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Town Council looks to University, local community to contribute to updating comprehensive plan

Taking a focus on resident and University involvement, the Chapel Hill Town Council came one step closer to updating the town’s comprehensive plan Thursday night.

The council is creating an initiative committee to keep the planning process on task and motivated, but specifics on the committee have not yet been decided.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he hopes to see students and other youth take an active role in the committee, while council member Donna Bell said she would like to see a strong minority presence.

“We are going to try and seat a group that grabs all interests of our community,” Kleinschmidt said.

After discussions of the plan began at this year’s annual town council retreat, council members agreed updating the document should be a well-planned and inclusive process — especially after the 2000 comprehensive plan failed to meet their expectations.

Senior Vice President of the National Civic League Derek Okubo said the University should play a role as early as the initiative committee.

“They have to be worker bees who focus on process and logistic, not content,” he said on role of the initiative committee.

Kleinschmidt said he spoke to UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp about obtaining assistance from the School of Government and other University entities.

“They are on standby as another resource for us that we have not effectively tapped into in the past” Kleinschmidt said.

Council Member Penny Rich agreed that the University should play a key role in the development of the document.

“I absolutely think UNC has to be on the table,” she said.

But involvement is only half of the process. The council members listed lack of money, resistance to change and conflict of opinion as barriers they will have to overcome while creating the plan.

Kleinschmidt said keeping the committee on track and on time will be a challenge, but the council is prepared to handle the task.

“We work better with a fire lit under us,” he said. “If we fuel the fire, hopefully we can gain more on our 2012 goal.”

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