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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC, Town Aim to Heal Relationship

Following a year of tension between the University and Chapel Hill, the future for the two remains fragile.

Each year, UNC's enrollment rises -- a phenomenon that has forced the University to create a blueprint for campus growth called the Master Plan.

This plan, spawned by projected enrollment increases, has put immediate pressure on the town and its residents.

The pressure peaked in May when Chancellor James Moeser gave the go-ahead for N.C. Senate leaders to include in the Senate budget proposal legislation exempting roughly 12 percent of the town's total area from Chapel Hill's zoning ordinances. The legislation was removed just days later -- but the maneuver still has had significant implications for town-gown relations.

The move seemed like a power play to many town officials and residents, adding stress to the relationship between town and University officials.

"The strong-arm tactic just doesn't sit well with the community and the citizens," said Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Pavao.

But Moeser wrote off the implications that tension during the summer will have on future town-gown relations.

"A lot of that is a matter of perception," he said. "We made some mistakes along the way. There was a lot more good than trouble."

Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, who sat on a town-gown committee formed last year, said the Master Plan will benefit both the town and the University but added that she still supports a proposal that would be more conscious of residents' concerns.

"I've said many times that I wish the University would have developed a Master Plan that did not intrude into a neighborhood," she said.

Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facility services, noted the tension but said he thinks the town-gown relationship benefited both groups. "It's a very important issue and each side has had different responsibilities, and I think all in all, particularly over the last several months, it's been a team effort," he said.

Runberg said the process will help facilitate future conversations. "There's a lot of give-and-take in the process already, and we hope the process continues," he said. "The more difficult stages of this have yet to come."

Despite the events of the summer, Waldorf emphasized the importance of the town working with the University in the future.

"There has been disappointment, but we have to deal with it and move on."

The City Editor can be reached


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