hill on the one hand and the economic and population growth globally makes it difficult for us to communicate. We in Chapel Hill are human beings just like all other human beings on the planet. In Chapel Hill we consume, produce and procreate just like everyone else in the human family. I agree that growth is not evenly distributed. On the surface of the Earth, I see three worlds. An overdeveloped world, of which Chapel Hill is a tiny part, is one world. The overdeveloped world includes generally the USA, Western Europe, Australia and Japan. Next comes the developing world: China, Russia, Brazil, India and Eastern Europe. The remaining, mostly in Africa and scattered elsewhere comprise the underdeveloped world. Population growth is greatest in the developing and underdeveloped; whereas, economic growth is greatest (and has been for many generations) in the overdeveloped world. Pollution is least in the underdeveloped and greatest in the developing world now. But viewed from an historical perspective, it is the overdeveloped that has produced much more pollution than the developing and underdeveloped worlds have ever or likely will ever produce.

    When taken together, the population growth activities and the economic growth activities of all three ‘worlds’ can be seen as so colossal in scale and so rapid in rate of increase, that a planet of the size, composition and ecology cannot much longer, much less forever, sustain what the human species is doing worldwide. Outrageous per capita overconsumption and individual hoarding of limited resources, relentless increase in overproduction capabilities of corporate enterprise, and unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers that are occurring synergistically the world over appear to be reaching the point of becoming patently unsustainable, as I see things. Every person on the planet is implicated in this wicked situation. The human community is presenting a human-driven predicament to itself. Until more of us learn to “think globally and act locally”, the gigantic and complex predicament looming ominously before all of us will grow larger day by day, and more difficult to address and overcome, I suppose.

    I trust this comment is somehow responsive to your last missive.



    • Sarah McIntee says:

      All of this is true when you consider the world, countries, states, cities, etc as discreet, closed units. But cities and states are not closed. In this country, what is happening, and what will happen as power and fuel become more expensive, is a redistribution of the population, There wiill not be an absolute growth of the population unless we change our immigration policies. Even if we admit more immigrants, more of them will come to cities and fewer to farms. Farms are not requiring very many people to operate, manufacturing plants in rural areas are closing, people are clustering around population centers more and more. Plants that manufacturing will shift to be closer to shipping ports and rail roads. The next generation (which is carrying lots of debt and has less earning power) is choosing to move to the city, to apartments and condos, where the jobs are. This Triangle area, will have the choice between depopulating and becoming farmland (not likely), or becoming a higher density job center with urban living nearby. Because of the need for more public transportation in such areas, because all of our energy options are more expensive than they have been, there will be nothing in between higher density urban and very low density farmland and forests. Sprawl and suburban living will not grow as fast as more urban style living will. There will be fewer people able to afford the 1/3 acre ranch, and two income families are making less than they have been in the past. Yes, there will be some wealthier folks that will buy the existing single family home stock, but developers will not be building large tracts of single family homes with gas at $20 a gal. The higher fuel costs will force a tightening up of land use.

      You can’t consider Chapel Hill as a simple microcosm of the world. Chapel Hill will grow because people are wanting to move here, to do research, to teach, to work in a growing hospital. Considering that we are not housing all those who work here, this forces more people into commuting longer distances, which uses more gas. As gas becomes more expensive, people will be wanting something to live in that is closer to work and to shopping.

      • Dear Susan McIntee,

        Thank you for so prompt and helpful a response. I understand your perspective better…… possibly.

        Allow me to suggest that you and I are looking at the same ‘landscape’, the same world, but from differing scopes of observation. Imagine for a moment, Susan, that we are looking at a gigantic ocean wave, watching it move toward the shore where it crashes finally at our feet. The wave is moving toward us; however, at the same time, there are many molecules in the wave that are moving in the opposite direction, against the tide. If we observe that the propagation of the human species worldwide is like the wave and the reproduction numbers of individuals in certain locales are like the molecules, it may be inaccurate for the latter to be looked at as if it tells us something meaningful about the former.

        Abundant research indicates that most countries in Western Europe, among many other countries globally, have recently shown a decline in human population growth. These geographically localized data need not blind us to the fact that the absolute global human population numbers are skyrocketing. The world’s human population is like the huge wave; the individual or localized reproduction numbers are like the molecules.

        Perhaps a “scope of observation” problem is presented to everyone who wants to adequately understand the dynamics of human population numbers. Choosing a scope of observation is a forced choice, like choosing to look at either the forest or the trees, at either the propagation numbers of the human species (the wave data) or localized reproduction numbers (the molecular data). Data regarding the propagation of absolute global human population numbers is the former while individual or localized reproduction data are the latter.

        From this vantage point, the global challenge before humanity could be a species propagation problem. Take note that global propagation numbers do not vary with the reproduction data. That is to say, global human propagation data and the evidence of reproduction numbers of individuals in many places, appear to be pointing in different directions. The propagation data are represented by the wave; the reproduction data are represented by the molecules moving against the tide.

        In the year 1900 world’s human population was approximately 1.2 to 1.6 billion people. With the explosive growth of the global human population over the 20th century in mind (despite two world wars, ubiquitous local conflicts, famine, pestilence, disease, poverty, and other events resulting in great loss of life), what might the world look like in so short a period of time as a few decades from now? How many people will be on the planet at that time? The UN Population has recently made its annual re-determination that the world’s human population will reach 9+ billion people around 2050, and then automatically level off. No explanation is given for how this leveling-off process is to occur.

        We can see that the growth of absolute global human population numbers is about 8 billion people for the 150 year period between 1900 and 2050. Whatever the number of human beings on Earth at the end of the 21st century, the tsunami of human population numbers worldwide can be expected to produce devastating impacts on the number of the world’s surviving species, on the rate of dissipation of Earth’s resources, and on the degraded characteristics of global ecosystems. What will be occurring at the global level will also be happening locally, but not in a evenly distributed way. The question for us, I suppose, is, “How on Earth are we going to give the children a chance at a good enough future in the light of such circumstances?”



      • Sarah McIntee says:

        I still see you having trouble bringing the global issues down to the local ones. It is very true that we are an integral part of the big picture, and we face all of these issues as a country, as a world. However, this global situation means that we need to “snuggle up” to make room for growing the food and timber that we will demand. We also will need to tighten up so people do not have to commute as far so we can limit carbon emissions. Considering that many folks living on the coasts will be having to move inland, and it is likely that the rest of the world will pressure us into accomodating those people who have lost land to rising seas, we still have to plan for local growth while we are petitioning the world to restrict growth in order to save resources.

  7. “I’m continually stunned by how many seemingly sane people believe you can have infinite economic growth on a finite planet. Perpetual economic growth and its cousin, limitless technological expansion, are beliefs so deeply held by so many in this culture that they often go entirely unquestioned. Even more disturbing is the fact that these beliefs are somehow seen as the ultimate definition of what it is to be human: perpetual economic growth and limitless technological expansion are what we do.” ~Derrick Jensen

    What is to become of the world our children and their children will live in if their elders self-righteously march them down a ‘primrose superhighway’. Perhaps now is the time take a different path to the future, a road less traveled by toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises.

    • Sarah McIntee says:

      I appreciate your passion to save the planet, which is badly needed, but economic growth and economic success are always relative to the degree of demand and exchange taking place. It is not related to the managing of limited resources, keeping from poisoning people, or the adding of greenhouse gases. It IS related to the numbers of people on the planet in absolute terms, however, since the more people there are, the more total demand and total exchanges taking place, but, again, that doesn’t have to do with economic growth and success. The fact that we now use burning carbon fuels to generate out power IS why we currently have economic success because it is used for transportation, but once we do not use carbon fuels for power and transportation, economic growth and success is still going to happen. As long as there are people, there will be demand and exchange.

      • Dear Sarah McIntee,

        Please know that I am grateful for this helpful response from you. Let me begin by agreeing that economic growth IS related to population growth. I think most citizens of Chapel Hill and elsewhere would say the same thing. What I am suggesting is that human population growth has to be restrained and economic growth reined in.

        I do not believe, however, that in the absence of available energy economic growth will still go on. That cannot happen. If we do not have available sources of energy in useful forms, economic growth cannot continue. If we have more and more people relentlessly dissipating Earth’s finite resources and recklessly degrading Earth’s frangible environs, a time will come when a planet of the size, composition and ecology of Earth simply cannot sustain humankind, life as we know it, and the gigantic global economy. After all our fantasies, comforting myths, ideologies, unscientific demographic theories and economic models are given due consideration, we are left with knowledge of the world we inhabit, based upon the best available science. Virtual mountains of well-established evidence from outstanding scientific research by intellectually honest and morally courageous scientists like Galileo tell us no species, and no products of a species, can grow ad infinitum in a world like the one we are blessed to inhabit, thanks be to God.

        If we follow the thinking of those who say things like ‘growth is inevitable’, ‘we can grow if we grow upward not outward’, ‘growth is a choice among options’ and ‘limiting growth is NOT an option’, I fear our children will come face to face with some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage. The colossal current scale and anticipated growth both of the global economy and the human population appears not to be sustainable. If we choose to continue along the ‘primrose path’ we are traveling now as we “grow, baby, grow”, then it appears to me that much of what we claim to be protecting and preserving in our time will be utterly ruined for the children and coming generations because a “grow, baby, grow” approach to the global economy and the human population on our watch will likely become patently unsustainable soon, I suppose.

      • Sarah McIntee says:

        You are speaking to a long time environmentalist. The growth of Chapel Hill has very little to do with the growth of world population. Growth is not a uniformly distributed phenomenon. Chapel Hill is a place that many people would like to live, so there is lots of economic pressure for growth. For one thing, in order to save the planet from climate change, or at least minimize the damage, which is predicted to be very, very bad, humanity will need to coalesce into tighter, more efficient, communities, and fewer of these communities, ones that use less energy and less land. We are going to need our rural lands nearby to grow food and lumber. Right now, food and lumber are shipped in from long distances away. This shipping takes diesel and jet fuel, which creates CO2 emissions. The car transportation, especially for commuting regularly, can, and should be, by using less fuel per person. Sprawl development, which is at the car scale, needs to become urban and at the pedestrian scale. We need to tighten up and increase the differences between rural and urban. We need to improve the sharing of resources and tools. At the moment, there is a shortage of housing for all who work here. It is critical, to save resources, that we accommodate housing for those who work here, and public transit for everyone to get to and from work, Chapel Hill needs to stop the sprawl, the unnecessary travel, the wasting of land resources, and make public transit work. Considering that humanity and the rest of life is sitting on a time bomb of methane gases in the clathrites in marine muds that will be released as soon as the ocean floor gets warm enough, at which point climate change will be completely unstoppable, we need to change our density in living and our technologies, ASAP. It is certainly true that the world needs to produce fewer people and we need to use less energy, but that is not going to happen if people here in North Carolina and Chapel Hill live wastefully.

  8. With the understanding that human beings can undo anything we do, I too believe that “Man is the measure of all things.” The unacknowledged problems we have to face are our conscious failure to accept responsibility for what have done and our deliberate refusal to do things differently… and thereby move toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises.

  9. An example of Rachel Carson’s sustainable path to the future? Please recall her words: “We stand now where two roads diverge…… The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road-the one “less traveled by”-offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

    I fear we will not choose to take ‘the other fork of the road’ until it is too late to make a difference that makes a difference for the future.

    Sustainable Okotoks – The Legacy

    “Not far from my hometown of Calgary, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there is a beautiful little town called Okotoks. About 10 years ago, the folks there decided they were going to live within their local environmental means. Today Okotoks can fairly call itself the greenest community in Canada”…..Prime Minister Stephen Harper

    In 1998, Okotoks made a decision about its future, becoming one of the first municipalities in the world to establish growth targets linked to infrastructure development and environmental carrying capacity when it adopted a Municipal Development Plan – ‘The Legacy Plan’. In 1998, the town faced an intersection in its evolution. Dependant on the Sheep River for its water and its ability to treat and dispose of effluent, Okotoks could choose to continually “grow without limits” and align with regional development and access to regional infrastructure, or take the “road less traveled” and intentionally choose to live within the carrying capacity of the local environment.

    Informed by extensive public consultation, the high cost (a regional pipeline) of exceeding carrying capacity, and a preservation of a small town atmosphere value system expressed in a community survey, a community driven vision was created that chose to respond to rather than manipulate the environment to sustain our standard of living. A population cap at the licensed limits of the Sheep River aquifer (approx. 30,000) became a key feature of Okotoks’ development path. A build-out municipal boundary for 30,000 people was established. Sustainable Okotoks rests on four pillars that guide and shape a comprehensive and holistic approach to sustainable development:

    1. Environmental Stewardship

    2. Economic Opportunity

    3. Social Conscience

    4. Fiscal Responsibility

    The pillars work together to nurture what Okotokians have expressed desire for – a town that is safe and secure, maintains small town atmosphere, preserves and protects a pristine river valley, provides housing choices, employment opportunities and quality schooling, and caters to all ages and cultures.

    A comprehensive set of targets and initiatives were defined to ensure that our build-out population would be reached in an environmentally, economically, socially, and fiscally responsible way. Since 1998, more than 100 sustainability initiatives have been undertaken.

    The road Okotoks chose to travel was pragmatic, unique, and daring – and about much more than just a population cap. Today, whether it’s a more balanced tax base, broader housing choice, a composting sewage treatment plant, a reduction in water use, or the Drake Landing Solar Community, we can all be proud of our collective accomplishment: becoming ‘better’ not just ‘bigger’. Along the way, be it through several awards, acknowledgment by the Prime Minister, or the featuring of our community on CBC National, the sustainability torch we have carried with ambition and purpose has become a guidepost for others to follow.

  10. “Think globally, act locally” could be a shibboleth of humanity in these early years of Century XXI. Although not inherently unproblematic, local efforts to communicate about what is forbidden may provide a key for ‘unlocking’ the avoidant behavior regarding such vital issues as human-driven climate destabilization, economic expansion and global population growth. A ground up approach appears to be needed. There is woefully inadequate momentum building within communities to share an understanding of how unbridled population increase, endless economic growth and climate change are becoming manifest on the local level. Human beings can choose to acknowledge, address and overcome problems we have created. Of that one thing can there be any doubt? As citizens participate in local efforts to communicate openly, objectively and honestly, we also begin working together to create the supportive environment that is a necessary condition for confronting certain admittedly daunting ecological challenges and engaging in large-scale lifestyle changes.

  11. The End of Growth – Review

    On September 6, 2012 · 1 Comment · In Climate Change, Energy, Review, Sustainability

    Heinberg is good company as he describes the coming Armageddon; the financial collapse is not an aberration to be fixed but the end of civilization, as we know it. He expertly details the three reasons why: resources are running out; environmental impacts are approaching tipping points and debt-based economics fail under the inevitable strain of sagging confidence.

    Given the perennial problem of increasing population growth compounded by increasing consumption I don’t need to be convinced, I wanted to more rapidly get into exploring the post-growth world.

    Heinberg has to be thorough because he remains a marginalized voice drowned out against the braying of politicians and media who perennially obsess over increasing growth even as the impossibility is writ large in the world around us.

    Heinberg laments that governments want to return us to “a life of carefree motoring through anonymous suburbs” even whilst every day that passes and every gallon of fuel burnt is wasted if it is not preparing us for Peak Everything; the steady decline in supply of the nutrients of the conventional economy.

    From now on, to maintain and improve our quality of life, we need to be able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones without depending on mega-corps shifting the fundamentals of life (energy, food, water) around in the giant mechanical web of fossil burning machines which has, for this brief moment in history, become ubiquitous.

    Heinberg demonstrates that investing now in renewable energy, low carbon food production, and local resilience could avoid catastrophe but acknowledges that governments and business, trapped in short-term planning cycles, may drive ‘business-as-usual’ over the precipice of collapse. This is why he wrote the book “to prepare individuals and communities for what is coming”.

    The job of the informed minority is to have the tools, knowledge and seed ready to enable survival once our centralized, fossil fuel infrastructure splutters to a halt, and yet grass-roots, pre-emptive action should surely spread.

    “The end of economic growth does not necessarily mean we’ve reached the end of qualitative improvements in human life.” Indeed, according to Heinberg the single most important thing any of us can do to prepare is to go and meet our neighbors “the people you may need to depend on”. This is also one of the easiest and most successful actions we can take to improve our well being. The number of neighbours we know is closely correlated to our happiness levels.

    Heinberg cautions early on that his message may be bleak and yet I relished the realism and found hope in the later sections. At a time of ubiquitous debt, surging unemployment, slashed social welfare, and when nature’s agonies are muffled only by dismal and desperate, endless and empty calls for more; problems whose solutions require restraint, community building and a recalibration of quantity over quality my turn out not to be problems at all. Our planet is beautiful but limited couldn’t our economy be the same?


        Another Commentary…..

        In the title of his CHN Commentary, August 1st, James Carnahan states that “growth limit {is} bogus.” I beg to differ with him. Whether sideways or upward, smart or stupid. eventually the economic growth Mr. Carnahan believes can continue indefinitely will become patently unsustainable in a finite world like the one we inhabit. Please consider that Mr. Carnahan’s generally accepted perspective about economic growth is fatally flawed and based upon a politically correct misperception of what is real. What we know thanks to well-established scientific knowledge about evolutionary biology, humankind and our planetary home would lead sensible people to conclude that the growth ‘trajectory’ of human civilization cannot continue much longer, much less forever. Perhaps the force of evolution will result in humankind “doing what comes naturally” by continuing to overpopulate the planet and await the next phase of the evolutionary process. Perhaps the colossal, reckless and relentless expansion of the global political economy now overspreading the surface of Earth and polluting its frangible environment will be successful by “building up, not out.” But either way, I do not believe things will be ok. By following Mr. Carnahan’s lead, we are choosing the same old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities such as we see occurring ubiquitously on our watch in our town (as well as in many too many other places worldwide). And by so doing we appear to be choosing not to follow Mr. Carnahan’s own advice, “…we must create the most frugal kinds of habitats we can, else nature have its way with us.” Come what may. If we keep doing what we are doing now and getting what we are getting now, then I believe most reasonable people would agree that Nature will likely have its way. So we go down the ‘primose path’ toward a future that could be forbidding. No one would wish for what Nature may hold in store for us.

        Hope still resides within that somehow humankind will make good use of its singular, protean intelligence and other unique attributes so as to escape the fate that appears ‘as if through a glass darkly’ in the offing. In the face of all that we can see now and here, I continue to believe and to hope that we find adequate ways of consciously, deliberately and effectively doing the right things, according the lights and scientific knowledge we possess, the things which serve to confront and overcome the evolutionary and the economic growth trends which seem so irresistible.

        Somehow we have to grasp much more adequately the sum and substance of our distinctly human nature, with special attention given to improving our ‘reality orientation’ with regard to such vital issues as human population dynamics. Although relatively small in number, evolutionary biologists and scientists in other fields of research understand what the best available science indicates to us about the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers in our time. Research of outstanding scientists indicate that the population dynamics of the human species is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species. We have uncontested, apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome scientific evidence regarding the ‘placement’ of the human species within the order of living things that is denied; whereas, preternatural theories (eg, Demographic Transition Theory), political ideologies (eg, Conservatism and Liberalism) and economic theologies (eg, Neoclassical Economics) are presented as supported by science. To elect to extol the virtue of economically expedient ideas of ‘growth without limits’ that have been refuted time and time again by scientific research cannot be construed as the right thing to do. Even though what is ‘political correct’ predominates and is often automatically accepted everywhere as what is real and ‘all that really matters’, when theory, ideology or theology are directly contradicted by science, then the best available science must prevail. Scientific knowledge must replace spurious theory, self-serving ideology and specious theology.

        We have to think clearly and keep our wits about us as we move courageously away from outrageous overconsumption, unconscionable hoarding and big-business-as-usual activities to a way of life that embraces true sustainability. Perhaps necessary and positive changes toward more sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

        Steve Salmony

        Chapel Hill, NC

  12. Many thanks to Suzanne Haff,

    Let us imagine that ‘bigger is not best’ and that ‘more is not better’. If we do so, we can see the problem the current scale and rate of economic growth in Our Town presents to the preservation of the character of Chapel Hill. But what are we to do? Is there an alternative to economic growth? I believe the correct to the last question is, resoundingly, YES.

    What is required of us is a change in the way we think and act. We need to think of small-scale not large-scale models as we approve “development” in Chapel Hill. We would agree that the “build-out” of Our Town will make things that are better without making them bigger. That means corporate power would be reduced and corporate enterprises would be down-scaled not up-scaled. While economic development (that makes things better) will be pursued, economic growth (that makes things bigger) will be shunned. In order to maximize the sustainability of Chapel Hill, food and energy systems would be decentralized. ‘Buying locally’ would occur ubiquitously whenever possible. Other purchases would be eschewed, to the extent it sensible to do so. These changes acknowledge and begin to address the challenges posed to all locales by the end of the fossil fuel age.

    Chapel Hill is blessed with democratic and accountable citizen-overseen committees and councils. Everything that can be done must be done to empower citizen participation and diminish the influence of established big-business-as-usual activists.

    Thank you,

    • Amey Miller says:

      I am wowed and appreciative by/of Eben Fodor’s paper posted by Steve Salmony. Fodor articulates and encapsulates so much of what I have been struggling with in the CH2020 process. Thanks, Amey Miller

    • Whitcomb Rummel says:

      If you’re looking for a truly effective solution to the ‘growth problem’, I would recommend Jonathan Swift’s elucidating essay on the topic titled, A MODEST PROPOSAL. It contains some truly creative ideas on how to solve the ever-present problem of having too many people threaten our neighborhood sanctuaries.

      • Whitcomb Rummel says:

        Indeed I was, Mr. Salmony. We all need a little levity during these trying times, don’t we? Sorry if I offended.

    • Mark Schultz, Editor of the CHN, is asking this very day for comments from members of our town on the widely shared, consensually validated and, unfortunately, patently unsustainble idea of the inevitability of growth. Your perspective is sure to be valued.

      Thank you, Amey Miller, for such thoughtful and kind words. I want to affirm your willingness to struggle with the real challenges and to accept the clear and present dangers looming before us, the residents of the Town of Chapel Hill and the citizens of the global human community. Please know that Eben Fodor’s point of view and similar views of other scientists are beginning to be given the attention they so richly deserve. Perhaps there are enough people with clarity of vision, intellectual honesty, coherence of mind and moral courage to make clear how absolutely wrongheaded is the idea that the colossal economic growth we see today is inevitable in a planetary home with the size, compostion and frangible ecology of a planet like Earth.

    • Please forgive me, Mr. Rummel. Humor is a good thing whenever and wherever we can find it. But when it comes to discussing such vital issues as endless economic growth and the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers, issues many too many people choose to overlook or ‘forget’, sometimes I am not sure of what people are trying to communicate. Thanks for your comment.

      It appears to me that there are several things we can at least begin to think about: learn how to live without fossil fuels; adapt to the end of economic growth; substitute a steady-state economy for the one we have now; stabilize human population numbers worldwide; and deal with the relentless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the reckless degradation of its environs, the wanton extirpation of its biodiversity as well as confront other human-induced threats to our planetary home as a fit place for human habitation. In any event, I trust most of us can agree that stealing the birthright of children everywhere, mortgaging their future, and exposing them and life as we know it to danger cannot somehow be construed as the right things to be doing.

      We have to think clearly and as keep our wits about us as we move away from big-business-as-usual practices to a way of life that embraces true sustainability, I suppose. Perhaps necessary changes to more sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

      Thank you.

  13. Â

    The Norman Transcript

    June 24, 2012

    NORMAN – Editor, The Transcript:

    My opinion is that the current global recession will not end until human societies change. Very difficult, given the nature of political systems and the human condition.

    Global human population tripled during the 20th century and is currently near 7 billion. Human population diminishes the planetary resource base, increases demand and prices, and is a cause of the present global recession. Nevertheless, global human population is presently increasing by about 80 million annually. Norman and the United States as a whole have contributed. The U.S. human population quadrupled during the 20th century and continues to increase today. Norman’s population was about 27,000 in 1950, 52,000 in 1970, 97,000 in 2000, and was 111,000 in 2010.

    None of this population increase seems enough for Chambers of Commerce in Norman, in Oklahoma, and across our land. In The Norman Transcript on June 19th, John Woods, current chair of the Norman C of C, called for us to “build a community of economic success, strong quality of life amenities that attract the next generation of young professionals and families to help fund the critical components of our city that we all care about. We need to begin a dialogue…” This letter is an effort to contribute to that dialogue. My view is that we already have the above listed attributes in Norman and that CofCs call for more growth is detrimental.

    One of our City Councilors recently said to me, “If you don’t grow, you rot.” This reminds of another local issue, NEDA, which is treated here only by implication. In my opinion, the City Councilor’s opinion is true only for cultural growth. Human numbers and society are past the point that physical growth becomes detrimental. Furthermore, all forms of physical growth are not sustainable, though often so-called. Malthus spoke more than a century ago to an imbalance between population growth and food supply, an imbalance detrimental to human welfare. Forty-five years ago, Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb, and Hardin published a collection of numerous papers with dire predictions. These authors were not mistaken, but they were premature because they did not and could not anticipate effects of burgeoning technology, which has greatly facilitated extraction of resources.

    Technology does not contradict science; technology is science in application. The increased rate of resource extraction and still rising human populations are grave threats to future human welfare. But, what can we do? What should we do?

    One action that should be helpful would be for CofCs to renounce population growth as an appropriate objective and to devote their intelligence and efforts to formulation of a healthful alternate paradigm of true sustainability.

    Edwin Kessler

    Norman, Oklahoma

    • This reminds my husband of Jevon’s Paradox in economics , that increases in energy efficiency can actually lead to increases in total energy use, because effectively energy becomes cheaper.

  14. Sarah McIntee says:

    My preliminary scan of this document for any words implying an improvement in the aesthetic sensory experience in all of Chapel Hill turned up some improvements in language with regards to neighborhood quiet and tree canopy preservation, which is good, but there still could be more implying an active effort to muffle noise from speeding traffic and machinery, and reduce waste heat, from dark roof and black asphalt heat in all parts of Chapel Hill, and not just the neighborhoods. Noise and heat have increased several fold since we first moved here 27 years ago. If the community doesn’t make an explicit promise to improve these, countering a powerful trend that comes with growth, then we will lose our ability to walk and open windows. These are two aspects of the quality environment experience that can make or break the town’s attractiveness as a place to live as we shift to a lower carbon economy with higher density living.

  15. With all due respects to the members of the Planning Board and the
    time they have invested in this re-write, I hope the Town Council does
    not adopt these proposed changes. First, despite the fact that several
    individuals addressed the failure to recognize the role of UNC in the
    staff-version of the vision statement, the Planning Board version
    takes out even the few remaining mentions of UNC in the introductory
    material. Second, the 5 Big Ideas are a totally new concept and do not
    in my opinion accurately represent the entire plan. It’s rather
    presumptive to add something so new at this late date. But worse,
    while those 5 ideas may represent that which the Planning Board cares
    about, they are not comprehensive. For example, not a single one of
    the 5 issues relates to anything from the Nurturing Our Community
    theme group (or the Town and Gown group). In fact, there are no
    environmental issues represented in these 5 ideas despite numerous
    references to environmental issues in the rewrite itself. Now, I
    understand that some could say that alternative transportation is an
    environmental issue, but in the planning process, transportation was
    treated separately.

    More significantly, I think it is disingenuous to think that the land
    use planning and the policy review can be separated. Which came first
    the policy or the maps? (joke) The policies need to inform the maps
    and land use planning. And the land use issues need to inform the
    policy. The two cannot be separated or forced into some linear,
    parallel review process.

    And finally, removing the action items is offensive to all of those,
    including myself, who invested hours and hours of their time to
    research the details that add flesh to goals are are overly general.
    The actions, in many cases (not all), give meaning to the goals. By
    removing the action items, you have taken out issues that individuals
    care about–individuals who had not previously been engaged in local
    government. I understand that some of those items are not practical,
    but they represent citizen engagement and it should be a public
    process that removes or revises them, not a select group of
    individuals like the Planning Board. By removing the action items,
    you’ve also opened the door for re-interpretation of the goal
    statements in ways that may not even approach the original intent.
    Sticking them in the appendix is not acceptable.

  16. Whitcomb Rummel says:

    After reading the Planning Board Recommended changes to the May 16 version of the 2020 Plan, I couldn’t help feeling the board had taken all the wind out of the sails of positive change. It seems to me their ‘recommendations’ run counter to the whole spirit of what most of the 2020 participants were hoping for: a solution to the current quagmire the development/growth process is wallowing in. Indeed, most of what they’re advocating is just the same-old, same-old, wait-and-see.

    What a shame after so many citizens have done so much work.

    • Whit – Thanks so much for being so caring and involved. I’d appreciate it if you would list specifically what was there that has been taken out that lead you to this conclusion. I realize you feel dissatisfied with the (required by statue) Planning Board response, but I don’t know from what you wrote what you are dissatisfied about. What do you expect that you are not receiving? What is this wind that has been curtailed. Everyone is working with best intentions, so please be specific. Thanks

      • Whitcomb Rummel says:

        Susanne – Thanks for acknowledging my concern and involvement. In answer to your question, “What is this wind that has been curtailed?”,
        I refer you to pages 79-90 (Chapter 5: Future Focus Discussion Areas) where the board completely eliminated any “Action Steps” and “Future Focus Considerations.” Without these elements in place to help move the 2020 process forward, we will continue to spin our wheels without getting where we want to go.

        Proceeding with the Future Focus Considerations with all due dispatch doesn’t mean we have to make immediate decisions, it just means we’ll be able to provide the 2020 process with the information necessary to make intelligent choices sooner rather than later. With all due respect, it seems the Planning Board’s goal is to slow the process down with yet more mulling and marinating.

        I, for one, would like to see real positive changes introduced in Chapel Hill during my lifetime.

    • I would be interested what in specific caused you to feel that “all the wind of the sails of positive change” ben taken out. How do the :recommendations run counter to the spirit? In what way did the plan , before PB recommendations, solve the “quagmire” differently than after the recommendations?

      • Whitcomb Rummel says:

        Ms. Snow –

        Thank you for your interest in my comment regarding the planning board’s revised 2020 plan. Hopefully, I have answered your question in my response to Ms. Haff (above). However, I’d be more than happy to meet with you in person to review my thoughts in more detail.

        By the way, I am interested to find out what the final vote tally was after you met with the Sustainability committee. Though I could not stay for the entire event (I had to leave after an hour and a half), it seemed that, despite the concerns of you and a couple of others on the planning board, a definite majority of the two groups expressed support for the spirit of the 2020 plan’s recommendation to move forward with the Action Steps and Future Focus considerations.

        Thanks for any information you can provide.

    • Whit
      The future focus chapter needed to be edited because the draft language was not agreed to by 2020 participants — it probably came from staff or the consultant. Several months ago over 40 stakeholders petitioned the Council and Manager to remove the maps and conclusions from the Vision Plan because community discussions had not yet been held about the detail for each focus area. Roger Stancil, Town Manager, agreed to remove the focus maps from the plan.

      The Planning Board’s current draft retains general maps for the focus areas, eliminates conclusions not yet reached, and retains factual information about each area. Further the draft recommends that we move ahead with future zoning decisions with dispatch by setting up the small area planning processes. I encourage you to join in that process.

    • Amy Ryan says:

      Hi Whit:

      As a Planning Board member, I’d like to give you my take on some of the issues you raise.

      First, on our changes to the Future Focus sections: We recommended that specific development scenarios be removed from this chapter; we felt that the workshop that produced them was too brief to yield considered conclusions about how development should proceed in these areas. These discussions marked the beginning of planning for change in town, not the end of it.

      Note that we did retain all of the development principles for 15-501 South, the one Future Focus area that received extended consideration.

      These changes don’t mean we favor delay and inaction. In fact, we added lengthy sections at the beginning of the Future Focus chapter and the beginning of chapter 3 spelling out a detailed series of Next Steps for moving the town quickly into action to decide on change and growth in the Future Focus areas.

      Second, on how we reached our conclusions: The Planning Board worked long and thoughtfully to review the 2020 drafts and suggest ways to strengthen them. We had two extended special work sessions, as well as two joint sessions with the Sustainability Committee. Throughout this process, Planning Board members worked as a group to craft our recommendations, and our changes to the May draft were approved unanimously.

      Third, about your questions on the June 5 meeting: That evening, we shared our plan draft with the Sustainability Committee, the other town board charged with responsibility for the Comprehensive Plan, and their reception was very positive. I’m not sure what you mean by “a definite majority of the two groups expressed support for the spirit of the 2020 plan’s recommendation to move forward with the Action Steps and Future Focus considerations” – to my recollection, no one on either board criticized our changes to the Future Focus area text or our suggestion that the action steps be placed in an appendix until they can be vetted by staff, advisory boards, and/or Council. I know that the Planning Board supports these measures, and the Sustainability Committee’s comments indicated they do as well.

      The two groups did go on to have a very productive discussion that produced two important new additions to the Planning Board draft. First, we developed a list of “Big Idea” initiatives that embody common threads we saw running through the 2020 theme group goals and action items; we think that Council and the community should consider implementing them as a way of putting the spirit of the 2020 process into action. Second, we added seven new action items that we felt were missing, like streamlining development submission materials, improving town design guidelines, and creating a better system for assessing the impacts of proposed developments. There wasn’t a formal vote at the end of the session, just a collegial discussion and general agreement that we add the Big Ideas and the seven new action items to the Planning Board draft.

      While not everyone will agree with the changes the Planning Board is proposing, I can assure you we worked together long and hard to draft them. We took care to respect the work of the theme groups (and suggested no changes to the text of any of their goals and action items). We added some important information on our history, town character, and role in the Triangle region that was overlooked by individual theme groups with their specific focus. We think with our changes, the 2020 draft plan gives a clearer picture of who we are, what our goals are, and what kind of process we’ll need to achieve them.

      • Whitcomb Rummel says:

        Hi Amy –

        Thanks much for your informative reply. In reviewing the planning board’s comments once again, I can see that a number of positive and thoughtful additions were made. I understand that a document of this magnitude requires a lot of detailed attention from a number of different people and I appreciate the efforts of you and the rest of the planning board.

  17. Whitcomb Rummel says:

    It’s very exciting to see the plan come together like this. Now it’s up to members of the Town Council to help us move to the next phase of focusing on the future. If they put off making a decision before adjourning for the summer, there will be A LOT of citizens very disappointed and deflated, especially after putting so much time and effort into the process – I know I will be.

    • Sarah McIntee says:

      The part of the process when it turned to proposing ideas to make Estes Drive neighborhood safety problems worse should make us all consider the consequences of high density development that intrudes onto Estes Drive. We need to develop a small area plan that is intermediate to the neighborhoods, to commercial use directly on MLK, and Carolina North, and it needs to be done with great sensitivity towards enhancing the quality of our neighborhood. This requires more time and attention on this aspect of the 2020 vision. It is imperative that any new development be at pedestrian-scale, minimizes asphalt and cars and promotes bus and bike use. Widening Estes and putting more parking into development makes it much less safe, much noiser, and hotter, with fewer trees and more asphalt, and further deflates the values of property owners that already feel robbed from the overused road. On Estes Drive the damage has already been done. Can you imagine what it is like to be getting the mail from your mailbox while cars 6′ away behind you are going 40 mph? Do you know what it is like to be assaulted with 80 dB of noise from speeding cars, where you can’t hear what your walking partner is saying while walking down Estes Dr? Did you know that when it is 80 degrees under a tree in our neighborhood, the air is nearly 100 degrees over the sunny sidewalk on Estes Dr? These, and other problems, need to be fixed, not made worse by hasty planning.

  18. Whitcomb Rummel says:

    It’s very exciting to see the plan come together like this. Now it’s up to members of the Town Council to help us move to the next phase of focusing on the future. If they put off making a decision, there will be A LOT of citizens very disappointed and deflated, especially after putting so much time and effort into the process – I know I will be.

  19. Sarah McIntee says:

    There should be a definite description about the town shifting from car scale development to pedestrian scale development.

    The question is, given the need for higher density development, what does it mean that it be “pedestrian scale” instead of “car scale?

    There is certainly a big difference between pedestrian scale high density and car-scale high density. Pedestrian scale is higher density on the horizontal and the buildings are either not higher than 3 stories or wider sidewalks are employed with tree canopy ceilings are used to avoid the feel of being in a building canyon. Because of the need for large parking lots, the density is on the vertical, into taller buildings. In the later kind of high density, the needs of pedestrians are not accommodated.

    It is impossible to be green and sustainable without creating and modifying to be at a pedestrian scale.


  20. If we agree to “think globally”, it becomes evident that riveting attention on GROWTH could be a grave mistake because we are denying how economic and population growth in the Town of Chapel Hill cannot continue as it has until now. Chapel Hill’s resources are being dissipated, its environment degraded and its fitness as place for our children to inhabit is being threatened. To proclaim, as the CHN does on 5/20/12, that “the meat of Chapel Hill 2020 is, of course, growth” fails to acknowledge that the Town of Chapel Hill is already ‘built out’, and also ‘filled in’ with people. If the quality of life we enjoy now is to be maintained for the children, then limits on economic and population growth will have to be set. By so doing, we “act locally”.

    More economic and population growth are not sustainable because there are biological constraints and physical limitations on human consumption, production and population activities on the surface of Earth, including Chapel Hill. Inasmuch as the Earth is finite with frangible environs, there comes a point at which GROWTH is unsustainable. There is much work to done locally. But that effort cannot begin without limiting economic and population growth.

    To quote the CHN again, “We face a wide-open opportuniy to break with the old ways of doing the town’s business…..” That is a true statement. But the necessary “break with the old ways” of continous growth is not what is occurring. There is a call for a break with the old ways, but the required changes in behavior are not what is being proposed. What is being proposed and continues to occur is more of the same, old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the very activities that appear to be unsustainble. More business-as-usual could soon become patently unsustainable, both globally and locally. A finite planet with the size, compostion and environs of the Earth and a town with the boundaries, limited resources and wondrous climate of Chapel Hill may not be able to sustain the economic and population growth that is occurring on our watch. Perhaps necessary changes away from unsustainable growth and toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

    Think globally while there is still time and act locally before it is too late for human action to make any difference in the course of unfolding events both in our planetary home and our town.

    Thank you to all.

    • This situation is no longer deniable. During my lifetime, many have understood the Global Predicament we are facing now, but only a few ‘voices in the wilderness’ were willing to speak out loudly and clearly about what everyone can see. It is not a pretty sight. The human community has precipitated a planetary emergency that only humankind is capable of undoing. The present ‘Unsustainable Path’ has to be abandoned in favor of a “road less travelled by”. It is late; there is no time left to waste. Perhaps now we will gather our remarkably abundant, distinctly human resources and respond ably to the daunting, human-induced, global challenges before us, the ones that threaten life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Many voices, many more voices are needed for making necessary changes.

  21. I would like to see the 15-501 S Task Force findings, particularly strategies for countering/capturing the traffic to the planned Walmart at the Chatham County line. Is any information from the task force available and if so, where is it.

  22. John E. Schmidt says:

    My comment is about GPNS 5 on page 86 of the latest draft plan, and specifically about the long term action plan (5-10 years) It states:
    “Promote rental housing in all neighborhoods

    Consider neighborhood form/massing standards (applicable to all housing stock, including single family homes) rather than Neighborhood Conservation districts

    Revise LUMO to allow Bed and Breakfast Houses and short term (i.e. by the day) rentals of rooms and houses in Town.”
    This was never discussed or agreed upon in our numerous them group meetings. This is almost entirely devised and written by town staff, and was not a collaborative effort or concensus of Theme Group participants. This over-reaching by the town staff is written in broad and ambigous language and could lead to drastic changes in existing single family neighborhoods.

  23. Lynne Kane says:

    At the Aprll 12 Economic Prosperity 2020 theme group meeting there seemed to be confusion about what Form-Based Zoning means. I thought the separate presentation of Form-Based Zoning was excellent and very much what makes sense for a municipality.

    I and Desiree Goldman spoke most about Form-Based Zoning as a goal for Economic Prosperity. It means establishing areas where specific kinds of development are designated: mixed-use, dense commercial, perhaps light industry, whatever fits best. The Town would also establish the square footage and height maximums acceptable in each development area, so that people proposing projects could meet those standards and then work with staff to refine their specific plans, working with people who understand the issues involved such as construction costs, financing arrangement deadlines, availability of energy-efficiency rebates, etc. A businessman in our group commented that businesses rely on “predictability.”

    Desiree Goldman summarized that there are two aspects of predictability that need attention in Chapel Hill: new Form-Based Zoning and a further-streamlined permitting process. Gary Saleeby reminded us that we have heard the generally acceptable timeframe for project permits is 18 months. Chapel Hill often goes into 2 and up to 7 years.

    Lynne Kane recalled taking an OLLI retiree course at Duke with Downtown Durham, Inc. Chairman Bill Kalkhof, who described how he got Durham’s downtown redeveloped by identifying needs for revitalization into large areas and then subdividing them into manageable sub-areas to which he recruited businesses. When one area was up and running, he moved on to the next. Downtown Durham has achieved several vibrant locations full of residents and businesses, and even performance areas, in just a few years.

    This is the same approach Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett has presented to Chapel Hill, and it will work if the anti-business customary petitioners are not allowed to dominate the discussion for further years.

    The areas that Bassett and our current urban redevelopment consultants have identified in Chapel Hill may need more discussion about the specific Form-Based Zoning desirable for each area, but the concept, along with a streamlined permit process, will enhance the goods and services available here and capture more of the commercial traffic dollars passing through Chapel Hill.

    Desiree ended with the observation that even Asheville is using this approach, which is the 21st century model.

    Lynne Kane

    • Fed-up taxpayer says:

      Chapel Hill doesn’t have the level of devitalisation that Durham has suffered, and therefore doesn’t have those kind of blighted areas amenable to reurbanisation (like the Tobacco Campus). Dwight Bassett was all about enabling builders to more easily request exceptions to zoning rules on properties they had bought. If any one person can be said to have been anti-business, it is Dwight Bassett who enabled Chapel Hill’s leading properties to go tax-exempt in the weeks he was interviewing for the Raleigh job he took.

      • Dear Fed-up taxpayer,
        I’d like you to talk further about why you thought Dwight Bassett was anti-business. I don’t have enough of a background and would like examples of what you are talking about so I can better understand your email.
        Thanks, Suzanne Haff

      • I would appreciate an update on the 15-501 South task force’s discussion and findings. There is a sense of urgency for development in this corridor with the planned Walmart at the Chatham County line. What has the task force come up with vis a vis strategies to counter/capture/build on the traffic and shoppers to Walmart?

  24. Building on the tour bus for locals idea, why not make site visits to existing residential and mixed use developments to observe design and architecural features and also how they are used by people. Lets walk around Glen Lennox, East 54, Meadowmont, Southern Village, Northside and Lake Hogan to compare features that we like and that work to promote and support walkability, access to amenities, sustainability, smart growth and neighborliness.

  25. mjsorrell says:

    I find it confusing that postings to the “Web Comment Form” in green, near the beginning of this section, do not appear here on the blog. Where do these comments go? I have a tracking number for my comment so I can see that it was logged, though it has not received any response.
    Is there a place where such comments on the draft plan can be seen? Can we make this clear to other stakeholders – if you want to join a “conversation” post to 2020 BUZZ (all the way to the bottom of the page) rather than to the “Web Comment Form.”
    Am I missing something here?

  26. Faith M. Thompson says:

    As I attempted to gather some goodies for my family this past weekend, a woman approached me and asked if i was the Community 2020 lady (don’t laugh, I’ve been called worse). I responded that I was and asked how could I help her. She wanted to know how she could ask a question for the 2020 team. (Note to self: keep comment cards on person at all times). I shared that I would take her question back to the planning committee.

    She stated that she has lived in Chapel Hill for over 20 years but has pretty much stayed in the same area of town that entire time. She wanted to know if the planning team arrange a bus tour of the 5 small discussion areas that were the subject of the Future Focus so that she could know what all of the hulla-balloo (her words, not mine) was about.

    She said that she is not good with maps and not having been to many of these areas, she does not have a good feel to make guesses about what would work development wise.

    • I would like to see us focus on the areas of town were there is general agreement these areas are ripe for redevelopment, such as Downtown, and Rams Plaza. How much additional commercial space will those projects bring us? We need to answer some critical data questions before we think about bus tours to additional areas of Town: To what extent will new commercial development improve our economy? How much new retail and commercial can our Town absorb? How much multifamily do we need?

  27. Lynne Kane says:

    First, my correction to some criticisms of the Co-Chairs of Chapel Hill 2020 and the Theme Group leaders. Rosemary Waldorf and George Cianciolo have broad experience with Chapel Hill and have shown endless patience and diplomacy. I’ve sat in on 2 or 3 of the Theme Groups at various times and my observation is that the group leaders are even-handed in their comments and access to talking time. Most important, the focus has been on the future and not on recreating a 19th or 20th century town which does not exist.
    I hope most of those with the time to participate in Chapel Hill 2020 have read mark Zimmerman’s “My View” column, Page 1 in the 4-4-2012 Chapel Hill News this week. He gives much-deserved credit to the achievements of Dwight Bassett, our Economic Development Officer who has left for a similar position in Raleigh. Mr. Zimmerman is reserved in pointing out how hard it is to get change in Chapel Hill despite a lack of economic investment here to serve the local population and travelers/commuters.
    Less credibly, Carrboro resident Chas Gaertner has a Guest Column in the same CHN issue Wed. calling the Lot 5 revitalization, finally being built as 140 West, a “regret” for our town. Mr. Gaertner obviously does not know any of the long, costly and misguided Town Council planning before that area was redesigned as an economically viable place. Most disturbing is Mr. Gaertner’s regret that our limited Downtown does not mimic Charleston, SC and the “glorious Marion Square Park.”
    First, Franklin-Rosemary Streets run into Carrboro’s Weaver St. with Weaver St. Market’s oft-visited grassy gathering space. Second, we have McCorkle Place an equal distance in the other direction. Third, for those who crave only vegetation, Coker Arboretum and The Forest Theater are nearby also. Fourth, and most important, too many criticisms of this predictable sort make evident the huge lack of understanding of what it takes for a municipality to pay for places and employees (including cleaning crews and gardening maintenance): business taxes should bring in more than residential property taxes while supplying real needs of residents and repaying the business investors their money/assets risked in opening a business. Mr. Gaertner tellingly ends with a suggestion that Chapel Hill residents can easily go the short distance to enjoy Carrboro’s businesses. Even as regional planning gains momentum, Chapel Hill needs its own goods and services.
    I also remind those who apparently never attend night performances or shop for physical objects, the most vibrant additions to municipal life require good roads and parking. Public transit can serve large numbers of people who work 5-6 days a week at predictable hours so they can become familiar with the transit schedule that will serve them coming and going. However, shoppers and entertainment seekers and families with young children will go where they can travel in a personal vehicle at their own convenient times.

    • Actually, we should be encouraging people to visit downtown via public transit, and we should make bus route and system maps available at as many bus stops as possible. Unfortunately, the user-unfriendly nature of the town’s bus stops (little information on destinations or routes) and the town’s website (tiny maps, and routes listed only by letter names as opposed to their termini and main roads traveled) tends to discourage increased ridership and drives up the demand for parking downtown.

      Public transit builds communities. Lots of atomized families in their own vehicles creates congestion.

      • I agree that access to downtown via public transit should be encouraged. One of the issues is that when most chapel hill resident’s would be visiting downtown, evening and weekends, the transit system is weak…and increases in walkability and bikeability are also needed. Further, there should be better shopping areas in the downtown that are suitable for all residents of chapel hill (not just costly, high-priced, specialty products that currently exist downtown) some ideas would be major chain stores like an apple store, pier one, pottery barn, old navy, hallmark, barnes and nobles / relocate bookstore near foster’s market, etc). Right now people are coming to downtown just to eat, adding shopping would be a nice touch.

  28. I agree that the Future Focus charrettes for development along the 5 corridors needs another look in conjunction with the remaining 75% of Chapel Hill for a more holistic land use plan. I would like to see a charrette on the historic districts to explore the potential for revitalization, to benefit long-term residents and also for new people looking for housing at diverse costs and styles in an already established area.

    While I tentatively support a certain amount of new mixed used, medium density development along the 5 corridors, congestion will ensue if not coupled with convenient, frequent and safe public transit. Innovative and attractive design and architecture, appropriate scale and artful mix of uses are also paramount if we are to avoid the “blight of monotony” of so many of these mixed use projects.

    • Michael Parker says:

      Building on the previous comment, I urge that we move away from the mixed use developments which have characterized so much of our recent development — and which are little more than shopping malls with housing — and go back to the creation of true neighborhoods. These neighborhoods would have actual streets, residential areas and shopping areas, and be highly walkable and “bikeable,” going back to what Chapel Hill used to be like.

      • Chris Jones says:

        “These neighborhoods would have actual streets, residential areas and shopping areas, and be highly walkable and “bikeable,” going back to what Chapel Hill used to be like.”

        Michael, would you mind clarifying further? 1) I’m not exactly sure how your description above differs from “mixed use development”; 2) in my 23 years in Chapel Hill, I’m not sure I can remember a neighborhood that meets your description, other than the “mixed use developments” – how far back to we need to go to get to what Chapel Hill used to be like?

      • Michael Parker says:

        I was referring to what Downtown used to be (and, perhaps, can be again), when there were Belk’s, Fowlers, a gas station, and the like there. Glen Lenox has many of those features today. And it is what Southern Village aspired to.

  29. Lynne Kane says:

    The Greenways Commission comments on style matters are useful. However, at #6, the call to increase environmental emphasis and focus on environmental protection would continue the overemphasis of the controlling political machine in Chapel Hill and would continue to prohibit the “balance” of economic development with environmental protection, a balance which Chapel Hill has lacked for over a decade.
    Identifying all town “assets” is essential to correct the extreme imbalance of attention to natural areas with the great inattention to developing a sustainable economic base.
    I repeat that the Vision statement should include nurturing community access to the intellectual stimulation provided by our university. This is missing in almost all discussions while it is the unique appeal of Chapel Hill. Trees, parks and water features are available here and elsewhere in the Triangle and all over the U.S.
    The Greenway Commission comment that the “primary focus should be on infrastructure that supports walking, bicycling and transit” is way off the mark to balance with economic development. Roads should NOT “be only a secondary focus.” Chris Berndt led the numerous Lot 5 redevelopment meetings some 8 years ago when the Town Council Committee insisted on “a car-free Downtown” and a design that almost no one would bid on. Hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars were wasted by objecting to an experienced national consultant’s advice, followed by a total redesign by NCSU Dean of Architecture Marvin Malecha. Finally, 140 West mixed use building to enliven both Franklin and Rosemary Streets is being built with underground parking.
    In addition to the imperative of parking adjacent to businesses, people knowledgeable about city planning are pointing out that Chatham County development will bring many more vehicles through Chapel Hill and that good sense captures some of the money spent by creating commerce and parking around transportation corridors here. Greenways will provide recreation and paths for those with the time to bicycle and walk, but support for commerce and performance venues, even art gallery sales, depends on good roads and adequate parking. Without those, traffic speeds on to Durham, or from Durham to Chatham, without stopping in Chapel Hill.
    Safety and security emphasis in transportation and throughout a municipality are a positive for most people. Chapel Hill has had violent crime, drugs, and alcohol-related safety issues like any other municipality.
    Mileage goals are useful as a general metric for greenway connections, but we cannot allow numeric goals to trump other pressing civic needs.

  30. John E. Schmidt says:

    Another comment I made was regarding GPNS.6, regarding the goal or measurement? to “promote rental housing in all neighborhoods”. This was never discussed in our GPNS theme group meetings, and I don’t know in any way what it means. Promote rental of houses? Encourage apartments to be built in all neighborhoods? Both this and my comment on the assumed population for Chapel HIll were made on or before March 28th, and I believe they should have shown up as posts here as I wrote them. I’m not interested in getting a Gravitar or putting my comments on Facebook or Twitter. I simply believe the posts should be shown as they were made.

  31. John E. Schmidt says:

    I did several posts regarding the first draft of the comprehensive plan, but have never seen them posted anywhere. What happens to these posts. One of them for example, was assigned a tracking number 4737082746.
    In the post I objected to the assumption that 80483 will be the town population. Of course I said more than that. But my comment never showed up.

  32. Big thank you for the Greenway Commision’s list of omission, questions and issues with the CH2020 process.

    TO: Chapel Hill Planning Department
    FROM: Greenways Commission
    Christine S. Berndt, Chair
    SUBJECT: Comments on the March 13, 2012 Draft of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan
    DATE: March 28, 2012

    The Greenways Commission voted unanimously (5-0) to make the following comments related to the first draft of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan document dated March 13, 2012. We will continue to review future drafts and make a formal recommendation to the Council at the appropriate time.

    Organizational Comments

    1. Reorganize the Goals Chart. We believe that the goals for each theme group should be kept together and not split out over three sections. Begin with the long range goals, followed by the mid-range goals, and finally the one-year goals. This arrangement would present the most important concepts and ideas first, and would show the relationship of the short and mid range goals to the long range goals. It would also make it easier to see all of the goals for a single Theme Group without searching throughout the document. It would aid understanding of the flow of the implementation steps, measurements, and responsible parties over the ten year period.

    2. Writing Style. The writing style, tense, and voice seem to change frequently throughout the document. Try to achieve greater consistency.

    3. Council Goals. We suggest moving the current year Council goals to an appendix. The current annual Council goals are an important reference point, but in the context of a 10 year plan they have too great a presence listed first and discussed as they are in the draft document.

    4. Population Growth Information. On page 4 the Population Growth information does not appear to be useful. The information is presented as a hodgepodge of facts that don’t naturally flow. Reorganization and greater thought could improve this section. In particular, there is no information presented to support the statement in the second sentence that Chapel Hill will grow by one third in thirteen years. We felt the third sentence was poorly written and did not convey the intent that the purpose of the plan is to help the community manage growth.

    5. Color-coding. Include an explanation of what the various colors mean in the text.

    Environmental and Transportation Related Comments

    6. Increase Environmental Emphasis. Increase the focus on environmental protection throughout the document. Identify the Town’s natural area components or “Greenprint” through a variety of mapping techniques, including streams, floodplains, wildlife corridors, natural heritage areas, open space, steep slopes, entranceways and scenic views, tree cover, and farmland. Do not refer to environmental features and open space as “assets,” which tends to imply that there is only an economic value to those features.

    7. Vision Statement. The vision statement on page one should make reference to protecting/preserving the natural and historic environment, and convey a message that the vision includes balancing development with environmental protection.

    8. Greater Focus on Alternative Transportation. We believe the main focus for the 2020 Plan should be on achieving the long-range desire to develop alternatives to the automobile. The community’s primary transportation focus should be on infrastructure that supports walking, bicycling, and transit. Roads should be only a secondary focus. This focus should be stressed throughout the document, and funding/implementation measures should reflect this priority.

    9. Reduce Emphasis of Safety and Security in the Transportation Discussions. Safety and security are important aspects of all public endeavors. However, the constant use of security related terms in this document related to greenways, transportation and transit seem to imply that safety issues may trump other interests. For example, it sometimes appeared to us that the text was implying special efforts need to be made to make greenways safe, or that safety is an issue, when generally the Town’s greenways have been very safe environments. We suggest downplaying the safety language, which tends to convey a negative feeling.

    Specific Greenway Goals Comments

    10. Adopt Greenways Master Plan. A goal should be added in the 1 year goals for the Transportation Theme to adopt the Greenways Master Plan. In general, the 2020 plan needs to be informed by the draft Greenways Master Plan and draft Parks and Recreation Master Plan under development.

    11. North-South Greenway. As part of the greater focus on alternative transportation, we think focusing on completion of a north-south greenway/bicycling/walking corridor from Southern Community Park to Homestead Road in the ten year period would greatly improve citizen mobility, connect key destinations, and provide recreational opportunities.

    12. Specific Mileage Goals for Greenways Development. Measurable goals for developing new greenway trails should be added to all three goal sections within the Transportation Theme Goal Chart. At this time we recommend that place holders be inserted and that actual mileages be added prior to Council adoption. We also recommend adding measurable goals for sidewalks.

    13. Responsible Parties. Clarify whether advisory boards should be “Responsible Parties” in the Goals Chart. For example, the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Board is a responsible party in two places on page 24 of the Goals Chart. Other advisory boards are not listed as responsible parties, including the Greenways and Parks and Recreation Commissions.

    14. Add Greenways to Certain Goals. Greenways are both alternative transportation and recreation facilities. Where appropriate, we recommend adding Greenways to all Transportation Theme goals that discuss alternative transportation and include listing Parks and Recreation as a Responsible Party. Add development of Greenways to the goals within the Good Places and New Spaces Theme. Again add Parks and Recreation as a Responsible Party.

    Present: Christine S. Berndt (Chair), David Tuttle (Vice Chair), Patrick Crawford, Robert Myers, and Paul Ransford. Absent: Roger Badrock and Lindsey Hoffer. A quorum was present.

  33. Sustainability and Smart Growth

    Planners sometimes promote “Smart Growth” as the solution to the problem of sustainability. Smart Growth applies to new developments which are built to accommodate growth. It calls for development on a human scale with places of work, shopping and recreation all being located within walking or bicycling distances from the residences. This is very pleasant indeed. But we must note that:

    Dumb growth destroys the environment.

    Smart growth destroys the environment.

    The difference is that smart growth

    destroys the environment with good taste.

    So it’s like buying a ticket on the TITANIC.

    If you’re smart you go first class

    If you’re dumb you go steerage.

    Either way the result is the same.

    Albert A. Bartlett, PhD

  34. david welch says:

    I would like to refine my comment/ recommendation regarding riparian buffers and well water protection.

    Theme 5 Nurturing our Community

    NOC.4 Simplify RCD
    requirements by normalizing
    with Jordan Buffer e.g. a known
    buffer width on intermittent and
    perennial streams). (p 18)

    Recommended change:
    NOC.4 Simplify RCD requirements by normalizing with Jordan Buffer in areas of low-density development (e.g. a known buffer width on intermittent and perennial streams). Higher density development that significantly increases impervious surface needs wider riparian buffers . [Town planning will set these buffer widths]

    Recommended addition (near term goal)
    New developments need to protect catchment areas that serve drinking water wells. If protection is impractical/impossible then affected landowners may request compensation to obtain another drinking water source.

    • David: I think we both agree that we don’t want to lower water quality standards. Let’s talk to the experts in stormwater and see if your objective of simplification can occur without reducing standards. This should be a discussion item on April 12.

  35. Lynne Kane says:

    Precisely because this is a general “Comprehensive Plan” process we have had valuable input from experienced consultants such as Stan Harvey and Mitch Silver as well as trained specialists on our staff such as Dwight Bassett, David Bonk and others. This is the kind of process which is very strongly needed in Chapel Hill, where few people have ever risked their own money or taken out a second mortgage on their home to invest in a business, and where those residents who have actually done so are busy running a business, or several businesses, so that they cannot attend repeated meetings held by Chapel Hill 2020. Besides being amazed at irrational and unrealistic votes by the longtime Town Council members during the 12 years I have lived here, I have become aware that the activists who repeatedly appear before the Town Council do not seem to attend forums at our 2 closest universities, UNC Humanities weekends, movies (except documentaries attacking corporate activities like fracking or collateralized debt options and similar), or even local Playmakers and Deep Dish Theater, etc.
    We cannot allow only people without broad interests to determine what will be the future vision of Chapel Hill. Yes, “future.”
    A current member of the Planning Board has raised the question that the “branding” of Chapel Hill is at risk. Do the signers of the latest petition, essentially saying delay yet again, know what Chapel Hill’s brand is outside of the groups headed by Our Lady of Perpetual Petitions? In my 12 years, attending weekly retiree classes in the Triangle, I have had the reaction to my residency in Chapel Hill change from, You live with The Tree Huggers, to, You live where a few people run around in their cars telling the rest of you to take the bus, to now, Why are you living in The People’s Republic? One young man approximately 30 years old in an early 2020 session expressed it this way, “People everywhere else laugh at Chapel Hill. We need to join the rest of NC.”
    That’s a bit too general, but it expresses the isolation Chapel Hill has put itself into. And much of that isolation is due to a lack of holistic awareness among too many Town Council members and the activists who seem to have too much time on their hands. Someone recently noted, this is a weird place where a capitalist economy is dissed and anarchists are assuaged.
    Whit Rummel takes a productive position: address the traffic congestion in Chapel Hill now and stop refusing to widen our roads.
    Tom Henkel likewise raises the importance of providing alternative-fueling stations without insisting on micro-managing their locations. He also argues for specifics to reduce buildings’ carbon footprints without trying to micro-manage all the revitalization areas tentatively identified by our consultants.
    The consultants have been clear that residential areas, yes 75% of Chapel Hill, are not likely to be changed much. Our Neighborhood Conservation Districts come as close to micro-managing their areas as one can imagine outside a commune. Do you not want to see aged construction in homes repaired and improved?
    A new Comprehensive Plan was overdue for some years. This new land-use plan, which surely should include Form-Based Zones that identify what kind of revitalization height and density will be suitable in the 5 revitalization areas (leaving your “neighborhood” as is for now), is exactly what Chapel Hill needs to expand its tax base and provide goods and services within our town with access to well lighted passable streets and parking.
    No one is opposing free public transit or improved modes of public transit. Many of us who loathe bicycling for ourselves and fear hitting bicycles on vehicular roads support connecting off-road bike-ped paths becoming connected.
    Note that the community survey prior to 2020 values Safety and Security first. We must plan for a Police Dept. with enough employees for the population we actually have and a building in which they can function without tripping over each other and pails to catch leaking water. We also must plan for enough Fire Dept. personnel and equipment for the actual population. These are the basic municipal services that the activist critics take for granted and do not mention.
    We do not need a map of every “steep slope” and “watershed area” in order to determine what kind of revitalized areas we would like. Nearly every bit of land on the planet drains to some waterway or natural reservoir. Those are the details for trained staff to work on with proposed builders.
    Our Man of Metrics and his merry band of micro-critics will be disappointed forever. Projections are guesses. More and more retirees are moving here or are staying after raising families, so schools may not become as crowded as some protest. Again, a holistic view must make sensible use of measures, graphs and projections.
    Let’s get moving by June before every possible tax expansion available to Chapel Hill bleeds into Durham.

    • This rant is so insulting to me (someone who has lived here a good deal longer than 12 years) that any good points in it are lost in her effort to put down those with views differing from her own. It makes me very sad. No wonder it is difficult to find consensus. I am pleased that most comments on this blog are more constructive.

  36. Whitcomb Rummel says:

    Seems to me the 2020 leadership has taken a lot of hits in the past week, some justified, some not.

    I think it’s absolutely fair to speak up when we think they’ve made mistakes or taken a questionable direction in their steering efforts, but I also think it’s completely UNfair to accuse them of underhanded motives like pushing the agenda of big-time developers – that’s just plain crazy.

    Leading the 2020 juggernaut is a thankless enough job as it is; let’s try not to make it even more thankless.

  37. John E. Schmidt says:

    I completely endorse what Amey Miller said in her post of March 17 at 5:25 pm:
    “Dear Buzz/2020: I hope this is not overly inflamatory, but I just had an opportunity to view Mayor Kleinschmidt’s explanation to the council of the new 15-501 non-task force. His explanation that the 2020 process is “citizen driven” and that therefore this has just blown up quickly in the midst of all these driving citizens, seems to me, from my vantage, to be completely other than the case. I have found the 2020 process to be by in large staff driven, with some clear staff priorities (fast track development) as main drivers. A non-task force with perhaps great power to influence development in the southern part of our town peopled by the developers who want to develop the area seems on the face of it to be troubling. It fits with charettes which did not offer any pertinent ecological or zoning information to citizens while they were to discuss potential development.”

    • Whitcomb Rummel says:

      Seems to me the 2020 leadership has taken a lot of hits in the past week, some justified, some not.

      I think it’s absolutely fair to speak up when we think they’ve made mistakes or taken a questionable direction in their steering efforts, but I also think it’s completely UNfair to accuse them of underhanded motives like pushing the agenda of big-time developers – that’s just plain crazy.

      Leading the 2020 juggernaut is a thankless enough job as it is; let’s try not to make it even more thankless.

  38. Michael Parker says:

    I am somewhat surprised that the draft plan does not address Chapel Hill’s governance structure and processes. It seems to me that with all of the important choices to be made in the coming years — land use, budgeting, etc. — that we need to examine whether our current processes, advisory committees, town council, and the like, will allow these choices to be made in the most effective, rational and integrated manner.
    Similarly, many of the goals and objectives are not solely within the Town’s purview. Do we have the means, structure, processes, and will to coordinate with Carrboro, Orange County, and others to ensure that we are able to realize the goals we adopt? I believe that more attention needs to be devoted to these issues in subsequent drafts and, of course, the final plan.

  39. Amy Ryan says:

    Last night, a concerned group of more than 15 stakeholders spoke to Council about our experiences as 2020 participants, the concerns we have about our progress to date, and some recommendations for improving the process and moving forward in a timely fashion.

    So far, 43 stakeholders have endorsed the letter and our recommendations; if you’d share our concerns, please reply to this post and we’ll add your signature to the list.

    Amy Ryan

    Text of the 3/26 presentation to Council:

    To: Chapel Hill Town Council

    From: Concerned 2020 Stakeholders

    Re: Specific Requests to Council for Improving the 2020 Process

    We, the undersigned 2020 stakeholders, would like to respectfully ask that Council consider the following actions to address stakeholder concerns and ensure the success of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan:

    (1) Endorse the completion of the goals and objectives section for the June vision document;

    (2) Allow each theme group to choose two stakeholder representatives to join the co-chair discussions tasked by the Manager and the 2020 leadership with achieving consensus on theme group goals in the June vision document;

    (3) Remove input from the Future Focus event maps, surveys, and conclusions from the June document and agree that work related to land use recommendations be continued in the subsequent implementation phase; and

    (4) Develop, with stakeholders, a new process for creating the land use portion of the plan after the June document is complete. Include opportunities for comprehensive, analytical discussions of the impacts of proposed changes town-wide and to key growth areas to ensure that town goals and objectives are met in a balanced manner.

    A letter is attached, detailing our experience with the 2020 process and our reasons for requesting these changes.


    David Ambaras
    Elisabeth Benfey
    Philip Benfey
    Dick Blackburn
    Jill Blackburn
    Watson A. Bowes Jr., MD
    Jeanne Brown
    Terri Buckner
    Joe Buonfiglio
    Mary Buonfiglio
    Shelley deFosset
    Glen H. Elder Jr.
    Linda Finch
    Arthur Finn
    Debbie Finn
    Geoffrey Daniel Geist
    Suzanne Haff
    Bob Henshaw
    Fred Lampe
    Emily Lees
    Jack Lees
    Pat Lowry
    Estelle Mabry
    Julie McClintock
    Amey Miller
    Susan Morance
    John Morris
    Snehal Patwardhan
    Sims Preston
    Will Raymond
    Randall Roden
    Amy Ryan
    Dave Sidor
    Janet Smith
    Alan Snavely
    Del Snow
    Mickey Jo Sorrell
    Ann Stewart
    Olympia Stone
    Misako Toda
    Alan Tom
    Sandy Turbeville
    Polly van de Velde

    An Open Letter to the Chapel Hill Town Council:

    The purpose of the 2020 Comprehensive Plan is to hear citizens’ vision for the future and write a vision plan and land use map to make that future a reality. The Town Manager says we are on our way to completing the Comprehensive Plan vision and framework document in June. With utmost respect to the Manager, the Town staff, and the 2020 leadership, many 2020 stakeholders feel that our work to date is far from finished and does not answer the fundamental question the Town Council wants to know: How much and in what way do we want to grow?

    As we near the June deadline, we think it’s important for you to hear citizen input on the process, unfiltered by the voices of the 2020 leadership. Here’s our take on where the current process stands, where we feel it has succeeded, and where we still have work to do. We ask you to take our experience as stakeholders into account and consider making some mid-course corrections to the 2020 process that we feel are necessary.

    The most successful aspect of Chapel Hill 2020 so far has been the outreach effort conducted by Town staff and 2020 leadership to engage citizens not previously engaged and to educate us on town affairs. We applaud these efforts and appreciate the many presentations that have been made to increase citizen understanding of town-wide issues.

    Less successful has been the process of actually drafting the plan’s goals and objectives. The theme groups given this task have struggled with spread-out meetings, out-of-date materials, and sometimes conflicting direction from the 2020 leadership. Most have found it impossible to have substantive discussions and reach consensus decisions in the short hour or so we have met at each session. As a result, the goals recently inserted into the first draft report are more a collection of “sound bites” gathered and filtered by the leadership rather than informed discussion and consensus agreements among stakeholders.

    Most troubling, the process of proposing land-use changes for key town areas has fallen seriously short. The 2020 leadership has admitted that the abbreviated Future Focus charrette exercise was not well understood; groups were not provided with complete information (such as streams, slopes, and location of ecologically sensitive areas); there was pressure by some staff members to favor particular development scenarios; and there was no process for citizens to identify the issues they were in agreement on or to resolve issues in conflict. As with the visioning and goals process, much preliminary information was gathered, shaped into a “consensus” document by consultants, and then presented as the conclusions of informed discussion.

    The Comprehensive Plan process is a complicated one that typically takes a year and a half in most communities. We can accomplish some of our initial goals within our nine-month timeframe, but not the entire plan. Although the theme groups have not had time to reach consensus decisions on the goals and objectives section of the document, there has been much good information generated, and we feel that, with some tweaks to the process, this material could be ready for final presentation in June.

    In contrast, the material gathered from the Future Focus charrettes is seriously flawed. This land-use section should not be part of the June document, and work should not proceed on this part of the plan until Council, staff, the 2020 leadership, and stakeholders have agreed on a process to build on the goals in the vision document and connect them meaningfully with land use decisions.

    On page 3 of the Manager’s memorandum presented tonight, it says, “The Chapel Hill 2020 Plan will include land use policy guidance and recommended changes to the Land Use Plan. …One of the priority implementation efforts will be to address critical areas in the community where rezoning would help…(in) achieving the goals of Chapel Hill 2020.” Is the Manager recommending land use changes for the June document or for the later implementation stage? Citizen input is crucial to building a community supported new Comprehensive Plan, and we don’t believe the current schedule would achieve the collaborative processes required to begin major land use changes.

    As stakeholders, we have invested much time and effort in making Chapel Hill 2020 a success. Throughout the process, we have met with the 2020 leadership to share our concerns and suggestions. Our most recent meeting was on March 12. Based on these interactions, we feel that their commitment to finishing the project in June prevents them from considering ways to resolve the critical flaws we see, especially in the key-area “development frameworks.”

    Tonight, the Town Manager is presenting you with leadership’s version of where the process stands and what it has accomplished. We ask that you hear from the troops on the ground as well, who want to report on the process that they have experienced. The Town Council is the only group that can step back, hear from all participants—the 2020 leadership and the stakeholders—and decide how to move forward to produce a Comprehensive Plan we can all be proud of.


    Concerned 2020 Stakeholders

  40. david welch says:

    I have a few comments directed at the current 2020 draft:

    “The Chapel Hill of 2020 will be a vibrant community that
    creatively balances the future visions of entrepreneurship and
    clean natural stewardship with the firm hold of sustainability.”

    ‘future’ seems to be an unnecessary word.
    the syntax of the last 9 words of this sentence is confusing.
    I am an environmental professional and work with these ideas all the time.
    suggested replacement: ‘environmental stewardship’

    Section 6 ‘How We Grow’
    I would suggest that this section emphasize how the town will engage stakeholders to develop each of the focus areas. There seems to be too much disagreement over the direction of development for these areas. (This is especially true for the 15-501 South focus area)

    Theme 5 Nurturing our Community

    NOC.4 “Simplify RCD
    requirements by normalizing
    with Jordan Buffer (e.g. a known
    buffer width on intermittent and
    perennial streams).” (p 18)

    This statement makes watershed protection less stringent than it currently is in some cases. It does not match the NOC point of discussion that changes to buffers would retain the same protections or be more protective.

    Undeveloped riparian areas need more stringent protection than the standard Jordan Lake buffer.
    Riparian areas with steep slopes also need more stringent protection than the standard Jordan Lake buffer.

    Planning staff has the GIS skills to create an RCD that incorporates nuances related to terrain and current land use. I’d be willing to help if they have questions.

    Please move some long term goals to near term goals:
    ephemeral stream protection from p 44 to near term goal p 17
    wellhead protection (p44) needs to be moved up from long-term goals to near term water quality goals p 17

    Carbon footprint goal, please move this from long-term to near-term goal.

  41. Dear Buzz/2020: My experience from being a member of the Northern Area Task Force leads me to strongly suggest that George and Rosemary maintain the integrity of the final document by not including maps that have been batted around in discussions and “for examples” but not voted on by a majority of those participating as part of the final document. We found it misleads developers and causes unnecessary problems that strain the patience and pocketbooks of both developers and citizens of the town.

  42. Whitcomb Rummel says:

    I find it odd that this draft of the new Comprehensive Plan has not directly addressed the item Chapel Hill citizens cited as our Biggest Problem in the recent town survey – Traffic Congestion. IMHO, the town should take a much more proactive role in identifying major bottleneck areas and taking immediate steps to improve them. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand by refusing to widen problem roadways in Chapel Hill. Whether we like it or not, the traffic is HERE and we should do something about it NOW.

  43. Tom Henkel says:

    In my opinion, the two most important concerns for a so-called sustainable future are adequate clean water supplies and a low carbon footprint to mitigate climate change. Water is mentioned frequently in the document, but sustainable energy is not. Almost 50% of all energy use in the US is for buildings, with fossil fuels satisfying over 80% of this demand. The final 2020 document should set much more specific goals for reducing our carbon footprint. These should mention energy efficient buildings and transportation, and renewable energy technologies to satisfy the energy demands of buildings and for transportation (i.e. solar PV charging stations at park & ride lots for plug-in hybrids).

  44. jeanne brown says:

    I agree that a more comprehensive look at the remaining 75% is necessary before further discussion about size and scope of development at the five pre-identified sites. One of the things that has been missing is an understanding of other properties in each area (and town) that are likely sites for development or re-development in the future. In the case of properties that are in or near neighborhoods, these might become the site of more housing (of various scales). If that is the case, how does that impact the decisions we are making about these more dense developments? Does it offer new opportunities for bike/ped connections or greenways/parks? Could it provide opportunities for some of the other town goals – creative school sites for Pre-K/K to alleviate crowding in schools and provide a neighborhood park, a teen center or community center to serve our youth, truly affordable housing, a site for a community garden.

    At this point, I know that we are not our discussions are supposed to contain “broad stroke” goals, not property-specific recommendations but, as I pointed out above, this type of additional information allows participants to look at their area in a holistic way and to make suggestions to all of the theme groups as we define our goals.

    We saw some of that type of information during Dwight Bassett’s “Future Focus” discussion about redevelopment in Downtown. In addition to showing us the new cross street plans, he also had a slide that discussed additional properties identified by GIS as good candidates for re-development. As some in the audience pointed out, there were some flaws in the process for identifying these properties (especially, as I recall, that they relied on presence of a building so gravel lots or small green spaces would be overlooked) but such information is essential so that the plan we are developing takes into account all.

    Of course, as we also learned during the Future Focus event, 30% of Chapel Hill is owned by UNC and we need to understand where those properties are and what purpose they serve.

    As Michael points out, this is supposed to be a comprehensive plan – a look at the entire town based on the goals established by the various theme groups. Looking at the whole we can re-affirm commitment to neighborhoods while looking at ways to improve their connections to the broader community.

  45. Michael Parker says:

    The plans as currently drafted envisions five areas (and with a vague nod to the downtown), comprising about 25% of the Town’s area, as the areas for development. It is silent on the remaining 75% — the neighborhoods. I believe that this a significant omission. We need to have a clear vision of how the rest of Chapel Hill will evolve, or else we’ll either be an ossified museum or we will continue doing our planning piecemeal, based on applications for SUPs.

    • MIchael – I appreciate the need to take a more comprehensive look at the town as a whole and to figure out our needs first before we discuss where zoning changes are needed. On the the other hand, I don’t want my neighborhood redeveloped and I imagine everyone feels the same way. What is your idea for neighborhoods?

      • Michael Parker says:

        I don’t have any specific plans for any neighborhood. My point is that is that if the plan is to be comprehensive then it needs to address 100% of the town, not 25%. History has shown that this town will evolve and change pretty much everywhere, as it probably should (I, for one, do not want to live in a museum). We can either plan for and direct this change or allow planning to take place piecemeal and be guided by what developers and others seek to do through SUPs and similar means. Northside, for example, has changed in ways that many do not approve of. Perhaps under a more comprehensive plan this could have been managed better.

  46. Amey Miller says:

    Dear Buzz/2020: I hope this is not overly inflamatory, but I just had an opportunity to view Mayor Kleinschmidt’s explanation to the council of the new 15-501 non-task force. His explanation that the 2020 process is “citizen driven” and that therefore this has just blown up quickly in the midst of all these driving citizens, seems to me, from my vantage, to be completely other than the case. I have found the 2020 process to be by in large staff driven, with some clear staff priorities (fast track development) as main drivers. A non-task force with perhaps great power to influence development in the southern part of our town peopled by the developers who want to develop the area seems on the face of it to be troubling. It fits with charettes which did not offer any pertinent ecological or zoning information to citizens while they were to discuss potential development.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my views. Amey Miller

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