Published: Sep 04, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 31, 2012 02:03 PM
CHAPEL HILL - An open house about the future of the MLK/Estes Drive Focus Area left some residents frustrated.
About 140 people attended the meeting at Orange United Methodist Church last week. It included large maps and representatives from the town, developers, neighbors and Chapel Hill Transit available to answer questions.
Residents identified several objectives for MLK/Estes Drive and five other focus groups during the Chapel Hill 2020 community planning process. Those objectives include identifying future land uses and zoning, transportation options, buffers and transitional areas. The Town Council adopted the 2020 Plan to guide future growth in June.
Several residents at last week’s meeting were upset there was no formal question-and-answer session. Town planner Megan Wooley explained the open house was to present information, and a future committee would work out details about the focus area. The committee has not been formed yet.
Planning director J.B. Culpepper eventually agreed to answer a few questions, but the session was abandoned because the noisy room made it hard to listen.
Hidden Hills resident Daria Barazandeh said the MLK/Estes Drive group should apply lessons from the 2020 Plan and Glen Lennox redevelopment processes. Understanding residents’ expectations, while having “open eyes and open arms” to opposing views are vital to the process, she said.
“I understand that Chapel Hill has to grow and develop … but I would like it to retain its village-like feel,” she said. “I think it’s good that the town is encouraging people to get involved.”
The defined focus area surrounds the intersection of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It stretches to just north of Piney Mountain Road, south to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA, east toward the Chapel Hill Public Library and west to Seawell School Road.
Many residents questioned those boundaries, saying current and future traffic will affect a much larger area.
The Estes Neighbors planning group, which had a table at the event and represents nine surrounding neighborhoods, advocated for including neighbors along MLK Boulevard, from Hillsborough Street to Homestead Road, and Estes Road, from Seawell School Road to East Franklin Street.
Residents also questioned the inclusion of developers, such as Russ Greer, of Progressive Capital Group, who recently submitted a plan for the Chartwell project, formerly Carolina Flats. The mixed-use, student-oriented development on 15.4 acres at the Estes Drive-MLK Boulevard intersection will require a rezoning under current regulations. The neighbors want developers who join the process to table pending rezoning requests.
Greer said he is willing to participate, but it needs to be done in a concise, open way.
Town Council member Penny Rich said it is unlikely the council would consider Chartwell before the focus group does its work.
“I do think this process is starting off better” than the 15-501 South Corridor Discussion Group, Rich said.
Wooley, the study area project manager, said the focus group will consider many ideas, including the area’s boundaries, while mapping its future.