By Scott Sherrill, UNC MPA Student
On November 22 at 5:30 PM more than 50 people gathered at Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers to listen to American Planning Association President Mitchell Silver discuss the demographic trends revealed by the 2010 census and what they mean for the Chapel Hill 2020 planning process.
Mr. Silver’s presentation was wide ranging and humorous, driving home his points about changes in our demographic make-up and their implications for growth, change and evaluating our community’s vision and values. He emphaiszed the need to focus on open, honest conversations throughout the process and to begin focusing on the values and trade-offs of our decisions.
“When we have this conversation, remember it’s about us… As a community we rise together and fall together.”
“When you say no to something, you are saying yes to something else.”
Mr. Silver’s presentation was based on his analysis of demographic trends and our changing community patterns. Silver’s analysis served to indicate trends that might inform some of the discussions for Chapel Hill 2020, though the trends’ impacts may not be fully felt until 2030, 2040, or 2050.
Mr. Silver began his talk by discussing the planning profession and the transition of its role from process back to planning. He discussed plans as policy documents that set the vision and values and then codes codify those visions and values to protects the public interest, safety, and welfare.
The primary demographic trend Silver discussed for North Carolina is an increase in population that has taken North Carolina from the 12th most populous state to the 10th most populous state, and will see North Carolina be the 7th most populous state by 2030.
Other trends that will impact the needs of the built environment and communities include the aging of the population, where one in five people will be over the age of 65 by 2050, the changing make up of households, where the number of single households will equal the number of family households by 2025, and the diversifying of the population such that by 2042 there will be no majority race.
On top of these trends, our communities are also facing the interactions of multi-generational households as boomerang kids and aging parents are moving in with the generation in the middle.
Mr. Silver discussed the ways these trends impacted Raleigh’s thinking about its 2030 comprehensive plan which ultimately had consequences for the zoning code in being more creative in planning new types of development.
For the process of planning, Mr. Silver stressed the importance of having difficult conversations and incorporating the voices of all generations, and realizing that outreach to different generations will require different media of communications. The most important attribute of the process is open and honest conversation about visions and values for the town.
The next theme group meeting will be held December 1 from 4:30 to 6:30 at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School.