Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf and UNC Chancellor James Moeser met on the steps of the Franklin Street post office on Thursday to announce a new strategy for approaching town-gown relations.
The two unveiled a new committee composed of members from the Chapel Hill Town Council and various University representatives. The committee will meet to discuss issues of mutual interest to the town and UNC, by way of a neutral facilitator.
"Our motivation to discuss this kind of a joint working team is pretty simple," Moeser said.
"It is to move beyond specific issues as they arise together as both the University and the town to consider the bigger picture and the wider range of issues that we both need to resolve in order to most effectively serve our respective constituents."
While no date has been set for the committee to begin working, Waldorf and Moeser said it will be soon after November's elections, when UNC officials will no longer be working to push the passing of the $3.1 billion higher education bond referendum.
But once the committee convenes, Moeser said he hopes it will meet on a weekly basis.
Waldorf said the committee will make suggestions to her and to the chancellor about the issues that are of highest priority for the two bodies, like UNC's Master Plan and transportation concerns.
The Master Plan is a blueprint for campus growth that has run into resistance from residents who live near UNC and fear the campus will begin to encroach on their neighborhoods.
"Doing this creates a sense of expectation, which I think is good," she said. "I think it makes us all expect of ourselves that we will work very hard to resolve some of the lingering issues of mutual interest and mutual concern that exists between the town and the University."
Waldorf appointed Town Council members Bill Strom, Kevin Foy and Lee Pavao to the committee because they have no ties to the University, nor do they live in neighborhoods near UNC's campus.
Moeser's appointments for the committee are Master Plan process Chairman Jonathan Howes, UNC Senior Counsel Susan Ehringhaus, and Board of Trustees members Richard Stevens and Stick Williams. Moeser added that incoming Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Nancy Suttenfield will join the committee in an ex officio capacity when she arrives at UNC later next month.
"Each of us has a group of individuals who understand the issues and will make a good working team," Moeser said.
While a majority of the committee's discussions will be behind closed doors, Waldorf emphasized the importance of the public to the actual decision-making process.
"(My memorandum) makes it clear that if somebody in the town some member of the public wants to add something to the list (of discussion issues), than that's all right, we'll receive that," she said.
Moeser said the committee had many issues to tackle in the future, but all will have long- and short-term effects on both UNC and the town.
"The quality of life that people will find at the University and in Chapel Hill over the years to come will depend on how well we can work together," Moeser said.
"We at the University are committed to being good neighbors."
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