Category Archives: Estes Neighbors Coalition

Estes Neighbors community meeting

Join us at our own Community Meeting on Wednesday evening, September  5, 7:30 – 9 pm, the Fellowship Hall at the Orange United Methodist Church, 1220 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.  We will provide time for questions and answers and discuss what is important to you in the design of the process.

The Town held several open houses to share information on  August 28 and 29 and announced three meetings for the public to design the community planning process.  See the  Town web page for more information from the Town.

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Developers also ask for small area study for Estes-MLK area

Members of the Estes Neighbors Coalition have been asking the town to implement a small area study for the Estes-MLK area (the MLK South future focus area, with specific parameters yet to be determined).  On June 6, several neighbors met with the town’s planning staff to discuss these issues.  At that meeting, we learned that Scott Radway, on behalf of the developers of the Carolina Flats proposal, has already contacted the town to request a small area study — but an accelerated process that would consist of 3-4 meetings and be completed by September 2012.  (The developer’s proposal is at  2012-06-01 Estes-MLK Study Proposal.) Estes Neighbors has asked the Town for studies of the area to be conducted at deliberate pace, beginning in the fall of 2012, with broad participation from all relevant stakeholders.  While we are pleased that the developers have expressed an understanding of the need for good communication, we will emphasize that this process must be guided by a focus on the larger good of the town and community, and cannot be rushed to serve the interests of one group.

It is rare indeed when all parties, the neighbors, the Town and the developers agree a conceptual planning process is needed. It is our hope that everyone involved in this planning process will be willing to take the time to do it right.

Manager responds to our requests

From the Town 2020 Website

In the online message below from the Town Manager, Roger Stancil, responds to requests made at the March 26 Council meeting about the Town’s 2020 planning process. We will continue to press for all our neighborhoods to be involved in any studies of Estes Drive.

I want to provide an initial response to the comments made during the petition session in the Council meeting on the 26thof March.

My goal is to be clear about where we are and to minimize misunderstanding and confusion.  Thousands of people have been touched in the 2020 process and many of them have participated and given many hours of time to make this a community wide statement for the future.  It is important to be clear about how that participation will guide the Town’s actions on the future and the hard work of the coming year to develop the decision-making infrastructure that will transform the Vision into reality.   We will have a work session with the Planning Board and the Sustainability Committee on the status of 2020 on April 10th.  The second draft of the 2020 Plan will be circulated for comment on the 5th of April (this week). We will have a work session with the Council on May 7.

1. We agree with the goal of providing the Council with community goals and objectives by June.  The Theme groups are focused on refining their goals and will have two more opportunities to do so. We will also have an information advisory board meeting and a Council work session before June.

2. The co-chairs meetings are open to the public and any theme group member who wishes to attend can do so.  The purpose of those meetings is for the co-chairs, as neutral facilitators, to identify areas of overlap that merit further discussion by theme groups, advisory boards or Council.  The co-chairs will be asked to consider whether their theme group would have an interest in attending these meetings and if so, who might serve to share information in a collaborative manner.

3.  We all agree that the Future Focus maps will NOT be included in the goals and objectives.  While they represent valuable input, their main purpose at this point is to help the community identify areas where more conversation, analysis and study are of interest.  The second draft (due out April 5th) will begin to describe what we thought we heard in terms of each area for community input and refinement.  It will also identify some of those “next steps” where analysis is necessary to moving forward.

4. Staff will continue to work with the participants in the S15-501 group to identify broad brush recommendations, similar in scope to those in Draft 2 for the other areas, in a constructive, positive dialogue.  It was our charge to that group that their conversation be a model for civil discourse and we will continue to develop that model with the input we received from the S15-501 participants.

I hope these clarifications are helpful.  If you have questions, please let me know.

Development scenarios for the South MLK area

Here are the maps developed by the town’s consultant regarding scenarios for development in the South MLK area (from Homestead Rd. to downtown).

South-MLK-future-focus-scenarios

They include a base map and the following three scenarios:

1. Incremental growth: This includes high-density residential development along Estes from MLK toward Somerset, with one new road from Estes into that development.

2. Modest redevelopment: This includes low-density commercial/office and high-density residential development along Estes all the way to Phillips Middle School (including new roadway access from Estes).  It also includes high-density residential development behind the offices on MLK north of Mt. Bolus Road that would extend toward (but not connect to) Caswell Drive, with a new entry road from MLK.

3. Transit-oriented growth: Same as #2 for the Estes and Mt. Bolus areas.

Any of these options will have major consequences for traffic flows, pedestrian safety, and environmental quality in the area and beyond.  Please take a look and help us to convince the town council that any development projects along these lines should not be undertaken without substantive, sustained input from local residents and others affected by the potential changes.

The complete set of future focus scenario maps for the town of Chapel Hill can be found at http://2020buzz.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/all-future-focus-scenariossmall.pdf.  The maps for South MLK are the last four in the set.

Design Commission Meeting

The Design Commission meeting video should be available here soon.

Presentation. The applicant from Greer properties introduced Scott Radway who gave the presentation. On a 16 acre tract, applicant  is proposing 4 story hotel with 130 rooms and a parking deck, and 7 4 story apartment buildings plus club house. About 500 more auto trips estimated a day from student housing and hotel on corner.  See detailed plans on line.

Several points made by the applicant:  This is called “purposeful housing”  designed for under graduate; egress and entrance challenges and conversation with DOT; betting on first UNC building to be built in 2013 so airport will close and Airport Hazard Zone can be lifted; only 510 feet frontage on MLK; sees acute housing need for students even though vacant rooms on campus.

Public comments:  We had a line up of speakers who spoke effectively about problems with the proposed Carolina Flats plan.

  • Why the Commission should recommend no zoning change:  residential character of Estes Drive and 2020 plan already underway to plan potential changes to area
  • Noted notification card (not everyone got them) Does not make sense to do two processes at once
  • Characteristics of UNC development agreement and how this project does not fit in: parking ratios observed at Carolina North, not observed here
  • Do we want an ugly apron around the new UNC campus; at odds with gateway setting to our Town
  • Traffic challenges exist now on Estes ; backs up 3 times a day
  • Schools safety  Children that walk to Estes; over 50 % of plan would be impervious surface; plan should not go forward ahead of 2020
  • Project is out of scale with every thing in the area

Questions and comments from the Commission.  The Commission does not make recommendations but their report will go to Council who will review the plans on April 23.

Many commissioners picked up on our points. One Commissioner questioned what route students would take and whether this was really a “transit oriented” development. The Chair mentioned the proposed 2020 Corridor study of Estes Drive to be done before the plan was considered.  She also noted the traffic problems.

Chapel Hill Development Activity Map and Report

Here are the town’s Development Activity Report and Development Activity Map (GIS). The map in particular is very useful.

Development Activity Report

Development Activity Map

NCDOT projects involving Estes Drive

From a neighbor, regarding NCDOT projects involving Estes Road:

I have found not only the listing of three Estes Drive projects on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) site:

http://www.ncdot.org/projects/search/#t=1780

but also a listing of the priority given to these projects when they were submitted to the Dept. of Transportation by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO). [I was not even aware that that there is such a group, but apparently, according to Wikipedia, a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a federally mandated (and funded) transportation policy-making organization in the United States that is made up of representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities (for any urbanized area with a population greater than 50,000)]. In any case, our area MPO – DCHC MPO — apparently rates various highway projects from our Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro area.

Here’s the status for the three Estes Drive projects (last rated by our Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO on October 26, 2011). First, the roundabout at Estes and Greensboro Street was ranked #53 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is to be rescheduled for reprioritization. Second, the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK to add bike lanes, sidewalks and transit accommodations was ranked #1 by our DCHC MPO and was costed out at $2,197,000 but was not funded and is to reprioritized. Third, and of greatest interest to many of us, is the project Dan reported in his email: the widening of the existing Estes roadway between MLK and Caswell to include two 12-foot lanes, four-foot bicycle lanes and sidewalks. This project got a ranking of #25 by our DCHC MPO and was not funded by the NCDOT and is, as the other two Estes Road projects, to be reprioritized. [I’m not clear about when that process will occur.]

So the widening of Estes along the proposed Carolina Flats development is on the planning list but apparently off in the future. However, it does sound like the widening of Estes between Greensboro Street and MLK is not too far off.  The two documents which outline all area projects – bicycle and pedestrian as well as highway are:

1. NC-DOT Document (Highway Projects in the SPOT Database

2. DCHC MPO Regional Prioritization Methology 2011-10-26

I am not sure if the widening of Estes between MLK and Caswell – apparently a two-lane, not a four-lane effort – will require added land on one or both sides of the current road; its also not clear which end of Caswell is the end of the project. This project would make only one significant change — the adding of bike lanes — along with a second sidewalk.