The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday August 15th

Design commission board could lose seats

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly explained the new composition of the town’s Planning Board. The board will be made up of representatives from the Transportation and Connectivity, the Environmental Stewardship and the Community Housing Advisory Boards. The individual advisory boards will still meet and weigh in on community issues. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.

The Community Design Commission is in danger of losing three board seats and all of its liaisons.

Members of the commission, a town advisory board that oversees the appearance of Chapel Hill, will join members of three other boards — the Transportation and Connectivity, the Environmental Stewardship and the Community Housing Advisory boards — to create the new Planning Board. That board will then report to the Chapel Hill Town Council on behalf of the advisory boards.

The consolidation is part of an ongoing plan to decrease the number of town advisory boards and speed up the process for approving new policies and developments in Chapel Hill.

In a meeting with the Chapel Hill Town Council on Jan. 15, Jason Hart, chair of the Community Design Commission, was told the town wanted to reduce the number of members from 10 to seven and remove the liaisons. Hart said members are going to relocate to other boards.

“We currently have 10 seats plus four different liaisons, so there is not going to be any more crossovers; instead, they want people from these boards to move to other boards.”

Elizabeth Mueller, vice-chair of the commission, said members wrote a letter to present to the council on Feb. 17 opposing some of the changes.

“We have a lot of different design people, but we want to keep it the same way because we work well together,” she said. “We put together a letter describing exactly what we are in favor of.”

Board member Scott Nilsen said he thinks the more people on the board, the better.

“A broad spectrum of community input is better, so it makes sense that more people should be involved,” he said. “If they reduce it, it seems like there is less access to changing things in Chapel Hill.”

Hart said he wanted to have at least nine seats, because that’s how many other boards will have.

Kristen Smith, spokeswoman for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said consolidating will help streamline the development process without sacrificing public input.

“We also think it’s important to require expertise of some advisory board members, for example, requiring that a member of the community design board have experience in architecture or engineering,” she said in an email.

Hart also said the town wanted to change the name of the Community Design Commission, but he said he was against the change.

“We felt the name ‘commission’ carried more weight to those outside and it was more in line in what we do,” Hart said.

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