Chapel Hill 2020 Recognized for Planning Excellence

The NC Chapter of the American Planning Association has recognized the Town of Chapel Hill with a planning innovation award for the Chapel Hill 2020 community visioning process.

The awards committee said the effort to develop a comprehensive plan to guide the growth and development in Chapel Hill over the next 10 years was impressive. Participation in the development of Chapel Hill 2020 surpassed community participation in any other process of its kind in Chapel Hill. Town staff and volunteer leaders were challenged to be creative and innovative in outreach and engagement efforts. In the words of one committee member, “They didn’t leave a stone unturned regarding how to reach people.”

The Chapel Hill 2020 Plan will receive the 2013 North Carolina Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award in the Special Theme – Innovations in Planning Services, Education, and Public Involvement category. The award recognizes technology, techniques and/or processes implemented in the current or past two calendar years that enhance planning, planning services, education, and/or public involvement. The award will be presented during the NC Annual Planning Conference Awards Luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Benton Convention Center, 301 W. Fifth St., Winston-Salem, NC.

Since the Council adopted Chapel Hill 2020 in June 2012, the plan has won awards. In March, the Town won a first place award in the Community Visioning category from the NC City & County Communicators Association. In April, Chapel Hill 2020 co-chairs Rosemary Waldorf and George Cianciolo were recognized for their service with a Key Volunteer Award and Governor’s Medallion Award.

The implementation phase of Chapel Hill 2020 is termed DESIGN 2020. Learn more at

Register Now for Community Input Sessions on Proposed Advisory Boards

As an outgrowth of Chapel Hill 2020, the Council Committee on Boards and Commissions has proposed a system of five advisory boards to support the Town’s development process. The Town Council invites advisory board members and interested community members to learn about and comment on this proposal in a series of community input sessions. These sessions will be held at the Chapel Hill Public Library every Monday evening from July 8 to Aug. 12, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

The series will begin with an overview session describing the structure and goals of the subsequent community input sessions. Each of the following sessions will focus on creating a charge and scope of work for one of the five proposed advisory boards; Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board, Community Design Advisory Board, Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board, Community Housing Advisory Board and Planning Board. For more information on which advisory board will be addressed at each session, please see the table below.

If you are interested in attending these sessions either in person or online, please register at

The time, dedication and hard work of advisory board members help build a successful community. These sessions are your opportunity to help design a focused, effective system for participation.

Community Input Opportunities for Phase 1: Development Review

Date  Registration Start Time  Meeting Title
Monday, July 8 N/A 6:30 p.m. Public Information Session: Overview of Community Input Process
Monday, July 15  6 p.m. 6:30 p.m. Community Input Session 1 Transportation and Connectivity Advisory Board
Monday, July 22  6 p.m. 6:30 p.m. Community Input Session 2 Community Design Advisory Board
Monday, July 29  6 p.m. 6:30 p.m. Community Input Session 3 Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board
Monday, Aug 5  6 p.m. 6:30 p.m. Community Input Session 4 Community Housing Advisory Board
Monday, Aug 12  6 p.m.   Community Input Session 5 Planning Board

For additional information about this project, please visit

Special Topics: Development Agreements

David Owens

David Owens, UNC School of Government

The Town of Chapel Hill’s DESIGN 2020 will offer the special topic presentation, “Development Agreements in Chapel Hill,” by David Owens, professor of public law and government at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government at noon on Wednesday, June 19, in the Council Chamber of Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Professor Owens will present information about development agreements in North Carolina, including a general overview of what a development agreement can do and the basic requirements. A development agreement is a unique tool that may be useful for large projects that will be built over a period of up to 20 years. It provides the developer a level of certainty about what it can build and what mitigation measures will be required, if agreement is reached. It also provides the Town with the opportunity to look at the long-term horizon and make sure it fits with the Town’s comprehensive planning efforts and local policies.

Following the presentation, Town staff will share a brief update on the development agreement process adopted by the Chapel Hill Town Council on March 18, 2013, and current information on the Obey Creek ( and Glen Lennox ( development agreement projects. Read more about this process here:

The presentation will be aired via streaming video at and will be broadcast on Gov-TV 18 later in the week.

David Owens joined the UNC School of Government in 1989. Prior to that, he was an attorney and senior planner for the Wisconsin State Planning Office and spent 10 years with the NC Division of Coastal Management. His publications include numerous books and articles on zoning law, including the basic legal reference, Land Use Law in North Carolina, and the widely used guide for citizen boards, Introduction to Zoning. He has also written on a variety of land use law topics, the scope of local government authority, urban growth management, regulation of religious land uses and adult businesses, conflicts of interest, planning legislation, and various aspects of coastal management law and policy. Owens received a graduate planning degree and law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

The Town of Chapel Hill’s Special Topics series began during the Chapel Hill 2020 comprehensive planning process as a way to share information with interested residents who want to know more about issues, trends and studies that affect the future. These presentations continue with DESIGN 2020, the implementation phase of advancing the comprehensive plan’s goals and objectives.

For more information about DESIGN Chapel Hill 2020, visit or the blog at

Linking the Plan to the Budget

ranking objectives - first results

(click image to be redirected to the complete set of materials for the January 9, 2013 work session)

Last night, the Council put the budget goals and objectives that have been under discussion during their Council’s work sessions to a first test through a prioritization exercise.

It’s an interesting first glance at how the community’s interests dovetail with the Council’s budget process.

There will certainly be more discussion yet to come – and priorities may shift as more information becomes available during the Council’s Retreat and subsequent budget discussions – but it’s exciting to see some of the conversation about community priorities begin to take form.

We’ll be posting some updates on other 2020 Implementation efforts here soon.

Modeling: Here’s looking at you, CH 2020

Did you catch last month’s Special Topic presentation on Modeling? Be sure to come out for the next Chapel Hill Town Hall feature, scheduled for noon Wednesday, Aug. 15.  The topic is “Student Housing” and the presenters are Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and co-presenters Christopher Payne, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, and Larry Hicks, director of housing and residential education. They will provide an overview of the current on-campus student housing options provided by the University and plans for future renovation and construction.

Guest Column from Chapel Hill News
By Garrett Davis
Chapel Hill 2020, a guide to decision-making in Chapel Hill adopted this June, reflects the community input from Future Focus work sessions and the South 15-501 Discussion Group. These public sessions captured ideas about connectivity, where change is likely to occur, and how we can proceed with focused reviews of certain parts of town.
People were interested in comparing the cumulative impacts of different development scenarios. What if more families in apartments have children in school? How much do new buildings cost us? Pay us? This is where CommunityViz, a software program that combines interactive land-use mapping with detailed statistical analysis, comes into play.
How can planning models and analysis help inform decision-making? The Future Focus process involved gathering community input on land use, development, and transportation for Chapel Hill’s future. Another part of the process involved hypothetical land-use maps for different areas that were developed collaboratively with a consultant to the Town of Chapel Hill, Urban Collage Inc. The maps represented different potential growth scenarios.
The visioning process also employed a computer model developed by Seven Hills Planning Group using the CommunityViz platform. This model estimated community impacts related to scenarios developed for each future focus area. The model analyzed each scenario within five broad categories, including build-out potential, public facilities and services, mobility, natural environment and fiscal responsibility. The model also assessed the cumulative impacts on the larger community for each scenario.Community participants provided comments on various scenarios for different areas. The scenarios focused on areas that include the town’s major retail, office, and entertainment districts along major transportation corridors.

By applying CommunityViz, the same software program used in the development of the Triangle Region’s 2040 Long Range Transportation Plans, a set of scenarios may be generated for Chapel Hill’s visioning process that shows what happens if land uses, community data, and other variables are changed. The program applies computer mapping and statistical analysis to analyze the impacts. The variables – impervious surface, demand for parks and taxes, for example – that were put into the scenarios were factors that people said were important to their future in 2020 Theme Groups discussions and public outreach.

Although they have limitations, planning models help us see what the future might look like. The initial results of the Future Focus analysis were compiled in a report that provides an assessment for the entire community, including the identified growth areas and the remainder of the town. Detailed evaluations for each sub-area and the remainder of the Town were also provided.

Information about the Future Focus process and analysis can be found at Maps associated with this analysis are available at

Garrett Davis is a long-range planner for the Town of Chapel Hill. A video presentation is available at

December 1 Theme Groups working session agenda

We’re looking forward to another good discussion tomorrow at Frank Porter Graham. 

There’s been a lot of information going out these past couple of days about demographics and resource requests (here and here) and we’re looking forward to sharing more about the Town’s fiscal conditions tomorrow, at the meeting.

Please take a moment to review the draft materials posted on the main 2020 webpage and the meetings and materials page and come prepared to begin discussing goals at tomorrow’s meeting. 

The goals charts were prepared by staff from the meeting summaries from November 19th.  Each group will have a chance to add and refine those charts at the beginning of their working session. 

If you can’t make the meeting, you’ll have a chance to chime in here and at the reporting out session on December 15th.  The presentation from tonight and meeting summaries will be posted too, so check back!

See you tomorrow!

Agenda December 1, Working Session

DESIRED OUTCOMES: Share Town fiscal information; Theme groups begin discussion of goals; Report on discussion at December 15th meeting;  Continue Goals discussion at January 12th working session meeting

1. Summary of process: Rosemary/George

  • Two big rocks: demographics and fiscal conditions
  • Other resources are posted on the web/blog
  • Tonight’s theme groups will begin discussing goals, continue at January 12 working session

2. Town Fiscal Conditions Roger Stancil, Town Manager

3. Theme Group Discussion Co-chairs and support staff 

  • Capture questions about fiscal presentation 
  • Review of goals chart (based on meeting summaries) 
  • Identify missing goals
  • Begin discussing Why? (objective) and (How?) of goals in small groups
  • Recap discussion for reporting out session

Mitch Silver’s presentation about demographics in Chapel Hill is available only until December 12th – see it here!

October 27: Theme Groups Meeting 1: What a Night!

by Scott Sherrill, UNC MPA Student

The opening theme group meeting was a truly exciting event as people convened at Ephesus Elementary School from 4:30 – 6:30 PM on October 27.

Theme Group With Word Cloud

Theme Group With Word Cloud

Elements from earlier in the process made a reappearance: in each classroom where a theme group was meeting, word clouds and theme summaries, which have been displayed since they were voted upon since the October 6 meeting, but they were also accompanied by citizen comments which have come in since that meeting (see comments on the blog, point of view stories).

The facilitators really had their work cut out for them as they had two hours to work through introductions, clarifying thematic areas, and developing a list of resources to help in the decision-making process. The theme summaries and word clouds helped to provide a point of reference for some groups as they worked to develop mutual understanding of what terms meant. Town staff members were on hand to help residents develop their list of resources. Recorders were also on hand to take notes for each group to capture sentiments, compile a list of needed resources, and prepare for the November 19 meeting where the groups will report out.

The groups ranged in size from about 10 more than 30.  At the end of the evening facilitators asked participants to look around the room, note whose voice was missing, and recruit them for the next meeting, a reporting out designed to gather some common elements from the theme group meetings.  The next meeting is November 19 from  10:30 AM – 12:30 PM at Chapel Hill High School. After that conversation between the theme groups, they will meet again individually on December 1 from 4:30 – 6:30 at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School.

Reports from each theme will be posted here, on 2020buzz, shortly.

Even if you weren’t there on Thursday, It’s not too late to get involved and have your voice heard!  Come to a meeting, participate here, or ask our Outreach Committee to come to you.

Your Questions: Part 2 – What does the Theme Group Do?

As we’ve been building up momentum for Thursday’s first meeting of all the theme groups, we’ve been hearing your questions about process, roles and how we’ll get from vision to plan.

So, we learned who will be in the theme groups, let’s see “What” these theme groups  will do.

A Vision of Chapel Hill

In short, the theme groups will develop the content of the plan.  The framework of this effort is based on the participation from the stakeholders.  The process relies on the theme groups to develop the components of the plan then to share and reconcile their components with other theme groups during the reporting out sessions along the way.  (For more about the process basics, see this earlier post.)  With so many people involved and so many divergent (convergent?) ideas about Chapel Hill, we will all have to be willing to have those conversations with a focus on the one thing we all desire: the best possible future for Chapel Hill.

Components of the Plan

  • Theme: an area of the plan that address various related elements
  • Minivision: an expansion or refinement of the overall community vision identifying components of the theme to be addressed
  • Goal: a desired outcome of future policy decisions and other efforts
  • Rationale: an explanation of why this goal is important – can help guide the action steps
  • Strategy: a way of moving from the current condition to the desired outcome (goal)
  • Action Steps – specific steps of the strategy
  • Timeline – how long the action is expected to take
  • Resource needs – what kind of resources (town, community, other agency, regional, etc.) are needed to support this action
  • Responsible parties – a lead party and partners who will take responsibility for this step
  • Measurement of Success – how we know if the action was successful or not

Each goal of the plan will relate back up to the theme, the mini-vision and ultimately the community’s vision.  These goals will occasionally cross boundaries with other themes and we fully expect that some of the decisions will emerge after some difficult discussions at the reporting out sessions.  How will the theme groups work?  That’s a topic for another post!

Your Questions: Part 3 – How Does a Theme Group Work?

As we’ve been building up momentum for Thursday’s first meeting of all the theme groups, we’ve been hearing your questions about process, roles and how we’ll get from vision to plan.

We’ve done Who and What – let’s jump to How, since a lot of you seem to be interested in that one.

Developing the Themes

We have the first meeting of all the theme groups this week, and naturally people want to know how those groups are going to work.

The Co-chairs are there to help.  So are the recorders, resource people and the staff members.  They’ll help with the logistics and keeping the process on track.

The process is open and democratic, new ideas and new people are welcome.  With that openness comes a responsibility for keeping our efforts moving toward the June goal for adopting a new plan.

On October 27th, theme groups will decide how their theme group will make decisions.  Will you agree by consensus?  vote?  majority vote?

Theme groups will remain open to new information as the plan develops.  The outreach efforts will be ongoing and will bring new reactions and information to each session.  Theme groups will be asked to consider and include that information in their decisions and recommendations.

Theme groups will work with each other.  At each reporting-out session, the groups will hear from each other, identify areas of overlap or conflict and discuss those challenges.  The goal is to have one plan that articulates the best future for Chapel Hill.  We may not all get everything we want, but this collaborative experience will open our minds and help us understand what our collective future might look like.  There is no small group of individuals driving this plan; instead, it will reflect the greater good of the community.

Theme groups will receive information.  Our resource staff and resource committee will work together to collect the quality information developed and collected in Chapel Hill over the last couple of years to inform this plan.  We will not be analyzing and re-analyzing data that has already been collected, we will be bringing the best available information to the process and developing information that supports key cross-theme questions.

What if you miss a meeting or can’t make it?  We have tried to schedule meetings at different times on different days to catch as many people as possible.  But we know you have a life beyond this plan.  If you check the schedule, you’ll see that some meetings are on Thursdays, some are on Saturdays and the times vary – 4:30, 7:00, 10:30 am.  We know there’s no schedule that will work for everyone, so we hope you’ll come to as many meetings as possible and that you’ll take full advantage of the other ways of engaging with the effort.

Do you need someone to come talk to your group?  your neighborhood?  your friends?  We’ll do that.  Just email us at or call us at (919) 968-2728 and ask for Faith.

Prefer to take a survey or write up your comments?  You can do that here.  We’ll be posting surveys and collecting comments along the way and bringing that information to the working sessions and the reporting out sessions.

No matter your style or schedule, we want to hear what your vision for Chapel Hill looks like.

Your Questions: Part 1 – Who is in the Theme Group?

As we’ve been building up momentum for Thursday’s first meeting of all the theme groups, we’ve been hearing your questions about process, roles and how we’ll get from vision to plan. 

Let’s start with “Who?”

Theme Co-Chairs – Facilitate the discussion, use the ground-rules for an effective conversation, help everyone be heard during the discussion.  Our co-chairs will be neutral facilitators responsible for keeping the groups on track and working on their various tasks. 

Staff Resources –  Available to answer questions or identify resources to bring to the group’s discussions.  Could be senior management from the Town, University, Hospital, other agency or group.  At least 1 staff resource will be available at all meetings and will be the liaison to the Resource Committee

Recorder – designated staff to record the meeting, produce a quick report and bring outreach information to the group.

School of Government Facilitators – Will be available at the reporting-out sessions to facilitate conversation and reconciliation.

Stakeholders – these are the folks who are going to develop the content.  If you’ve signed up for a theme group, you’re a stakeholder.  If you haven’t, you can join us at any meeting and we’ll bring you up to speed. 

Outreach – A lot of you have asked about people who aren’t at the meetings.  Will they have an opportunity to have input and respond to the plan contents as the process moves along?  The short answer is yes.  We will be doing targeted (and broad!) outreach all along this process.  The goal is to bring information out of the meetings and to bring reactions and new information back to the beginning of each meeting.  We’ll introduce you to our outreach coordinator in another post soon, so check back!