Why is the UNC Board of Trustees acting like a bunch of Duke lacrosse players?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Check out Orange Politics for a complete run down in the latest chapter in relations between UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill. At issue is planning for a mega campus that UNC wants to build right in the middle of town over the next 50 years. The town rightfully wants to have a say in the project, but UNC would rather not have to worry about the impacts of its development decisions on the people who live here. Of special note in the current dust-up is UNC's perennial nukular option, thrown on the table this time by Trustee Rusty Carter.

“I believe the voices that choose to be the greatest obstacles to this at the moment will be the voices that have the least impact, in the end,” Carter said. “I believe it will be taken from our hands at some point by the leadership of this state.”

For those who don't understand UNC-speak, Rusty Carter is threatening to call in the General Assembly to pass special legislation so UNC can trump local zoning regulations. This is a threat UNC has often made when it doesn't get what it wants in negiations with the town.

Our Town and Gown have found ways to work together effectively for more than two centuries, with some decades running along more smoothly than others. In recent years, things have been uneasy. Facing serious development pressures, the Town has insisted on being a full partner at the table. And the University doesn't like it. What's more, the current UNC administration has a discouraging record of cozying up to business interests in hot pursuit of the mighty dollar. Witness the recent naming of a campus building for Fedex. And the Chancellor's ill-advised whoring for $5 million from Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope.

I don't trust the UNC Board of Trustees to operate in good faith in negotiations with the town. And I certainly don't trust their instincts about protecting the interests of Chapel Hill citizens. Rusty Carter's latest power play, backed by a Chancellor who needs to suck up to the business interests on his board, makes the whole sorry saga even sadder.


For those in other cities

where UNC and community college campuses exist, take special note. Action by the General Assembly to free UNC from the constraints of local regulations could snowball. There is no case to be made that the interests of the UNC system should trump responsible planning by the communities surrounding campuses.

Ohhhhh so you don't mean

they drink heavily and yell racial slurs at loud parties....you mean they bully and do whatever it takes to get their way.

I'm not going to label all Duke Lacrosse players. That wouldn't be fair. We wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that all people who go to Duke are irresponsible, elitist jerks. We UNC grads have to avoid looking like we have something against Duke, you know.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Not all UNC's fault

My understand is that the town representatives have stalled on procedure at every opportunity, then went on to say they couldn't speak for the town. In particular Bill Strom was singled out as acting like a roadblock, then declaring he couldn't actually speak for the town.
I will have to try and find this article somewhere, it was in a UNC publication.

I'm not saying I side totally with UNC on this one, but I think the actions of the town representatives SOUNDS unproductive. Eventually, of course, the campus will try and go around that kind of roadblock.

One man with courage makes a majority.

Andrew Jackson.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

I know it's not all UNC's fault.

But the fact is, we all understand (especially UNC) that no one council member can speak with authority on behalf of the town. Strom is just one among nine elected officials and it honestly doesn't matter what any of them say, including the mayor. The only thing that matters is a majority of votes. That's the messiness of democracy, for better or for worse, and no one should expect it to be otherwise. Former mayor Ken Broun knows this and UNC needs to manage their planning process to accommodate this reality.

Why have this board at all?

If no one on it has any power to make commitments? This is the part of government that drives me crazy. Meetings for the sake of meetings.

One man with courage makes a majority.

Andrew Jackson.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

your view seems one-sided, Robert

If you review the past 5 years, you will find that the Town of Chapel Hill has acquiesced to every major request the University has made, starting with the creation of the "OI-4" zone which required the Town to review a 10-year campus-wide development plan in 90 days! Their cooperation continued with the appointment (at UNC's request) of Town Council members to to the 2001 (?) Carolina North Advisory Board and the 2006 Leadership Advisory Committee. The Town's reps have simply followed the lead of the LAC's chair Ken Broun and participated in the process HE established.

The Town's advocacy for a place at the table with UNC has been positively mousey. What the BOT seems to object to is ANY voice at all for the town. Considering the undeniable impact Carolina North will have on the entire county this is entirely unacceptable, and not even good for UNC in the long run.

I am one who likes to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, but I have been following and participating in this issue for 9 years now. UNC is not a trustworthy partner, and the BOT has just slaughtered the small ray of hope that the LAC was trying to provide to the community that we would be listened to.

I don't know if it is one-sided or not.

My point is that this whole board seems like smoke and mirrors. The town reps can't actually stand up for anything, so what power do they have? If you want a board that is there to talk about the town's feelings, that doesn't seem very useful to me if the town really does have priority on zoning Carolina North. Why agree to something that is so ... meaningless?

I like the Village Project, I like the idea of a community, I like Will's idea of minimal parking (if any). My view is pro-town. UNC is, of course, a major part of town.

If thinking that a meaningless board is a bad idea makes me anti-town somehow, then that is the town's problem.

If things turn around and the board actually does something worthwhile, then I will stand corrected - happily. Carolina North has the opportunity to make UNC and Chapel Hill unique. In the way that scientists talk about Woods Hole and Cold Spring Harbor as being unique science environments, Carolina North could be the coolest place to do science.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Ruby, it was late 1996 that

Ruby, it was fall 1994 that the Council began to discuss the UNC/Chapel Hill Planning Panel.

Capowski, Waldorf, Pavao were the Council reps. Bateman, Reid, Bell, Radway, Gabriel, Rimer, Stewart, Ward, Willis, Ingram, Weisenstein, Gurlitz, Woodruff. Quite a rogues gallery ;-).

It was fall of '99 that Capowski, Godschalk, et. al. finished the MX-150 proposal that was discussed here that was soon to be shot down.

It was fall of 2000 that the University formed the Horace Williams Planning Advisory Committee - which had a similar charter as the LAC (well, in some ways). It was late 2001 that this effort seemed to falter.

Here's a prescient observation from Jan. 6th's HWCC recommendations.

Ignore the bits about using the HWCC (Horace Williams Citizen's Committee), the Council (except Laurin Easthom) dissolved the committee with nary a qualm.

C. Create zone Creating a new zone will involve determining land uses, intensity of development, transportation issues, conservation areas, and all the rest. The Foundation study results will describe the infrastructure capacity limitations needed on which to construct a zone without harming area residents. UNC is the only entity that can decide when to begin the development process on this land. Therefore, it would be wise to begin this step only when UNC is ready to move forward. If we start too early on this stage, we could waste an enormous amount of time and energy. A previous 2 year UNC-Town zone negotiation produced a zone for the Horace Williams property, MX-150, which was later rejected by UNC Board of Trustees.

You can see why folk are a little leary of the BOT. That said, the Council hasn't managed the process, at least by my reckoning, as well as they could. Ditching the HWCC wasn't a good start, but setting the ground rules was... Broun's and UNC's desire to have private tete-a-tete's was a non-starter, as were their other obfuscatory initiatives. But they got beyond that... Unfortunately, the BOT, which has been the wildcard in the past, hasn't jumped on board.

Here's the rest of the fairly sound recommendations:


a. Once UNC agrees to move forward to participate in creating a zone, the Town should plan how to include Trustees early in the process. This might be appropriate stage to hold joint visualization exercise or “Charette”with UNC administration and Trustees. For example, the Council could ask the Horace Williams Committee to develop visual examples which meet our report principles. We would share those examples with the public first, and then hold a special session with trustees. UNC input would be communicated to everyone, including Council and HW Committee.

b. Agree in principle that the negotiating committee will be informed by outside experts who can offer object analysis about appearance, functions, and land uses and what are the appropriate stages to employ them. Examples of types of expertise:

i. Conservation expert, Little Creek Watershed Assessment Final Report

ii. Storm water expert: e.g., Rich McLauglin, NC State

iii. At development plan stage, employ critique by outside architect on building appearance, use of space and function.

c. Public involvement: Form Community advisory committee or use existing Horace Williams Citizens’ Committee to give input during negotiation at designated stages.

d. During negotiation of zone, build in phased development percentages tied to capacity to ensure development plans on ground do not exceed capacity.

e. UNC and Town reach agreement on enforcement provisions

Public input: public hearings, web postings, visualization exercises with the public, Horace Williams Citizens’ Committee and Town Advisory Committee input.

Will, Can we assume...

that these recommendations have gone by the wayside? It seems to me that the town has sent powerless delegates to a board that feels free to ignore them. Why don't we bypass all this and get straight to the question of whether or not the state can take over this site.

Have our local Senator and House reps submit a bill that would insure this land is used in a manner that is not outside the greater Chapel Hill design.

One man with courage makes a majority.

Andrew Jackson.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

United we stand + Moeser's blind-sided

I wrote a bit about the recent contentious BOT meeting, their resolution making the same bogus "return on investment" claims we've heard before and the "on-the-Heels" re-emergence of the UNC Carolina North I-40 interchange rumor.

While Carter's statement is incredible (if he was quoted correctly - I've asked UNC for the audio record to make absolutely sure) and believable give past history, to claim,

Rusty Carter's latest power play, backed by a Chancellor who needs to suck up to the business interests on his board

I think, is a stretch.

Folk that know me are aware that I've been a strong watchdog on UNC development issues, UNC's growth and Moeser's behavior. I wouldn't let the Chancellor off the hook easily. There's certainly some history to buttress the argument and it has been nearly exactly 5 years since Moeser had to retract his support for the Rand provision.

"After consultation with Senator Howard Lee and following discussions with Mayor Waldorf, I asked the senator to withdraw the zoning provision included in the Senate’s budget measure. Senator Lee convinced the Senate leadership to grant this request, which resulted in the deletion of the provision.

The university supported the legislative proposal because we were convinced that the town would not approve the university’s development plan in its entirety if it were split into separate zoning districts, each subject to a super majority vote by council members.

But, we do have Moeser's


But, we do have Moeser's Feb. 7th letter to Mayor Foy clearly saying

The University enters this process in good faith and with the recognition and understanding that the Town of Chapel Hill has zoning authority over the Carolina North property within its boundaries.

As of now Moeser hasn't repudiated Carter's statement - so that could be construed as supporting it (if it was made), but I don't think Moeser would collaborate on such a threat because it would undermine the last 6 months of community-building.

By uniting with the other 16 UNC communities, this threat could be abrograted. Creating a constructive coalition of all the municipal stakeholders, say at the Mayoral level, would demonstrate each community's commitment to avoid being steam-rolled by the UNC system.

During my 2005 election run, I brought up the idea because local pols told me my call for a new Carolina North development process and for a new rethink on the CN plans was "too controversial" (both of which, of course, are happening) and would trigger this legislative action.

I pointed out that no community wants to cede its local planning authority to the State.

This threat is a bugaboo, moreso if the 16 UNC community's stand firm and stand together.

Whatever UNC-CH's BOT's intentions, now is the time to get this coalition started.

Glad to see the second half, Will.

I don't honestly know where Moeser stands on Carter's specific threat (assuming it was made). But I do know the free-market types are making great headway in forcing all parts of the public sector to heel. It's Art Pope's grand vision and it's present in almost every aspect of government these days. From where I sit, this looks like a game of good cop (Moeser) bad cop (Perry and Carter) at best. And we all know that business interests trump public interests all too often these days.

Moeser and BOT - good cop/bad cop

It's quite possible that they're playing a game. Remember Howard "Lottery" Lee's role in 2001? Anyway, I'm hoping to get a recording to review so that any possible nuance from Carter won't be missed.

For the benefit of all of us...

who have been writing grants for the last three months. What are the major points of contention? The Village Project (last I saw of it) looked really cool, and from reading transcripts, it doesn't seem like UNC is against this idea. All I read was a bunch of hemming and hawing over procedure and not much about the overall look/feel/liveability/moveability of CN?

I will say Will, as CH delegate to OUTBOARD I support as little parking as possible at CN. This could be the stroke that makes real public transit a possibility in OC.

One man with courage makes a majority.

Andrew Jackson.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

What are the issues with Carolina North?

Why the opposition? Isn't saying this is "right in the middle of town" a bit of a stretch - the airport is more than a mile from downtown, right? I have not followed this enough to know what the concern is about.

Any why in the world would UNC push for a new exit off 1-40 when it is a straight shot up MLK/Airport Road/86 to the I-40/NC 86 interchange? That makes NO sense at all.

Town as a Full Partner?

UNC and Chapel Hill can never be full partners because their constituencies and goals ultimately place them far apart. UNC looks at Chapel Hill and sees the University. Chapel Hill looks at itself and sees the "Village".

UNC has obligations to the state as a whole and in my opinion to the world as a major seat of learning, research and health care. It would be wise to listen to the rants of the BOT because they reflect many outside our community.

Many of the BOTs were in school when UNC was a college/state hospital town. UNC has grown arrogant in its discussions about growth and sloppy in its handling of development (witness Mason Farm) due to decades when the University was the only power in town.

Nonetheless UNC commands a far larger power group in this state than Chapel Hill and is quite capable of playing hardball. BOT could have a perception, real or imagined, that Chapel Hill will try to curtail or kill Chapel Hill North by sloooow rolling every phase of the negotiations and process.

I personally date the final demise of the “Village” to the completion of I40. Chapel Hill today is a small, high-income piedmont NC city that grew up around the University and the Hospital system. Chapel Hill seeks to retain a “high standard” of life revolving around being a highly desirable place for intellectuals, high-income families and wealthy retirees.

My point is that the town’s constituency has changed from the past. Some of us want to stop the clock. Some want to turn it back. In the recent past discussions by prominent town folk indicated that UNC should not grow anymore. Some have said that the UNC CH should forgo growth and pass it on to other UNC System members. Members of our council have advocated that Chapel Hill treat UNC like any other developer. The last comment I find absolutely wrongheaded.

So I conclude that both town and gown have fired shots in this battle. I believe Chapel Hill North will see significant development in the next 5 years, with or without Chapel Hill/Carrboro having major input. I believe we are better off understanding that we do not necessarily have the same constituency or goals but we do have to live on the same turf. I believe our town will be on much firmer ground to pick its battles over Chapel Hill North if we do not fight every battle. For instance, Chapel HilL/Carrboro can build a major greenway/park system along Bolin Green by gaining significant concessions as to permanent easements over much Chapel Hill North property.

A final point: It is worth noting that the major growth in the size and scale of the University in the past 40 years is in the hospital and healthcare areas. People from all over the state and region are served by this part of the University. Research that is done in Chapel Hill is critical to many citizens born and unborn. I would argue that health care related growth on the University campus is one of the prime drivers of Chapel Hill North.

Inside outside upside down

Much interesting discussion here (and at OP) about the new developments regarding UNC's expansion. Here are some of my random thoughts.

Carolina North is going to happen, of course, and it's going to start sooner than later. The only real question is whether it will be done in ways that make life better or worse for the people who live in Chapel Hill, many of whom are University employees and students.

UNC does not hold 'playing nice with its host town' as important as its education, research and service missions. It has bought into the "tyranny of or" -- accepting the need to make false choices.

For all its aspirations, UNC is just another big institution that will make many compromises in the name of speed, budgets and personal agendas. While there are pockets of true excellence here and there (basketball and Memorial Hall come to mind), no over-riding commitment to being truly extraordinary is in evidence. This is as true in hiring and tenure decisions as it is in land-use planning, architecture and community relations. And each of the compromises it makes detract from its desire to be the best.

All of which means Carolina North will probably be

. . . "okay" but not a sterling example of the best that can be done
. . . sufficient, but not inspiring
. . . attractive, but not gorgeous.
. . . shades of green, but not be a shining example of ecological innovation

Each of these observations about UNC can also be made of the Town of Chapel Hill. We are great in a few areas but we often manage to stop short of being the truly extraordinary city we can become.

But the truth is, taxpayers don't much care about excellence in government and public service. Indeed, against the backdrop of what's happening in the Bush administration, most people will gladly settle for something approaching mere competence.


I find it horrifying to imagine, but in a state that settles for mediocrity perfectly reasonable to assume, that Carolina North will be just what you have predicted. Another chance lost. For the $250 Million they gave Dell we could make something ground-breakingly cool.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Anglico, you eloquently

Anglico, you eloquently pegged some of my greatest worries about Carolina North's development.

Robert, a quick measure of the potential mediocrity comes from the "original" CN plans which lacked distinctiveness, like a signature building, to "pull" elements of the campus together. It appeared to me, an old RTP-hand, the design was more RTP-lite - bland, conventional, stolid - than anything else...

I think there's a few givens with this project

  • The initial design will influence the buildout for many decades
  • The project, after a possible "big" start, will progress in fits and starts (because of macro-economic conditions, changing requirements, etc.)
  • CN will cost more than advertised
  • CN's direct, longterm, economic benefits will always be hard to quantify
  • A number of CN's societal benefits will also be difficult to quantify
  • The merging of CN/Town will be an organic affair.

Knowing some of these givens, UNC and the town can take a stab at planning for the best.

I've called on UNC to make this the greatest research project they've ever undertaken. The citizens of NC are going to blow a couple BILLION bucks on CN, they deserve a project that sets the highest possible goals.

What does that mean?

  • Perform a baseline environmental assessment of both the site AND its surrounds
  • Commit to longterm monitoring of CN's on-and-off site impacts
  • Create an "evergreen" design and development process that accommodates feedback from this monitoring, integrates evolving "best in class" concepts and that always strives for a world-class result
  • Not only maximize the use of "green tech" but make "green" a core value and core product of CN's research labs
  • Recognize the absolutely unique opportunity to study the 50 year growth of an industrial park (which CN is) that's situated in an urban/sub urban setting

It's not going to cost any more to do it right. Heck, it'll probably cost us quite a bit less while producing quantifiable social and economic benefits that lead NC into a "greener" ($$$?) future.

The loss of this visionary opportunity to what Anglico has so aptly described - a bland mediocrity - is one of the saddest aspects of the path we're currently traversing.

Excellence is in the eye of the beholder(s)

Both of you seem under a dark cloud this glorous day!

Without taking on the argument debating if we have a community of excellence or have a university of excellence or have a medical facility of excellence or, for that matter, if it is really important if we have a basketball team of excellence, let me suggest the legacy of excellence we can leave behind and how Chapel Hill North plays a part.

The Bolin Creek Greenway and could and should one day link with the undeveloped woodlands of CH North and the Adams tract/Wilson park along Bolin Creek to reach all the way from Meadowmont (or beyond)to Twin Creeks Park at the headwaters of Bolin Creek to form a wonderous park, like Rock Creek in DC, that will be a massive splash of green in an urban setting.

This park could be the link for the the New Hope Creekway Greenway and other trails and local greenways. If the University, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the County can find a way to share the vision of the Bolin Creek Park/Greenway we can have something of lasting beauty and excellence. That is the prize for our community to seize from the development of Chapel Hill North: force the University to ante up woodlands and park acres for the good of all citizens, University affilated or not.

Fantastic Speck!

I've walked all those corridors many times over the years and absolutely we could form an integrated natural corridor using Bolin Creek as a backbone. During the 2005 election, I often spoke of the CN's environmental reserve as part of a larger Chapel Hill/Carrboro Central Park strategy.

I asked Mayor Foy several years ago to look into preserving the following corridor as a natural approach to CN from Bolin Creek (travelling NW). It never made it to the open space folk, so I plan to pick up the ball sometime this year and make another run at it.

Bolin to Carolina North Google Map

Nice map Will n/t

One man with courage makes a majority.

Andrew Jackson.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.

Used to live nearby

I lived in Shadowood Apts across from the airport when I was a sophomore and remember even back then in the mid 90s that if any more development were to occur in that area, the town would have to plunk down a lot of infrastructure on their own. Since then, they already have done so in widening Airport Rd, or whatever its name is now, to handle the traffic flow of UNC sporting events to I-40.

I can only imagine how many extra stop lights, sidewalks, etc the town would have to pay the bill on if Carolina North develops as UNC would like it to. They have every right to go as slow as they want to on making the decisions on development. You need only visit Dallas TX to see the results of city council rubber stamped development. It ain't purty by golly!

From Deep In The Heart Of Texas

From Deep In The Heart Of Texas