Don't Rush the Comprehensive Plan

The leadership team of Chapel Hill 2020 discussed the timeline issue yesterday afternoon. Apparently the conversation was quite passionate and the group is divided with strong opposition to extending from  co-chairs George and Rosemary. I'm a bit surprised since they have always said they had an open mind and were committed to getting it done right. I have yet to hear a clear articulation of why this comprehensive plan should be created in less than a year. 

I have heard some people raise valid concerns about sustaining people interest for a multi-year process, but I think that points to changes that may be needed in the process. For example, what if the stakeholders only met monthly rather than every 2-3 weeks? What if we let the community lead the process more and didn't lean so heavily on the staff to run things? If you would like to explore these questions rather than rushing to complete, please sign on to our letter asking for more time.

Here's the editorial that Jeff Miles and I wrote about this last week, it's in the Chapel Hill News today and a similar version was a WCHL commentary on Monday.

Don't Rush Chapel Hill 2020

By Jeff Miles and Ruby Sinreich

Both of us have been enthusiastic participants in the revision of Chapel Hill’s comprehensive plan since it began in September. As the community heads into the second half of the Chapel Hill 2020 process, we ask: Is this where we intended to be four months before the plan is complete? So far there have been five theme group meetings, amounting to 10 hours of discussion for each topic. But to what end? We haven’t yet articulated a concrete vision upon which to build meaningful goals and objectives.

The enthusiasm of the staff and leaders of Chapel Hill 2020 has been impressive, but it has not translated into a large amount of diverse participation nor especially coherent planning. There have been a variety of ways for people to give input, but many of the opportunities thus far have felt rushed or have suffered from a lack of clear structure or leadership.

The best solution we have come up with to improve both participation and the process is time. As we noted above, the Town currently plans to have the new comprehensive plan complete in time for adoption of the annual budget in May. This will be after spending less than 8 months at work from thinking about themes, to articulating some kind of meaningful goals or priorities (we’re still not clear on the outcomes). Other communities including Durham, Ann Arbor, Mich., Charlottesville, Va. and Fort Collins, Colo. have spent between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years developing their comprehensive plans. And Austin’s 17-month visioning phase alone was recognized as a national best practice by the Alliance for Innovation for its sustained community engagement (see it at

We believe that the process should be lengthened, and that a thorough plan cannot be completed before February 2013 at the soonest. We need more time to learn about each other and our community, and to explore the common values that should form the foundation of the plan. In addition, the next Chapel Hill 2020 meeting should take a break from process and give people an opportunity to discuss and give the Town feedback about the process itself. If it takes a few weeks or months to make some adjustments to make our participation and deliberation more effective, it will be well worth it.

Chapel Hillians are sometimes derided for our desire to talk about issues at length. This seems like a prime opportunity to use that skill to our advantage. This is long-range planning. Let’s take the time to get it right - we won’t get a second chance. 



Ruby, a side question...are these cities in the editorial all memebrs of ICLEI?thanks( and whom ever was covering the BOCC last night needs a wake up call and a free biscut...those things run too late;)cw Weakness is provocative.
"One of the most noble things you can do is kill the enemy."-Maj. Douglas Zembiec

The strong opposition which Ruby ascribes to Rosemary and me was specifically to any decision at this point in time to extending the Chapel Hill 2020 process to February 2013.  What we actually said at the co-chairs leadership meeting was that we wanted to wait until the process had evolved further before we determine where we are in the process and what the timeline looks like.  Over the next few weeks stakeholders will be given a draft outline of what a plan might look like and using this outline the theme groups can begin to see where they currently are in regards to having the necessary information to begin to complete such a document.  In mid February there will be community visioning workshops in which stakeholders can determine which areas of Chapel Hill are most likely to be developed/redeveloped, what such development/redevelopment might look like (low, medium, or high density? ; residential, commercial, retail, mixed use? ; low, medium, high heights? ; detached buildings, clustered buildings, mixture? ; ) and what impact(s) might be expected with these various scenarios.  Between now and then we will be having additional informational meetings including presentations by OWASA and the school system as well as several sessions of "Tavern Talks".Rosemary and I and the leadership co-chairs agreed that we will be continually evaluating where we are in the process and what remains to be done and we will begin talking about any potential adjustments to the timeline when we have more clarity regarding those issues.  


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.