Council returns to Estes-MLK plans Tuesday

tgrubb@newsobserver.comNovember 23, 2013 

  • What’s next?

    The Chapel Hill Town Council will receive the final Central West planning area report at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Southern Human Service Center, 2501 Homestead Road.

  • Recommendation

    The Chapel Hill Planning Board, which advises the Town Council, took a second look at plans for the Central West – Estes-MLK – focus area Tuesday.

    The focus area is one of six small areas of town identified as having development potential in the town’s 2020 growth plan.

    The Planning Board unanimously approved the Central West Steering Committee plan, with seven conditions:

    • Complete a townwide study of traffic conditions before allowing anything to be built

    • Examine closely the potential effects of stormwater runoff

    • The town and UNC together should find ways to meet local affordable housing needs

    • Take a closer look at the potential effect on the Bolin and Booker Creek watersheds

    • Maintain the existing tree canopy

    • Keep the number of traffic lanes on Estes Drive at a minimum to support pedestrian and bike safety

    • State more clearly and in stronger language why the MLK-Estes area should be developed

— The Town Council will take another look Tuesday at competing plans for how the Estes Drive-MLK Boulevard intersection should grow.

Central West is a roughly 97-acre area surrounding the Estes Drive-Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard intersection. The council has two options: an official map drafted by the 17-member Central West Steering Committee and a less-dense citizens alternative map.

The council’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.

If the council approves a small-area plan, developers and town staff will use it to design future projects. Approval does not guarantee everything on the map would be built, when it could be built or how the area would look.

Most of the land would have to be rezoned for commercial or multifamily projects.

Planning Board Chairman Neal Bench said the big questions are how much development should happen and how it could affect traffic, stormwater and other concerns. The Planning Board unanimously approved the committee’s revised map Tuesday, with conditions.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools also provided recent comments. District officials said schools have room for the number of students expected to live there, but they would like to see safer pedestrian and bicycle connections.

The committee’s map shows up to 270,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, 620 residential units and buildings up to three stories along the streets, stepping back to four stories. Taller buildings are possible along the steep slopes south of Estes Drive.

A citizens group – four committee members and residents – drafted its own map after complaining its ideas weren’t getting a fair shake. That map recommends less retail and commercial space in exchange for more single- and multifamily homes. It also creates several parks and includes senior housing south of Estes Drive.

Town officials and other committee members have said the alternative ideas were considered but didn’t win in supermajority votes.

Bench said the plan makes sense if the town’s goal is to get projects approved faster. He also praised town planner Megan Wooley, who worked with residents and the committee to keep the process moving forward.

“She did a very nice job hearing what people said and summarizing it in a clear document,” Bench said.

A preliminary report in October drew an overflow crowd of more than 100 people to the Southern Human Services Center. Some residents said they left because they couldn’t hear the discussion. They asked the town to plan for a bigger venue next time.

Town officials instead changed the date and are starting an hour earlier than usual.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

Chapel Hill News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service