The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday October 26th

Growth Plans Strain UNC, Town Relations

UNC Hospitals officials last week also held a forum aimed at building support among residents for the widening of South Columbia Street.

Earlier in the month, Chancellor James Moeser requested that the town conduct a study examining the feasibility of widening South Columbia.

This issue has reignited tensions between University officials and town leaders and residents -- tensions that were high last fall as the University worked to gain town approval for its eight-year campus Development Plan.

Council member Dorothy Verkerk said she thinks the effort to widen South Columbia Street is just another example of UNC officials failing to take the town's position into account in development decisions.

"(The widening of South Columbia) is the last thing in a number of events that the University has tried to force," Verkerk said. "It strains relations with the council."

But Jonathan Howes, who directed the University's efforts to gain approval for its growth plan, defended the University's action.

Howes said that because UNC is facing increased enrollment, officials have to address needs like the widening of South Columbia.

"I think the town and the University have always found ways to come to decisions," Howes said. "The University is growing, and it will continue to grow. The University wants to be a good neighbor and will work toward that."

Council member Flicka Bateman said she also recognizes that UNC and the town must work together to function.

"We're mutually dependent on each other," Bateman said. "We work together to find the good solution for both groups.

"I think we have to (cooperate). The future of both the town and the University is based on taking and leaving and cooperating."

Verkerk said she is frustrated with UNC for proposing the widening of South Columbia.

"(The study) has made things more difficult," Verkerk said. "We have the five votes on the council to defeat expanding it."

Verkerk added that the University's reasons for widening the road are not valid.

"I think the council is against widening," she said.

"It's a decision that was put to rest. I don't know why (UNC) is bringing it up again."

Bruce Runberg, associate vice chancellor for facilities services, said that despite past differences, the University and the council have worked well together.

"There are often areas of disagreement, and they are negotiated," Runberg said.

"It's critical that they work together, and they have worked well in the past, considering they are coming from two different backgrounds.

"The University needs are important, but so are the town's, and that needs to be considered."

The City Editor can be reached

at citydesk@unc.edu.

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