to:                  Mayor and Town Council

from:            George Cianciolo, Chair

subject:      Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee Response to Streetscape Petitions

date:            May 22, 2006


The purpose of this report is to provide a response from the Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee to recent Streetscape-related Council petitions and to provide Committee comments on future Streetscape planning and design.


In June 2005 the Chapel Hill Town Council directed the Town Manager and staff to set up a Streetscape Master Plan Review Committee (Committee) to determine whether the existing Streetscape Master Plan (Master Plan) was adequate, particularly in regards to Rosemary Street and downtown lighting. The Committee is composed of two members each from five Town advisory boards and commissions as well as members representing the Downtown Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and downtown citizens.  The Committee has held twelve meetings since October 2005, and presented an interim report to the Council on March 6, 2006.  The Town staff persons assigned to the Committee are Mr. Curtis Brooks and Ms. Emily Cameron.


At the Committee’s most recent meeting on May 11, 2006, the Committee continued discussions about the recommendations made by the Committee in its interim report to the Council on March 6, 2006, and considered a possible role for the Committee in future Streetscape planning and design. Committee members agreed that the Town staff’s possible recommendations concerning the hiring of either a consultant to conduct a downtown lighting plan, or an urban planner to develop an updated Streetscape plan, or both, were consistent with its recommendations provided in its interim report.  The Committee also agreed with the Town staff’s possible recommendation to use bond money to begin immediately acquiring the necessary sidewalk right-of-way (ROW) on Rosemary Street to insure continuity of the sidewalks the length of Rosemary Street.  The Committee agreed that continuous sidewalks along Rosemary Street are essential both for public safety issue and to the successful development of Rosemary Street, in particular, and the Downtown area, in general.  The Committee also agreed that it stands by its initial recommendation, presented in its interim report, that the Town proceed with the recommended sidewalk improvements in front of University Square.  The Committee believes that these improvements, too, will be essential to the safety of pedestrians and to the appearance of that portion of Franklin Street as development on lot #5 proceeds.


Regarding Ms. Janet Kagan’s petition to Town Council suggesting that the Arts Commission oversee future Streetscape planning and execution, the Committee agreed that future Streetscape planning should move forward as rapidly as possible and that such planning should have significant input from the Arts Commission, as an important and integral member of a recomposed Streetscape committee.  However, the Committee believes that such Streetscape planning should move forward, in the immediate future, under the guidance of an urban design team and Town Staff with input from a dedicated Streetscape Committee.  The Committee believes that the structure of the current Committee, with representatives from various Town advisory boards and various constituencies, is the most appropriate type of committee for working with an urban design team.  The Committee recommends altering the structure of the Committee in the future to include only a single member from each advisory board (with an assigned alternate) and an increase in representation from the Town Council and the business community.  The Committee agreed that the business representation should include not only property owners but business operators as well.


The Committee recommends the following to the Town Council:

1.      Adoption of Resolution C which would authorize the Town Manager to develop a Request for Proposals for an urban planning and design team including an urban planner, landscape architect, and urban lighting specialist to review the Streetscape Master Plan and the Downtown Small Area Plan, and develop a new Master Plan that reconsiders planning and design issues for all sections of the Central Business District.   We would recommend that the urban design team hired work with a Streetscape Committee to be appointed by the Town Council which would include representatives from the Council itself, from various Town advisory boards (Planning, Community Design Commission, Arts Commission, Historic District Commission, Transportation, Bikes & Pedestrian), from the Downtown Partnership (business community-owners and operators), from downtown residents, and from the University.

2.      If the Town Council chooses to not adopt resolution C, the Committee recommends adoption of Resolution A which would authorize use of $100,000 - $125,000 in available Streetscape bond funds to hire an urban lighting specialist and an urban designer/landscape architect to review and revise the Streetscape Lighting Plan for all areas of the Central Business District and revise the Streetscape Master Plan and develop detailed plans for future improvements in sections of downtown where Streetscape improvements have not yet been undertaken.

3.      Adoption of Resolution B which would authorize the Town Manager to utilize $150,000 - $200,000 in available Streetscape bond funds to purchase right-of-way and construct missing sections of sidewalks on Rosemary Street.

4.   Adoption of Resolution D which would authorize the Town Manager to develop working drawings for Streetscape improvements adjacent to University Square, discuss plans with property owners and merchants, and begin construction in the summer of 2006 utilizing an estimated $280,000 of the available Streetscape bond funds.