Planning for Sustaining Places

By Scott Sherrill, UNC MPA Student

In the first of two back to back presentations on January 5, available online here, Dave Godschalk, of the UNC Chapel Hill City and Regional Planning Department, delivered a lecture on sustainable comprehensive planning, and Bill Roper and Brad Wilson, of UNC Healthcare and BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, respectively, discussed a recent healthcare collaboration.

Godschalk began his talk by stressing that planning is not just about a process, which has been much of the focus of Chapel Hill 2020 thus far, but also about a final end product.

We have described some of the principles from Dave Godschalk’s talk here, but beyond those basic principles, Godschalk also described best practices and many of the complicating issues facing communities in the 21st century: resource depletion, climate instability, energy scarcity, economic stress, social inequity, and public health. He also described the comprehensive plan as an ideal instrument for sustaining places because of their legal authority, scope to cover functions, and history of practice in the United States. Furthermore, they have a mandate to set community goals, engage citizens, establish responsibility for component parts, and achieve consensus. A good plan serves as a record of community agreement for where a community wants to go and how it wants to get there.

Godschalk posed the question “What can Chapel Hill learn from plans of other places?” A list of plans used can be found at the end of this post. The plans selected represent growing and shrinking areas, large and small, local, county, and regional plans. The plan Godschalk focused on as an apt model for Chapel Hill was that of Fort Collins, CO.

To think about sustaining places, Godschalk suggests breaking out of the traditional community planning assumptions on account of new realities and moving towards an adaptive planning model: continuous monitoring of plan, strategic changes to plan as needed to face unanticipated challenges or issues. The adaptive model combines the technical and participatory tracks of planning; develops contingencies; develops and tracks outcome measures; and has ongoing implementation. The new planning method necessitates a new format and topics to focus on multi-topical systems. The new format stems from an integrative framework that breaks out of traditional silos.

In the best cases, the comprehensive plans shape budget priorities, have clear assignment of responsibility, a metric for measuring the success of the plan, and a timeline in place for the completion of goals and objectives.

Sustaining plans typically:

  • Adopt sustainability principles
  • Integrate policies across programs
  • Consider equity, health, and wellbeing inputs
  • Act on scientific evidence
  • Address demands with limited funds
  • Implement non-traditional goals
  •  Monitor sustainability metrics
  • Link to regional plans
  • Conduct stakeholder engagement

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!

2020 Business – a post from a theme group co-chair

2020 Business, by Jan Bolick, theme group co-chair

Do we do good business in Chapel Hill?

What would make it better?

What would make it fabulous?

If you run  a business in Chapel Hill:

  • What  bugs you about doing business in Chapel Hill?
  • What would help you do better business?
  • Think ahead to 2020.  If  all your dreams came true, what would your business be like?  What would the business community be like?

If you work in Chapel Hill:

  • What do you like about working in Chapel Hill?
  • What would make it better?
  • Think ahead to 2020 – if all your dreams came true, what would your work life be like?

As a Chapel Hill  consumer:

  • What do you love about shopping in Chapel Hill?
  • What gets in your way?
  • What do you wish for?

Compared to other places you have lived or done business in, what is missing?

If you were the CEO of the Chapel Hill business community, what would you do to make Chapel Hill a better place to live, work and play?

Your answers to such questions could make a significant difference in Vision 2020, the plan for Chapel Hill’s future.   The next meeting will be Thursday, December 1, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Frank Porter Graham Elementary.

The agenda includes reports on ideas shared  by citizens so far. Topics  include:

  • Downtown district
  • Economic development
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Housing
  • Town & gown
  • Transportation
  • Tourism
  • Neighborhoods
  • Services delivery
  • Diversity
  • Cultural vibrancy
  • The arts
  • Community engagement

Last Saturday we heard reports from those who have been working on these important topics.  You can read the summaries and join us again this Thursday, December 1st for the next theme group meeting.

Listen with an ear for business.  Listen with an ear for life.

Listen to what is being said.  And not said.

And then speak up. Join in.  Get involved.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a difference – for your business and for the entire community.

If you cannot attend, there are still plenty of ways to contribute to the plan:

  • Share your ideas in Comments section below
  • Send comments to me: and I will pass them to the appropriate groups that are working to craft Chapel Hill’s vision for 2020.
  • schedule a 2020 Vision speaker to attend your club or group’s next neighborhood meeting or luncheon by contacting or 919-969-5068.

And just in case you feel like it won’t matter – that your  voice is too small to make a difference – take a look at this favorite quote.

Sneak Peek of October 6th – vision and themes

Things have been churning since we last met and tomorrow evening, between 7 and 9 pm, the East Chapel Hill High auditorium is your destination to check in and let us know how well you think the facilitators and staff have captured your input from the 27th.

We collected what you said, we’ve written it down, we’ve sorted and sifted and our facilitators have studied and suggested to come up with these drafts.

We hope you’ll join us tomorrow to give us your reactions, but if you can’t, never fear.  We’ll have more opportunities to hear from you here, through a survey (coming soon), or maybe you want to come to the community open house on October 22nd at University Mall, by the new library location, and talk to us then!

So, here’s some food for thought to get you going.  What do you think?

1. Draft Vision Statements

 A: “Chapel Hill will be a vibrant, connected community, a town that is accessible, affordable, sustainable, and strong. Citizens of Chapel Hill will treasure their downtown, their diversity, and their university; they will enjoy the benefits of balanced development, a quality transportation system, green housing, and healthy neighborhoods.”

B: “Chapel Hill will be a destination location. Balancing growth, density, and the environment, it will feature collaboration between the university, the town, developers and the community. It will encourage integration of students into community, and build bridges between cultures, and neighborhoods through art. Chapel Hill will be a town that is truly green.”

C: “Chapel Hill will be a bright, dynamic community that celebrates diverse populations. It will accumulate and retain intellectual, entrepreneurial, and artistic capital. Valuing its heritage while building regional partnerships, Chapel Hill will be a compact, accessible, mixed-use place of opportunity with a high quality of life.”

D: “Chapel Hill will be the best college town in America. We will integrate the aspirations of the University and its students into our community life. We will build social and physical bridges among cultures and neighborhoods. Through wise and collaborative use of resources, we will strive for an affordable and sustainable community life. We will safeguard our heritage while building a diverse tax base and regional partnerships for a prosperous future. We will be safe for all, connected, economically sound, and innovative.”

2. Draft Themes

Good places and new spaces: Downtown & Development (special places, downtown district, housing, development, protecting existing assets, neighborhoods)

Town & Gown: Learning and innovation (a center of medicine and health care, life-long learning, using intellectual/financial capital, re-thinking the status quo)

Getting Around: Transportation (transportation of all forms)

Community prosperity and engagement: Fiscal Sustainability (affordability, economic development, neighborhoods, services delivery)

Cultural & Artistic Vibrancy (arts, creativity, tourism, celebrations, special events, inclusion)

Nurturing our community: environmental sustainability (our natural environment, open spaces, solid waste, recycling, parks, greenways, rural buffer)

A place for everyone: public safety & diversity (youth, teens, safe places, a welcoming community) Our Dynamic Region: (regional assets, partnerships, potential for shared success)

3. The Principles Each work group should address how their plan supports

  • Protecting and celebrating our natural assets
  • Creating opportunities for social exchange and community capital
  • Strengthening our physical infrastructure
  • Encouraging sustainable practices and a diversified tax base
  • Supporting safe and healthy lifestyles

4. The practical framework Each work group would also frame their work around these two guiding questions:

  • How will our input inform policy decisions by elected officials?
  • How will our input inform planning and implementation by the city manager and staff?

Word Clouds from Community Input

With the help of a good intern, we took the words and ideas from the papers and put them in a spreadsheet. We took that data and used Wordle, a web based tool for generating word clouds, to create this image. Word clouds are used to  quickly indicate the most commonly used words  in a block of text – the bigger the word, the more frequently it was used. 

Each table has their own word cloud (the smaller ones).  The 200 most frequently recorded words from all tables are in the larger cloud in the center.

There are many ways to think about words, ideas, and data. This is just one – what do you think?

PDF Download

Community Data from Sept 27th

Here is an Excel spreadsheet with the raw data from the Sept 27 2020 Kickoff Meeting. Each tab shows the input recorded at each table. Town staff and the facilitators are using this information to pull out some themes so check back later this week.

On October 6th, you’ll have a chance to help us identify the key themes and sign up for a work group.

Hundreds of People Helped us Kick-off Chapel Hill 2020!

Wow!  Thanks to the hundreds of people who showed up at East Chapel Hill High last night to kick-off Chapel Hill 2020 – what a great crowd!  The open house was great.  People gathered around to hear what’s happening in Chapel Hill, grabbed a snack from the PTA table and met their neighbors.

Learning About Greenways

Learning About Greenways


Meeting Our Neighbors


 By 6 o’clock, the commons was packed full and the fire chief counted over 375 people ready to get down to ideas for Chapel Hill’s vision and themes to make that vision real.  The discussion were energetic (some groups even took it outside!) and people began putting pen to paper:

Brainstorming the Vision for 2020


Table 1's Vision for 2020


Table 5's Vision for 2020


Brainstorming the Vision


Table 8's Vision for 2020

Around 7:30, we heard what a few of the groups were up to – and it was interesting how many of the same themes and visions came out of the different tables:  sustainable, vibrant, interesting and welcoming – well, we’ll get everything summarized soon so you can read it all here yourself! 
Reading Some of the Results
As one table summed it up, “Chapel Hill is a small town with a big footprint!”   We’re looking forward to keeping this going, so please come back on October 6th!
If you didn’t get a chance to join us, comment here and let us know what you would have said!