Chapel Hill Town Council members are on board with the course and vision of the town's 2020 Comprehensive Plan, but questions remain on how to implement the plan's initiatives and balance priorities with funds.
The Chapel Hill Town Council members reviewed the vision, goals and next steps in the Comprehensive Plan process during a work session Monday night.
Council members heard from town staff and 2020 co-chairs Rosemary Waldorf and George Cianciolo.
Council members largely agreed about the vision and goals outlined in the plan and emphasized the importance of following up and evaluating the effectiveness of the plan and the types of policies it recommends.
In the end, the 2020 plan is a broader framework, said Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.
"I think it's important for us to let the community know ... that we're not going to be approving something that is that detailed…that that isn't what he process is going to be providing to us and that we need to check out expectations," he said.
The 2020 process has involved several theme groups which brought hundreds of residents out to discussion meetings and forums over the last several months. It's important to keep a strong level of engagement, and create a plan that is easy to understand and accessible, so the community can continue to followup on town policies, even after the official 2020 plan is voted upon, Kleinschmidt said.
"The community continues to be hungry, not only to participate but also to be able to …comprehend it so they can continue to have ownership around it," he said. "We need to be careful we maintain that sense of ownership."
It's also important for the plan to create a set of ground rules and priorities for the town, so fundamental policies, particularly governing growth, can't shift as council members change, said Council member Penny Rich.
"It's not up to the will of the council anymore," she said. "It's in place …so developers really do know what they can give us and not give us."
Residents also need to understand the how crucial tax revenue is for the town implement the kinds of policies and services it would like to make Chapel Hill a great place to live, said Council member Matt Czajkowski
"It's a sad reality that you can have all the aspirations in the world, [but] without the money to pay for it , it doesn't matter," he said.
Many who are opposed to development in town say they don't want Chapel Hill to become overrun with strip malls and Walmarts, Czajkowski said. The idea that that could happen, is wrong and is used to scare residents, he said.
But residents should understand that with more tax revenue from business, the more money the town has to do what it wants, he said.
"We can do so much more with the goals the community has said it wants if we can generate more revenue," he said.
People fear what they don't know, said George Cianciolo. Many residents may not understand the impact a mixed-use development may have in the community, but the town needs to think about residents who will live in town 20 years from now and how the town attract residents who want to work in town and afford to live there.
"We're not going to allow commercial [development] to destroy Chapel Hill," he said.
Some residents have questioned the pace of the 2020 process earlier this year and have asked for the town to it town and spread the planning process over several more months.
The council did not discuss or question the timeframe for the plan. Public hearings are scheduled for May 14 and 21 and the council is scheduled to consider the plan for a vote on June 25.