Last month, planner Jennifer Keesmaat presented the Chapel Hill Town Council with three “hard truths.” (To summarize, the truths were 1) Chapel Hill is exclusive; 2) Our planning processes are bad; 3) Our “urban form” is also bad.)
Keesmaat promised that there are more hard truths to come out during the complete communities planning process, but we at TriBlogBlog are impatient. And, with the council off for the summer, we don’t have quite so many meetings to watch.
With all that in mind, we want to introduce you to some Harder Truths.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll dig into each of these truths, so consider this a preview.
1. Chapel Hill’s historic districts limit our town’s potential, and should be reduced in size and scope.
2. The Rural Buffer, enacted in 1987, was not utilized correctly, and needs to be reconsidered. (If the town is not going to build densely, which was part of the Buffer deal, then we should scrap the buffer. The Buffer has ‘preserved open space’ in a hyperlocal way of little environmental significance to the region.)
3. Our advisory boards often add unneeded cruft to an already lengthy development process. We need to talk about eliminating some of them.
4. Chapel Hill’s inclusionary zoning policies don’t work. Getting rid of conditional zoning would be a game changer in Chapel Hill and allow us to build more affordable housing town-wide.
5. Our trees are not under massive threats from development. But, our development decisions are causing deforestation elsewhere.
6. By selecting council members on odd years, Chapel Hill and Carrboro effectively disenfranchise their constituents. They should hold elections in even years, when more people vote.
7. Instead of relying on nonprofits to feed and house vulnerable citizens, our towns and county need to provide these services.
8. RTP was a really nice idea but the suburban office park model will ultimately harm the region.
9. Blue Hill has always been the ugliest part of Chapel Hill and the ugly new apartments are an improvement.
10. There is no compelling reason for large employers to locate in Chapel Hill instead of Raleigh, Durham, or RTP
11. Racism has been baked into Chapel Hill’s housing and development processes since the town was founded. Restrictive covenants (both written and assumed) have long-lasting effects and we cannot ignore them during planning.
12. The frats/sororities and athletics seem untouchable — but must be discussed because they are problematic on many levels.
13. Our public feedback processes have been largely taken over by a small (loud) group of wealthy homeowners.