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Chapel Hill Residents To Weigh In On Proposed Light Rail Stations

A drawing of a neighborhood surrounding a light rail station.
Gateway Planning
Gateway Planning and GoTriangle are collecting input about how to plan properties surrounging proposed light rail stations.

Transit consultants are hosting six public meetings in Chapel Hill starting next week to discuss possible development around stations along the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit line, which would run along U.S. 15-501.

The transit agency and Gateway Planning will present an overview at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Wednesday evening, according to  GoTriangle Planning Manager Patrick McDonough. He said they want to hear residents' concerns and aspirations for the areas surrounding the light rail line.

"One of the things that we'll be going through with the public in Chapel Hill next week is, 'Where do you think as a neighbors that the station area begins and ends? Do you think it's on this side of the street, or that side of the street?' Those are conversations that Durham has already had," said McDonough.

"And so in Chapel Hill we're going to start with some of those to have people tell us how they think their neighborhood would interact with a potential rail station," he said.

For example, they want thoughts on where to improve sidewalk connectivity for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.

"So we're going to be trying to identify some of those gaps and making sure that we have a plan to eliminate those gaps so that the neighborhood functions as well as possible as you approach from many directions."

Go Triangle will review workshop results before the Chapel Hill City Council meeting on Monday, February 27th.

A chart with the dates, times and locations of community planning meetings.
Credit John Richardson, Planning Manager of Sustainability / City of Chapel Hill
City of Chapel Hill
This is the schedule for the station planning community workshops in Chapel Hill.

Public outreach

The public workshops are meant to gather input from residents of neighborhoods near six station sites along the proposed Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit line.

After the workshops were announced at Monday's city council meeting, several local homeowners associations received invitations to send a representative to the workshops.

"The town has been working to try and support GoTriangle in its efforts to identify stakeholders who may want to be involved in the upcoming Station Area Planning design workshop," Chapel Hill Planning Manager for Sustainability John Richardson wrote in an e-mail.

But Patrick McDonough told WUNC Thursday that Go Triangle has updated its web site with meeting timesand says all members of the public are invited to all of next week's events.

Some residents say these announcements are confusing and that Go Triangle should offer a clearer, more aggressive outreach option.

Alex Cabanes lives in the Downing Creek neighborhood, which is in Durham County, but it has a Chapel Hill mailing address. He runs the transit reform advocacy web site Cabanes said the light rail line would impact traffic, safety and environmental issues for many residents.

"A lot of the neighborhoods are going to be absent in the dialog, absent in the discussion, because they never knew there was a discussion," Cabanes said.

Cabanes said neighborhoods like the Villas at Culp Arbor are retirement communities, and residents there are less likely to see a web update than a newspaper ad or a mailer.

McDonough said anyone who can't make it to the meetings can submit input on the GoTriangle website.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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