Chapel Hill sustainable growth committee may disband

The Sustainable Community Visioning task force, the committee assigned to manage Chapel Hill’s growing population, could be in its final days.

The purpose of the group — a question that has divided the group’s 21 members — might have been too unclear for the task force to make progress, members of the Chapel Hill Town Council said at Monday’s meeting.

The possible termination of the group came with the concession that the town needs to revise its Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2000 to guide Chapel Hill’s future.

Town Manager Roger Stancil will prepare a report discussing the potential updates for the council’s May 24 meeting.

The task force was formed in May 2009 by then-mayor Kevin Foy.

In late February, four members argued that the group’s guidelines should incorporate the cumulative effects of population growth on the town rather than focus on growth problems in individual areas.

“Any particular spot was fine for great density,” said Will Raymond, a task force member and signatory of a letter outlining the problems, in an interview after the meeting. “But the truth of it is not all spots could be high density.”

Council member Jim Ward suggested the task force try to work out its guidelines, but task force chairman George Cianciolo said the group doesn’t know how to proceed.

“We have two fairly strong differing opinions,” Cianciolo said. “If we go back we could spend another four to six meetings and we’d be back here.”

He said the task force, which meets twice a month, can’t make the strides it needs to in order to be effective.

“Meeting three hours a month isn’t going to achieve what this council was asking: How should Chapel Hill grow, where should it grow, what it should look like,” Cianciolo said.

“The task force … just wasn’t prepared to handle what the question was at hand.”

The task force, whose membership has dropped from 24 to 21, could lose more members because of the conflict, Cianciolo said. He said the smaller group might not be representative of Chapel Hill.

Council member Donna Bell, who was on the task force before her appointment to the council in January, said it was hard for her to switch between thinking about population growth on a small scale and on a large scale.

“It’s really difficult to be at five feet and be at 10,000 feet at the same time,” she said.

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