Public Information Meeting about Stream Buffers

Stream Buffers Public Information MeetingThe Town of Chapel Hill will hold a public information meeting and discussion about stream buffers from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the Council Chamber of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Organized by the Chapel Hill Stormwater Advisory Board, the meeting will feature presentations on key issues related to buffer widths from our waterways.

The Chapel Hill Town Council is considering changes to the Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO) that would amend the Town’s existing riparian buffer protection zone known as the Resource Conservation District (RCD).

The Town enacted the Jordan Watershed Riparian Buffer Protection ordinance, which provides 50–foot buffers along intermittent and perennial streams, lakes, ponds and reservoirs. The Town has riparian buffer protection requirements contained in the RCD provisions. In some instances, the RCD buffer widths are greater than those in the Jordan buffer regulations. The Town is considering changes to simplify implementation of all regulations that apply to stream buffers.

The public meeting will provide an opportunity to identify key issues in considering the appropriate buffer widths from waterways and to hear presentations about the science of stream buffers.

Michele Drostin of the UNC Institute for the Environment will facilitate the presentations and moderate public comment. Presentations will be made by Michael Paul, a senior scientist at Tetratech; Deanna Osmond, a soil science professor and extension leader at NC State University; and Fred Royal, managing engineer at Brown and Caldwell. Paul has worked in the field of water quality with a focus on the application of ecological tools and models to develop biological criteria to protect water quality. Osmond has focused her research on reduction of agricultural pollutants through the use of conservation practices. Royal will speak on his experience in developing Chatham County’s water quality ordinances.

For more information, contact Matt Witsil, Stormwater Advisory Board Chair, at; Julie McClintock, Stormwater Advisory Board member, at; or Sue Burke, Stormwater Management Engineer, or 919-969-7266


Agenda item from the November 12, 2012 Public Hearing:

Section 3.6 Land Use Management Ordinance (RCD is Section 3.6.3):

RCD Frequently Asked Questions:

LUMO Section 5.18 Jordan Watershed Riparian Buffer Protection Ordinance:

RCD – Information item:

Resource Conservation District (RCD) Supplemental Information:

Resource Conservation District (RCD) Determinations:

Land Use Management Ordinance Text Amendments for the RCD Stream Buffer Regulations:

RCD and Jordan Buffer Comparison:

Presentations from January 22, 2013 Public Information Meeting:
Deanna Osmond- “Stream Buffers”:

Michael J. Paul- “Riparian Zones- What is the right width?

Fred Royal- “Establishing and Managing Riparian Buffers in Chatham County, NC

A Point of View

Keren Goldshlager, Journalism Student at the University of North Carolina

An international student adamant about the University’s potential. A middle-aged woman dedicated to improving the town’s emergency response system. A storm water management employee passionate about environmental protection. A business owner determined to increase voter turnout in local elections.

These are just a few examples of the more than 300 residents that attended the kick-off of Chapel Hill 2020 last night. These people had different opinions to share, but they had one thing in common: a love for Chapel Hill.

The voices of these citizens will form the backbone of the new comprehensive plan. Town officials hope to make the planning process far more participatory and community-based than it has ever been. In fact, the mayor has said that he wants to get 10,000 people involved. Based on last night, I think his goal will be achieved.

The kick-off had two parts: an open house and a meeting. At the meeting, groups of about ten sat at tables and discussed what they thought the key themes of the plan should be. At the end of the night, leaders – called “facilitators” – shared the main ideas that their groups discussed.

As I circled the packed auditorium and zigzagged up and down the rows of tables, I realized just how much goes into creating a plan of this scope. While one group discussed affordable housing, another talked about cultivating creativity. As one table emphasized Chapel Hill’s need for economic growth, another table was gushing about the town’s quaint atmosphere. I heard about the University. I heard about expanding the tax base. I heard about just about everything.

The most interesting part of the experience was seeing people from all walks of life participating as equals. There were businessmen in button-downs quietly listening to the opinions of librarians in wide-rimmed glasses. There were town council members in t-shirts passively taking notes as small-business owners took charge of group discussions. I was enthusiastically welcomed to every table I wandered up to, even though I’m only a lowly junior at UNC.

All in all, I think the night was a success, although I’m interested to see how the dozens of themes that were discussed can possibly be narrowed down to a six key issues. How do you prioritize so many competing interests? The leaders of this plan definitely have their work cut out for them – but so do we.

Chapel Hill 2020 Kicks Off!

Keren Goldshlager, Journalism Student at the University of North Carolina

Each decade, Chapel Hill officials create a comprehensive plan for the town that guides policy making in areas such as land use and transportation.

But this time around, there is one important addition to the plan: you.

Although the kick-off date is still two weeks away, an initiating committee has been meeting since May to set the framework for a plan that will hinge upon citizen involvement and participation. They have named the plan Chapel Hill 2020 to emphasize its visionary approach.

The committee’s 15 members were appointed by the Town Council and were chosen for their involvement and diversity. The group included a social worker, the operations manager of an affordable housing nonprofit organization, the chair of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority, a Duke physician and more.

Lee Storrow, a recent UNC graduate and candidate for Town Council, was a committee member.

“There were lots of new faces and new voices on the committee,” he said, “specifically because we’re hoping to bring new faces and new voices into the comprehensive plan.”

Chapel Hill officials hope that these new faces and new voices will bring life to the project – but they are well aware of the challenges they face in trying to engage an entire community.

“The hardest part is finding out how to connect with all of the residents, and not just the ones who read the paper and know about this,” said Kathy Atwater, a Northside resident and initiating committee member.

That’s why the committee partnered with two facilitators, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Civic League (NCL), to help develop strategies for promoting civic engagement.

“These groups were very instrumental in starting the initiating committee because they had worked with other towns and other cities across the nation with their future plans,” said Atwater.

Atwater was inspired to take part in the comprehensive plan because of her interest in affordable housing.

“I would like to see more zoning regulations as far as housing, and more housing for people who want to live in Chapel Hill but say they can’t afford to,” she said.

In addition to housing, Chapel Hill 2020 will encompass transportation, downtown businesses, sustainability, land use, environmental justice and any other topics that residents deem important.

“We really want to make sure that this vision is inclusive of all the opinions and all the experiences of the diverse group of people who live here,” said committee member Allisson DeMarco.

DeMarco, who has a background in social work, was especially interested in involving low-income families and immigrants.

To encourage this involvement, the initiating committee decided to host meetings at schools rather than in town hall.

Mary Jane Nirdlinger, assistant director of the town’s planning department, said she thinks that these meetings will allow the project to touch everyday residents who may not attend government-sponsored events.

“If you really want to touch 10,000 people,” she said, “you need to do it in all kinds of ways.”

In addition to meetings, the initiating committee planned a series of open houses, at which Chapel Hill residents will be able to meet, mingle and share.

The open houses will be both fun and informative, and will be centrally located said Nirdlinger. A family-focused open house and a job-themed open house are already in the works, she added.

The committee was also tasked with appointing two chairs – Rosemary Waldorf and George Cianciolo – to guide the development of the comprehensive plan. These co-chairs will also act as spokespeople for the project.

Cianciolo is a pathologist at the Duke University Medical Center, and Waldorf is the project manager of a local community-building company. Waldorf also served as mayor of Chapel Hill from 1995 to 2001.

Although the work of the initiating committee is over, the overall project has barely begun. The first public meeting will be held on September 27 at East Chapel Hill High School, and all residents are invited to attend.

“I encourage all residents to attend the meeting to get an overview of what this plan will entail,” said Atwater. “Now is our opportunity.”