University officials met with the Chapel Hill Planning Board and residents Tuesday night as town officials continue to sift through the University's proposed inch-thick development plan.
The main issue of contention at the meeting centered on how the University will handle increased traffic during and after its Master Plan expansion.
University officials are opposed to increasing traffic volume along Manning Drive because of the projected rise in student population and their movement along South Campus.
But residents counter that argument, saying if traffic is diverted to Mason Farm Road, the value of their homes will decrease.
"Mason Farm Road will be a thoroughfare for the student family housing units," said Joe Wilber, who lives on Mason Farm Road. "Traffic volume and speed have already increased."
University officials said the Development Plan provides solutions that will help minimize the impact of traffic.
"We must minimize additional traffic and minimize additional parking," said George Alexiou, transportation consultant for the Master Plan. "The development plan displaces 3,880 surface (parking) spaces, and the net result is 1,550 additional spaces."
Alexiou suggested other ways of reducing traffic, such as more park-and-ride sites and expanding the town's bus system. "There is a lot of potential for more use of Chapel Hill transit," Alexiou said.
But several residents suggested that the transit system should not expand until traffic improves.
"Buses can't follow schedules when they're sitting in traffic jams," said resident Joan Bartel of 1004 Columbia St. "In order for a new transit system to work, we first have to reduce the number of cars."
University officials opened their presentation by explaining what their proposed 5.9 million square foot expansion entails and the reasoning behind it. "We must meet enrollment demands, install sprinkler systems and renovate the high rises to keep our students on campus," said Sue Kitchen, vice chancellor for student affairs. "We also have a commitment to ensure that our enrollment will not have an impact on the community."
To the lessen the impact on the community, the new zoning requires that UNC provide a development plan detailing the University's moves over the next eight years of construction.
Under the Development Plan, 11 three-story units will be built along the southern perimeter of campus, which will contain family student housing. These units will replace Odum Village and eventually create space for more undergraduate housing to be built.
Most of the expansion will come in the Baity Hill area, which could serve as a buffer between residents and the University. "We want to maintain the Baity Hill area as much as possible," said Dean Bresciani, associate vice chancellor for student services. "It provides a very natural transition for the core campus to the neighborhoods."
Despite concerns raised by residents, the work of town and University officials was praised by many. "An enormous amount of work has gone into this project, both by the planning board and UNC," said resident Diana Steele. "I don't even want to start to imagine what your summer has been like."
The planning board will meet a final time Sept. 4 before making a recommendation to the town council.
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