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The Daily Tar Heel

Aldermen Examine UNC's Development Plan

Dhiru Thadani, principal of the Washington, D.C., office of Ayers Saint Gross, made a presentation Tuesday to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and fielded their questions about transportation and ecological concerns that could arise from University and town growth.

The Washington branch of Ayers Saint Gross will be planning development of the 979-acre Horace Williams tract, once it gathers information from both the Chapel Hill and Carrboro governments. The Horace Williams tract is part of UNC's Master Plan, a blueprint for campus growth for the next 50 years.

The tract, located in northern Chapel Hill and stretching into Carrboro, is owned by UNC but houses several town departments. Of the 809 undeveloped acres, the area that primarily concerns Carrboro is the area designated as the West Precinct in the firm's 2000 Concept Plan.

The West Precinct area falls entirely in Carrboro and makes up a portion of the 235 acres that Ayers Saint Gross plans to develop, leaving 574 acres to be divided among mandatory open space preservation, additional land preservation and recreation areas. The plan also addresses ways to deal with increased congestion on local roads that might result from development.

Another reason that transportation has been a major topic of concern for local leaders is proposed plans to link the Triangle with a mass transit system, either by rail or busways.

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist asked George Alexiou, a transit planner for the Horace Williams tract, how the issue of transportation would factor into their designs.

Alexiou said a final method of transportation had yet to be picked by the planning committee. "We were never definitive about the type of technology," he said. "The bus option does have merit because buses can go through downtown without the same impact as rail. We're just saying we need to have a good speed transit service."

But Alexiou also said no clear decision had been reached because the plan will affect more than the UNC community. "That decision is not the University's, partly because of the cost and the system would serve a lot of other people than those from the University," Alexiou said.

Both Alderman Diana McDuffee and Mayor Mike Nelson voiced concerns about land preservation in places such as the area surrounding Bolin Creek.

University senior legal counsel Susan Ehringhaus said the Horace Williams advisory committee is taking land preservation into account and is trying to build a blueprint that would be adjustable to the next 50 years of growth. "All of the planning committee have been quite impressed with the concept of smart growth."

Ehringhaus said the next step would be to get public input on the tract.

"There will be several public presentations on campus over the next three months," she said. "We have no plans to take the Horace Williams proposal to the (UNC Board of Trustees) yet. We plan to do that over the course of the spring. We have a long way to go."

The BOT will review the UNC campus Master Plan in March, but that plan will not have a direct effect on Carrboro.

After the meeting, Thadani said there would be a buffer for residential housing and that traffic concerns would be addressed after the local and public input are meshed. "You want to utilize the land as best as possible, but you don't want to destroy why people like this area."

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