Next Monday, the neighborhood association will discuss the next stage of the College Hill Neighborhood Plan. We hope you’ll join us as we navigate the challenging path of gaining city acceptance of the plan.
The document is now complete and has broad support in the neighborhood. It’s consistent with the goals of the historic district, established 34 years ago and credited with a dramatic turnaround in College Hill’s quality of life and property values. It was developed in close collaboration with the city Planning Department.
We’ve run into a problem with the city Planning Board, though. When the plan was presented to them in July, they made it clear they wouldn’t support it. The matter has been continued, presumably to the meeting to be held on Wednesday September 17, 2 p.m. in the City Council Chamber.
One of the goals of the plan is to return the neighborhood to predominantly single-family owner-occupied housing. That objective has been one of the primary goals of the historic district since 1980, but that in particular seemed to concern the Planning Board.
Your presence and active support at that September 17 meeting could make a difference in whether the city accepts the plan. To see the plan, click here (PDF).
What the plan is
Over the past few years, the College Hill neighborhood has worked closely with the city Planning Department to develop a plan to guide our collaborative work to enhance the neighborhood’s desirable qualities (historic character, walkability, diversity, etc.) and minimize the undesirable ones (traffic beyond the capacity of streets designed for far fewer residents, poor maintenance of many properties, etc.).
More than 40 neighborhood residents and property owners, city staff members, and representatives of College Hill’s churches and businesses worked closely to write the plan. The result is not just a plan that everyone can live with; it’s a plan that has generated enthusiastic support.
Planning Board meeting
The plan was presented to the city Planning Board in July. Their meetings are held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday afternoons, so few neighborhood residents were there. One resident spoke in favor of the plan. Five people spoke against it. None had been involved in developing the plan. Two said basically that they simply don’t like the historic district. Two said they were concerned about the diversity of the neighborhood if College Hill became predominantly single-family owner-occupied. One owns a commercial property and fears that it would lose value.
The neighborhood was not given an opportunity to respond, so we couldn’t point out that the plan supports the diversity of the neighborhood, could not possibly eliminate rental property in College Hill even if we wanted it to, and is entirely consistent with 34 years of city policy toward the neighborhood.
Despite the support of the neighborhood association and the almost 50 residents and property owners who worked on the plan, the voices of five uninvolved people were enough to stall it.
Board members themselves asked a number of questions. One asked why we even want to have a plan. The Planning Board has previously supported plans for other neighborhoods, including Aycock and Lindley Park; it’s unclear why a member would be skeptical about the need for a historic district adjacent to a severely crowded university to have a plan.
Another member asked where college students would be able to live if College Hill were to become predominantly single-family owner-occupied, apparently unaware of the large-scale expansion of UNCG’s dorms into Glenwood, the still-new 700-unit Province development within College Hill, and the huge number of apartments built over the past few years on the west side of the university. Another said he didn’t want to do anything that would hinder the ability of developers to buy multiple properties to package for redevelopment. The plan actually lists five specific sites that are ripe for redevelopment.
A brief review
The vision of the plan: “College Hill is a neighborhood which bridges the past and the future of Greensboro, where resident owners, landlords, tenants, businesses and institutions are working together to preserve its historic character, ensure a high quality of life, and promote lasting neighborhood value. It is a lively, vibrant, walkable, and safe environment where the mix of well-maintained historic homes, public places, and neighborhood businesses, all contribute to a unique sense of place within the greater Greensboro community.”
Goals of the plan:
“The Goals present a series of general attributes that College Hill, in partnership with the City and others, will focus its efforts on, in order to achieve the stated Vision. Note: The order of the goals listed below does not indicate priority.
Return the neighborhood to a predominantly single-family, owner-occupied character, surpassing the now outdated aims of the College Hill Redevelopment Plan; reinvigorate the neighborhood’s historic character.
Ensure that College Hill is an attractive, family-friendly neighborhood; is kept safe through a diverse array of preventive measures; and is inviting to new owner-occupants and reinvestment in homes and properties.
- Property Maintenance
Develop a commitment among property-owners, landlords and tenants to property maintenance.
Seek and support more retail and dining opportunities to appropriately meet the needs of neighborhood residents, while also supporting historic character.
- Open Space
Provide more open space within the neighborhood, address non-native/invasive plants along streams, and pursue additional walking and biking connections.
Reinforce partnerships with UNCG, Greensboro College, and neighborhood churches in working toward long-range neighborhood stability and prosperity.
- Property Use
Encourage use and reuse of property that is sensitive to historic context and neighborhood character; that respects the strengths and limits of neighborhood capacity; and that appropriately considers of the impacts of development on traffic, parking and public safety in the neighborhood.”
The plan includes a list of specific strategies and actions to advance these objectives. The list reflects the consensus of the residents and property owners attending a series of four neighborhood meetings.
The neighborhood plan represents an opportunity for College Hill and the city to work together proactively for a better future for our neighborhood. If you have an interest in seeing that future realized, please join us on Monday August 28, 7 p.m., in the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant Fellowship Hall. And at the next Planning Board meeting.