City to HPU: what’s next?

May. 13, 2014 @ 03:52 PM

City leaders say they want more information about High Point University’s growth plans.
The City Council has asked HPU to work with city officials to update the city’s University Area Plan by Sept. 1. The document, adopted by the council in 2009, “provides policies to help protect adjacent residential neighborhoods by guiding the orderly growth of the University,” according to the city.
The issue of HPU expansion has come up in recent months as the university has put together plans to build a school of pharmacy, physical therapy and physician assistant studies, as well as a new undergraduate sciences building as part of a $125 million expansion.
City leaders say they’re concerned about the impact of the expansion on neighborhoods behind the site of the proposed facilities at Montlieu Avenue and North Centennial Street.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the university where it might be going, so I don’t think this is going to negatively impact them in any way,” said Mayor Bernita Sims. “We’re just putting it out there what they think they will look like in the coming years. The community needs to know. Every time we do this, we impact neighborhoods.”
HPU historically has expanded its landlocked campus based on where it’s been able to acquire properties.
University representatives have explained that growth opportunities are largely dictated by whether it can obtain surrounding land, so it’s difficult to predict far in advance where it may expand.
HPU Chief of Staff Chris Dudley said the university has no plans at this time to expand beyond its existing boundaries and is focusing on completing the pharmacy school and other projects under way on campus.
HPU will work with the city in updating the University Area Plan, he said.
In February, council unanimously approved closing Montlieu Avenue through the campus to accommodate the pharmacy school and other planned facilities, despite protests that closing the road to public traffic would inconvenience residents.
Council members said they were satisfied that the closure won’t impact emergency response times by public safety personnel and that the city’s surrounding transportation network can handle rerouted traffic patterns.
The new schools are projected to bring major economic benefits, drawing 800 new students and faculty to the city, along with the prestige of the Triad’s only pharmacy school.
The University Area Plan is just that — a planning document that is not binding. Still, council members said they think it needs an update to give the community notice on whether HPU plans to extend its borders in the future.
“We need to know where they’re going,” said Councilman Foster Douglas.
Some council members say they disagree with asking HPU to amend the growth plan. A recent vote in favor of the Sept. 1 deadline was 6-3, with Sims and council members Douglas, Jim Davis, Jason Ewing, Jeff Golden and Becky Smothers voting in favor, and council members Judy Mendenhall, Britt Moore and Jay Wagner opposed.
“I understand the community’s desire to know about further growth, but I have concerns about trying to tie them down,” said Mendenhall.