The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday April 1st

Residents Vow to Keep Eyes on Plan

When Ken Broun first bought his home in the Mason Farm area, he never thought that 26 years later he'd be fighting to preserve his neighborhood.

But Broun found himself leading fellow residents in a heated question-and-answer session with UNC officials concerning the Master Plan, a blueprint for campus growth.

And those residents, worried the plan will push into their neighborhoods, say they will be keeping a close eye on it. Broun, who was designated as the spokesman for neighborhoods like Mason Farm, Whitehead Circle, Westwood and Westside, said some questions remained after the forum.

"I think we were able to get some answers and some answers we weren't able to get," said Broun, who was Chapel Hill mayor from 1991 to 1995 and is a UNC law professor. "I wish the University would have answered my questions about eminent domain (that allows UNC to purchase town lands), but they didn't."

A major cause of contention at the hearing was a proposal that would cut a transportation corridor through the Mason Farm neighborhood, and through some residents' houses. Should UNC decide it wants to take land from the town to build this corridor, eminent domain will permit it.

"I have concerns about the road, the transit corridor, overall density of the plan, but my primary concern is about the immediate effect on my neighbors," Broun said.

Adam Gross, a consultant with Ayers Saint Gross, the firm that is developing the Master Plan, offered three possibilities for the corridor, the third of which would completely bypass the neighborhood. But no option is definite until the plan is presented to the UNC Board of Trustees in January.

"The neighborhood is concerned because the Town Council said they would protect the neighborhoods," said Anne Seymour, who lives in the Whitehead Circle area.

Town Council member Joyce Brown said the council will continue to monitor the progress of the plan.

"It does put some of the burden on the council to help protect the neighborhoods," she said. "I think there were still some questions in the minds of some citizens."

Elaine Barney, who lives in the Whitehead Circle neighborhood, said the plan raises more questions than just those about a transportation corridor.

"I think we had several concerns about the Master Plan in general as it affects the neighborhoods surrounding campus, especially Mason Farm and Whitehead Circle," she said.

Barney said there is already a problem of noise and light pollution in the areas surrounding campus. She said more growth at UNC will add to these problems.

"There was still concern about continued growth - when would it end? (The plan) raises a lot of fears and anxieties," she said. Betty Cloutier, co-president of Chapel Hill Preservation Society, said she is concerned about the historical integrity of many campus buildings that would be affected by the plan.

"It's our mission to preserve the character of Chapel Hill - that includes the University," she said. "You can't separate the town and gown.

"The big thing we all need to be concerned with is thousands of new square footage of buildings and thousands of new students and new cars - all of which will affect all the neighborhoods."

UNC spokesman Jonathan Howes said all the concerns brought by the residents will be evaluated before a final draft of the Master Plan is sent to the BOT.

"We have heard some of these concerns in the past and tried to address them," Howes said. "We have done it in the past and will continue to do it."

Cloutier said that while the town relied heavily upon UNC, the University needed to respect the neighbors' wishes.

"Chapel Hill wouldn't be here without the University, but you can't separate the University from Chapel Hill either. These old buildings need to be protected and saved."

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