By Scott Sherrill, UNC MPA Student
About 170 people were in attendance on November 19 to participate in the reporting out from the first theme group meeting.
George Cianciolo opened the meeting by establishing the purpose of the day was to flesh out answers to the questions 1. Who is missing from the process? 2. What topics are missing? and 3. Where is the overlap between the groups?
To demonstrate a metaphor for the discussion and selection of what to include, Margaret Henderson, the Public Intersection Project Director at the UNC School of Government, provided a glass container half-filled with sand. Outside of the sand was a collection of rocks, bits of glass, and bricks that had to fit into the conversation. They only fit in when the sand was removed first (big rocks first!) The idea behind the big rocks was that they demonstrated large topics that needed to be discussed by the groups. The metaphor provided a point of reference for the remainder of the conversation.
After the demonstration, Margaret solicited response from co-chairs of each of the theme groups to the questions: how many people were in your group? what were the three most discussed issues? what were the perspectives represented? and what perspectives were missing.
Nurturing our Community: 22-24 participants, focus was on environmental quality and planning, overlap with transportation and urban design. Mostly general citizens with strong environmental concerns with wide variety of length of time lived in Chapel Hill, the group would like to see greater racial diversity, and UNC students identifiable.
Town-Gown: 3 participants, want more info on the status quo on university-town interaction, student housing, and the economic role of UNC, effect of campus development. Former faculty and neighbors to university represented, but would like to see more university representatives and others who don’t have direct interaction with university.
Community Prosperity and Engagement: 30+ participants, discussed senior access to community activities, safety, transportation, and connectivity of existing commercial areas, affordability of housing, diversity of taxbase, tourism, and holding on to local innovation and businesses. This group would like to see official university representation, younger people, minorities, and people new to community.
Getting Around: 15-17 participants, discussed connectivity for greenways, sidewalks, public transit, and a regional transportation network. Young group including students and university staff and people who live outside Chapel Hill but work in Chapel Hill. This group would like the perspectives of people with physical disabilities and transportation service providers.
Places and Spaces: 23 participants, discussed downtown parking and commerce, intensity and density of development, and walkable areas and gathering spaces. Some downtown business owners were present, neighborhood residents, council members. This group would like residents of areas adjacent to downtown, perspectives on development in areas outside of downtown, and university students.
A Place for Everyone: 16-24 participants, discussed non-retail gathering spaces, public places for arts displays, and gathering places for youths and teens. Perspectives from teachers and high school students, minority. This group would like an elderly perspective and would like more minority presence.
Following the reporting out, Rosemary Waldorf listed three “big rocks” that were missing from the discussions thus far that will have some discussion on the front end of the next theme group meeting; namely, the financial challenges facing Chapel Hill, community growth, and community prosperity.
Community discussion was wide-ranging and covered everything from procedural topics to ecologic versus economic considerations to intergovernmental relations with Carrboro to financial sustainability among others.
The individual groups will be responsible for deciding how they will make decisions, but John Stephens, also of the School of Government Public Intersection Project staff presented a gradients of agreement model to the crowd, similar to that used at the October 6th meeting.