Nearly twice as many people as expected helped Chapel Hill kick-off its process for planning the town’s future Tuesday night at East Chapel Hill High School.
Almost 400 people attended the meeting to discuss Chapel Hill 2020 — the comprehensive plan the town is creating. The town had anticipated 200 attendees.
The comprehensive plan aims to create a vision to guide the town’s growth during the next ten years.
The planning process will continue until June 2012.
Tuesday’s meeting opened with an open house where attendees could learn more about town’s community services background.
Chapel Hill resident Anna Wu attended the event.
“I work and play here,” she said. “I’m interested in contributing and hearing others’ interesting ideas.”
Later, Town Council and community members brainstormed about issues they would like to see addressed in the plan.
Groups discussed issues including sustainability, accessibility and socioeconomic diversity.
They also discussed the need to create jobs in order to keep high school and University students in the area after they graduate.
Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said he was pleased with the turnout.
“I think this was a great cross-community conversation,” he said.
Diversity at issue
Although 378 people attended the event, some were disappointed by the diversity of attendees.
Chapel Hill resident and land preservationist Debbie Mozgala said she was concerned by the number of non-residents who attended the meeting.
“The town’s personality was completely absent,” she said.
She said her table was composed mostly of out-of-town developers, real estate agents and businessmen, which she said she believes misrepresents the needs of the town.
Hopes for the future
Laurie Paolicelli, executive director of the Visitors Bureau, said that she would like the comprehensive plan to allocate a larger percentage of the hotel occupancy tax to be used for marketing the town as a tourist destination.
“There are 100 counties in North Carolina, and we rank 24th in total tourism,” she said, “We should be in the top ten.”
Kristen Smith, director of public policy and member engagement at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes the plan addresses streamlining the development process and creating a more business-friendly sign ordinance.
She said she hopes the comprehensive plan will focus on making it easier for businesses to operate in the town instead of expanding the commercial sector.
“What we’re advocating for right now is not necessarily thinking where we want to grow, but how we can make it easier.”
The next Chapel Hill 2020 meeting will be held on Oct. 6.
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