Opinion

What makes Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill?

Alisa Rogers is the Land Use Management Ordinance Project Manager for the Town of Chapel Hill.
Alisa Rogers is the Land Use Management Ordinance Project Manager for the Town of Chapel Hill.

I am new to Chapel Hill and North Carolina, and each day I learn something about the town that I have decided to call home. For me, home is a location that changes often. Since starting my career as a city planner over 25 ve years ago, I have lived in eight states and one foreign country.

These everchanging landscapes swirl in my brain as I remember where I have lived and worked. I see the beautiful park in Birmingham, Michigan, with a magnificent statute entitled “Freedom of the Human Spirit” by Marshall Fredericks; the lovely strolling paths along the Riverwalk in Naperville, Illinois; and the dreadful strip malls that exist everywhere in the United States.

I remember fondly running the trails in the forest behind my apartment in Sweden and walking the shopping streets of Helsingborg, Sweden, where children played and ran while their parents enjoyed caffè Americano. In my job, I constantly think about how these places are put together. What makes them unique? What makes them feel just ordinary? I don’t always know the answers to these questions, but I do know ALL about the hard work, tradeoffs, and compromises necessary to “make a place.” I know about the struggle to redevelop depressed areas of a city while also trying to create jobs and a desired sense of place. I know because I worked with this community as they thought about their future and how to make that future a reality.

On Thurday, May 10, the town is embarking on a journey to chart the future of Chapel Hill. The first phase of this journey will include an examination of how land should be used; developed; redeveloped and/or preserved, based on Chapel Hill 2020, the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. In the second phase of the project, the town will examine and rewrite the regulations about what can be built and where it can be built throughout town.

You can be a part of this endeavor by attending the kickoff event entitled, “Charting Our Future – Kickoff & Idea Exchange” from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at the Franklin Hotel, 311 W. Franklin St. Free parking will be available in the surface parking lot behind the hotel between Kenan and Mallette Streets. Everyone is welcome to drop in for any portion of the kickoff. An open house will be held from 5:30 to 6 p.m. After a brief presentation at 6 p.m., interactive stations will be available to solicitinput and to answer questions such as, “Today, this area of Town is…” and “In the future, this area of the Town should be…”

Chapel Hill may not be my last home, but it is my home for the foreseeable future, if for no other reason than my husband loves his new garage. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this forward-thinking project. With all of these years of planning experience (I usually don’t admit the true number), I can honestly say few communities undertake such a thought provoking and challenging Project. Chapel Hill is bold and brave to do so, and I look forward to working with everyone who lives, works, plays, prays and invests in Chapel Hill to “Chart Our Future.”

Alisa Rogers is the Land Use Management Ordinance Project Manager for the Town of Chapel Hill.

Charting Our Future: Imagine Chapel Hill in 2049

From May through the end of the year, there will be opportunities for community input in refining the Chapel HIll Future Land Use Map, both on-line and in person. More info at https://bit.ly/2AZXTXXFor questions, please e-mail at Future@townofchapelhill.org.

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