Chapel Hill 2020 is Worth Doing Right

This weekend, a group of people who have been involved since the very beginning of the Chapel Hill 2020 process (including the editors of OP) drafted a letter to town leaders asking them to take more time. You can see it at Currently the entire timeline from kick-off to plan approval is less than 8 months. Last week when UNC planning Professor David Godschalk gave a talk about comprehensive planning, he referenced the plan done in Fort Collins, CO which took 18 months to complete. That is the fastest of any of the other examples I've heard. The City of Austin is currently reviewing a draft plan after spending almost a year and a half on their visioning process alone.

We started on Monday to send the letter out to other people we know have been a part of Chapel Hill 2020. Yesterday, WCHL did a story about our request without managing to talk to ANY of the people who helped draft the letter. So I figured it was time to explain our viewpoint. We believe that completing a comprehensive plan in 8 months (finishing in May 2012) is unrealistic. The Town has cited the 2013 budgeting process as the driver of this timing, but the budget will already be at the final stages by May and difficult to change. We also have concerns about specific elements of the Chapel Hill 2020 process itself, and the lack of age, racial, and economic diversity of participants. Giving ourselves more time is an essential first step toward addressing these other issues.

It's hard to figure out how to get decisions changed in the 2020 process, but it seems important to do so as soon as possible since it's moving so fast. We plan to deliver the letter and list of signatories to the 2020 co-chairs, the town manager, and the town council before the Council retreat at the beginning of February. I learned yesterday that the 2020 co-chairs will be discussing the timeline at their meeting next Thursday Tuesday, so it's a very appropriate time to let them know how we feel about this and also to press for some discussion of how to improve the process. Tomorrow's unconference will also be a great time to discuss this further. 

If you have participated in Chapel Hill 2020, whether online, at town meetings or at other community meetings and you agree, please consider reading and signing the letter at

We, the undersigned participants in Chapel Hill 2020, are excited about the potential of this process to envision and enable a healthy future for our community. We believe that a high level of public participation will make a better plan, and we have invested our personal time and ideas in meetings and reaching out to our friends and neighbors about the plan.

We wish to express our concerns about the speed of this process. Other communities have commonly taken 18 months to multiple years to complete plans that are less ambitious than ours. We understand that there is a need to get valuable input for the priority-based budgeting process, but this cannot supersede the need for the plan to be thoughtful, inclusive, and complete. 

We ask you to take action as soon as possible to extend the official timeline to end no sooner than February 2013, to commit to dedicating an upcoming Chapel Hill 2020 meeting to a discussion of process and outcomes, and to follow this meeting with changes as may be needed to address some of the big rocks in our way.

We thank you for your time and service to the community, and appreciate your listening to our concerns. 



The Leadership Team of Chapel Hill 2020, that is the two co-chairs of the process and the up-to-three co-chairs of each theme group, will be meeting Tuesday (that's tomorrow, not Thursday as I erroneously wrote above) and the following is on their agenda:

2. Review Project Schedule 

a. Council retreat – Feb 3rd update on project status/schedule

b. February 7 – reporting out from 1/12/12

c. February 15-16 Charette

i. Feb 15 – identify opportunities for growth, focus on downtown/south 15/501

ii. Feb 16 – identify scenarios/potential for four focus areas:

• North MLK

• South MLK

• 15-501

• NC-54

iii. Feb 17 – staff gathers data from charette for analysis/prepare for 23rd

d. February 23rd – working session - reacting to charette and draft plan goals

i. Focus on policy guidance for key areas

e. March 20 – reporting out

f. April 12 – working session –action steps and priorities

g. April 24 – reporting out

h. May – draft plan review by advisory boards/community

i. June – Council review 

I guess I missed the part where the community talks about our visions for the future, and determine what ends this is all supposed to be working toward. Also, I'm not sure how the Town is rationalizing the idea that this has to go fast to feed into the budget process, as it is scheduled to be adopted on June 11th, just around the time the plan is first reviewed by the Council.

The meeting is at 4:30pm, Tuesday January 24th, at the Town Operations Center at the end of Millhouse Road. I appreciate Maria Palmer sharing this with me as I don't think these meetings are publicized anywhere. I will not be there in person, but I have attended this meeting in the past, and I believe it is open to the public.

It's been awhile since I've attended a CH2020 meeting.  Can anyone point me to a public document that shows which part of the CH2020 process identified the growth areas that are anticipated to be discussed on Feb 15/16?  Also, can anyone tell me if that means all other places are excluded from being designated for growth?

If there is any such "public document" that would be news to me.

I just read Ruby's post about a Thursday meeting and assumed she had misread the date, as most of our meetings have been on Thursday.

I really believe everyone's input is welcomed. Personally, I would like very much to hear from more people in Chapel Hill, but I know most of the Latinos I have called or spoken with just want the services to continue (such as free bus) and if possible to increase. Since most of us are immigrants, we don't think that population growth, if done responsibly, is such a terrible thing. We want to make sure Chapel Hill doesn't become a rich-only town and would really, really like it if more people could make it without a car, especially all our undocumented residents who are unable to renew their licenses.

Because I feel I must represent these folks, I think we need to support mixed development that helps the town's bottom line and that makes our community more livable.

I was too sick to attend the unconference, but the two things I was asked to bring up by my former parishioners and friends were support for health clinics (Piedmont health and perhaps alternatives supported by UNC) and more community outreach by the schools. Folks want to know why we can't have our kids graduate from CHCCS with associate degrees like some other districts and why students cannot learn trades that would allow them to work and earn some money if they cannot go to college...or if they need to pay their way through college. These are things that are important and could be discussed at an Unconference, but I don't think CH 2020 provides a forum for these issues. Maybe we are trying to get CH 2020 to be everything for everyone, and it probably can't be. I'm open to changing my mind...

Thanks for responding, Maria. Another questions I have about this agenda item at your meeting tomorrow is the charettes. Are they really all day on weekdays? How were the topics for them selected? Who is expected or desired to attend?In my experience, a charette is usually a community meeting in which a group of people will spend all day (or at least a half day) focusing on land-use planning and often resulting in concept maps and sketches. ie: I'm not clear on how this is being done in the 2020 context.

Ruby, I will be sure to ask today. I agree that charrettes have to be presented to as many people as possible.I'll bring this up. maria

After some prayer and soul-searching, I have signed the petition. I have signed the petition. Thinking about what is important to the Hispanic community and low-income families, I realize I cannot just wait for another Unconference to come around. We have to engage the public schools and talk about public health as part of our vision for 2020. I am committing to more active participation in the groups I don't co-chair and to seek more input from the community.

Given that I am married to a former DTH editor, I know the passion (sometimes misguided) that goes into these editorials. But an interesting, different perspective on this proposal:

Thanks for pointing this out, James. I totally would have missed it otherwise and will definitely be writing a letter to the editor in response.


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