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The Daily Tar Heel

Low Turnout Marks Ordinance Meeting

Town officials say the six people who did come to discuss development raised important questions.

Only six residents made the trip to the Chapel Hill Town Hall. But town officials say the small crowd still managed to raise important questions.

"The topics (Thursday night) were a repeat of Monday's issues at the (Chapel Hill Town) Council meeting," said Planning Director Roger Waldon. "My sense is more and more people are watching the meetings on television."

Chapel Hill officials are in the process of gathering information from residents as they work to craft a final draft of the town's new development ordinance.

At the hearing Thursday, members of the Chapel Hill planning staff presented articles relating to zoning, procedures and design standards.

Resident Suzanne Haff, who is also a member of the town's planning staff, asked about the possibility of making the lighting in the Weaver Street Market parking lot less bright.

Waldon responded by saying that the ordinance does not address lighting but that the question now will be considered for the third draft of the ordinance.

"Right now the development ordinance has very little to say about lighting," he said.

The town's development ordinance is being rewritten in conjunction with the town's Comprehensive Plan -- a detailed account of the council's vision for the town's future.

The new ordinance likely will account for issues like stormwater management and affordable housing that were left unresolved in the existing ordinance, which was written in 1981.

Council members, who are now working from a second draft of the ordinance, plan to write a total of three drafts before finalizing the ordinance on or before Sept. 18.

Town Council member Dorothy Verkerk said she was appreciative of those who did attend.

"I'm grateful to the people who did come out," Verkerk said. "People are very interested."

Verkerk said she thought residents had other things to do Thursday night, which caused the meager attendance at the meeting.

"This was a really busy week," Verkerk said. "There was a lot going on."

Waldon said town officials are not considering changing their methods as a result of Thursday's meeting.

"Decisions are almost always better with lots of ideas," Waldon said. "The town demands the opportunity to learn what the government is up to."

Waldon said the town exhibited this interest March 9, when more than 50 people attended a development workshop.

"We have to give lots of opportunities to learn and talk about the proposals," he said. "Citizens want the opportunity to learn."

Town residents are invited to attend an ordinance workshop May 11, where members of the Chapel Hill planning staff will make presentations concerning the issues addressed in the ordinance.

The public will have the opportunity to speak directly to the Town Council at a June 3 hearing following the completion of the third draft of the ordinance.

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