Less than 30 minutes after the approval, another burden was lifted from UNC's shoulders. In a separate 8-1 vote, the council abandoned the Smith Center special-use permit, which required UNC to set aside a 200-foot vegetative buffer between the Smith Center and Mason Farm Road.
The two measures will allow UNC to implement the first phase of its Master Plan, a 50-year blueprint for campus growth.
But with the council's approval of the Development Plan came 36 stipulations aimed at protecting residents. The additions were modified from the Chapel Hill Planning Board's recommendations. "We're pleased to see it approved with the stipulations that were added," said Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities planning. "We felt the staff in particular came up with a viable solution."
Council member Joyce Brown cast the lone dissenting vote in both decisions. "I think we let down the neighborhoods we've pledged to protect," she said. "This sets a bad precedent."
Several other council members expressed regret over their affirmative votes. "I don't think anyone is jumping up and happy about this," council member Edith Wiggins said. "We're doing this because it's practical and we don't want to risk any regulatory relations with the University."
The Development Plan, which was unveiled in July, details campus growth over the next eight years and explains how this expansion will affect the town. The plan proposes 41 new buildings and an addition of nearly 6 million square feet to the existing 13.6 million square feet already on campus.
The main area of contention became the Mason Farm Road area, which lies on the southern border of campus. Residents expressed concern about the location of a proposed road that would connect South Campus and Fordham Boulevard.
But University officials made it clear that plans for the road were not part of the Development Plan. "We have not made any specific plans for the main access road," Runberg said. "We don't have a project for it. We don't have funding for it. It's not in the plan -- period."
University officials, however, didn't want to rule out prospects for a road to be built later as part of UNC's Master Plan. "The access road is an important part of the Master Plan," Runberg said. "If, at some point, the University wants to come forward and gain town approval, they can do so under the ordinance."