By Orange County BOCC Chair Renee Price, Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Michael Parker and Chapel Hill Town Council Member Jess Anderson
Recently, concerns have been expressed about the appropriateness of holding community information meetings regarding the Greene Tract between the Nov. 2 election and the time when newly elected officials will be sworn in Dec. 8.
Community information meetings are a standard part of Chapel Hill planning processes. These meetings are conducted entirely by staff and are intended to make sure everyone has an opportunity to review the latest information and to ask questions in a public setting. Elected officials have no direct role in the presentations but are welcome to participate as well; although most times we try to let the focus be on what the public has to say. No action of any kind is taken during these sessions.
All three jurisdictions had agreed to hold a joint, community-wide meeting once the environmental assessment was completed. These meetings were originally scheduled for September 2020 and then for September 2021, but in each case the inadvisability of holding meetings on such an important topic in person resulted in their postponement. We now feel that by holding one of the meetings outdoors (RENA), we can address both safety and participation concerns.
There will be two community sessions facilitated by Orange County, Carrboro and Chapel Hill staffs. One meeting (in-person) will be held Sunday, Nov. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the RENA Community Center at 101 Edgar St. and a second meeting (virtual) Monday, Nov. 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
By way of background, Orange County, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill have been collaboratively planning for the future of the jointly-owned 104-acre Greene Tract plus permanent preservation of the Orange County-owned 60-acre Headwaters Preserve. In 2020, the three respective boards voted to utilize the 104 acres as follows:
- Approximately 66 acres housing/mixed use;
- Approximately 22 acres to be preserved;
- Approximately 16 acres for public school site and public recreational site.
The Greene Tract is a place of immense historical, cultural and natural resources, and all three governmental entities are committed to a thoughtful and inclusive site planning process that respects the people and resources of the area, while reflecting the shared goal of increasing affordable housing for our community.
Topics to be covered will include:
- Background and history of the Greene Tract;
- Environmental Assessment;
- Future development and land uses;
- Next steps.
Input from these sessions will be documented, posted to the Greene Tract website, and brought forward as part of future presentations to the three elected bodies. Hopefully a better understanding of why these meetings are being held and how they will be conducted will allay concerns.