The town-gown committee, composed of University and town officials and co-chaired by Chancellor James Moeser and Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, was established so UNC and town officials could discuss growth that affects both communities.
University officials said they want the town to remove a cap on building space to expedite the process of obtaining building permits. Master Plan Director Jonathan Howes said UNC now has 13.7 million square feet of floor space either built or authorized for construction.
In about three months, the University will reach the limit of about 14 million square feet the Town Council placed on UNC floor space in the early 1980s, said Bruce Runberg, UNC associate vice chancellor for facilities services.
Chapel Hill Town Council members were not enthusiastic about giving up authority, but some, like Council member Lee Pavao, were willing to discuss raising it to a level that would allow the University to build for the next 10 years.
"You have the flexibility, we're not tying you down, but we maintain knowledge of what goes on, so that if things become a little out of hand, we can step in and protect our citizenry," Pavao said.
But Runberg said University officials believe the cap is more of a problem than it was during the expansions in the 1980s because the current expansion is going to be much faster.
The most UNC has spent on campus construction in one year is around $60 million, Runberg said.
According to the timetable of the Master Plan, the University will be spending about twice that annually starting within a year.
"It's a big project," Runberg said. "We're going to fix 21 percent of the buildings on campus and touch 120 classrooms. That's about five years or so to do all these classrooms. That's about $120 million in the ground every year."
The town-gown committee came to a tentative agreement to discuss the possibility of an extended cap in the new Town Development Ordinance. "If you could give us an amount of space within the cap that would allow us to work for the next 10 years, that would be acceptable to us," said Nancy Suttenfield, vice chancellor for finance and administration.
Officials from both sides came to the conclusion that they could not make any final decisions until the Board of Trustees approves the final version of the Master Plan at its next meeting on March 22.
Moeser invited council members to a Feb. 22 Board of Trustees workshop at the Morehead Planetarium to further discuss these issues. The meeting will be open to the public.
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