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xx The Price of Progress: Can the tiny town of Pittsboro get bigger on its own term
Yesterday at 05:23:00 PM by Gene Galin
The Price of Progress: Can the tiny town of Pittsboro get bigger on its own terms?

The Haw River and Jordan Lake natural areas contain one of the largest undeveloped wildernesses in central North Carolina. At more than 10,000 acres and very few homes, a walk in these woods can feel like disappearing into a wilder, older world.On any given day, a hiker might come across a Great Blue Heron taking flight, a beaver disappearing into its dam, or turtles perched on a log in the middle of the river. But come back in twenty years and the uninterrupted forests will have all but disappeared, replaced by towering steel and concrete buildings, asphalt parking lots and parkways, and brick and vinyl homes.

Less than a mile away from this scene, the town of Pittsboro contains some 3,700 residents spread across 2,000 acres. The downtown is a single traffic circle around a courthouse. And while the towns website touts it as one of the fastest growing areas in the state, so far it has retained its small-town feel.

Enter Chatham Park. Conceived by Preston Development Company, the Chatham Park development could add more than 55,000 new residents upon completion of the 7,120 acre project. Chatham Park has ignited a storm of controversy in Pittsboro, pitting neighbor against neighbor and spawning protests and an ongoing lawsuit against the town. At a Town Board of Commissioners meeting last November, more than 200 people crowded into Pittsboros tiny historic courthouse to debate for over 5 hours on whether the town should approve the developments master plan.


Described on the Preston website as a live-work-play community of the future, Chatham Park will  include over 22 million square feet of offices, shops, and other non-residential space in addition to housing. Situated between Pittsboro and Jordan Lake, it is the largest mixed-use planned development ever proposed in North Carolina.  Developers maintain that their plan will foster a strong sense of community and a green lifestyle, as residents will be able to bike or walk to work and do their shopping and eating close to home.


Map of Chatham Park via Preston Development

But concerned citizens are not convinced, and theyre not backing down either. After the towns Board of Commissioners approved the plan on June 9th, citizens group Pittsboro Matters filed a lawsuit, citing lack of public input, violation of zoning regulations and inattention to environmental concerns. Others have complained that anti-development residents are hurting the towns residents by impeding progress. The fight over Chatham Park crosses political party and age, and however it progresses one thing is for sure- Chatham Park will profoundly change Pittsboro and Chatham County, maybe even the whole state.
Preston Developments rendering of the North Village, one of five major sections of the Chatham Park project

Preston Developments rendering of the North Village, one of five major sections of the Chatham Park project

Preston Development first set its sights on Chatham County in 2006. Within a short driving distance of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, it seemed like the perfect place for a project of this size. Preston owner Tim Smith said in Chatham Parks promotional video that he conceived of the project as an extension of Research Triangle Park, which is down to its last few hundred acres of land. RTP brought millions of dollars of business and research money to the state, and employs more than 50,000 people according to Forbes Magazine. Proponents of Chatham Park are hopeful it will do the same thing.


In these times of economic uncertainty, the struggle between economic and environmental interests is more tense than ever. Proponents of Chatham Park point to job creation and an influx of money to an area where more than half of residents commute for work. Opponents see it as an attack on the diverse wildlife and peaceful atmosphere that has become a hallmark of Pittsboro.


Elaine Chiosso, Haw Riverkeeper and Executive Director of the Haw River Assembly, a conservation and education non-profit, doesnt think Chatham Park is a trade-off she can support. Chiosso has lived in Chatham County for over 40 years and has seen it go through a lot of changes, but for her Chatham Park is too much, too fast.


The area theyre developing is a very fragile place. Theyd be displacing a huge amount of wildlife, Chiosso said. Later she amends her statement.


When we say displaced about wildlife, that really bothers me Because it really just means they die.


There are four federally designated endangered species in Chatham County: the Bald Eagle, the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, the Cape Fear Shiner, and Harperella, a small flowering plant only present in one other place in North Carolina. About 3/4 of the land enveloped by Chatham Park is designated by the state as a significant natural heritage area, a term reserved only for the highest quality natural communities. Upon completion of Chatham Park, roughly 70% of this natural area would be nonporous surface, mainly concrete.
image via bobistraveling

Image of a Great Blue Heron on the Haw River via bobistraveling

    When we say displaced about wildlife, that really bothers me Because it really just means they die.


A Bald Eagle at Jordan Lake. Image via Tom


A development of this size will also have a major impact on the Haw River and Jordan Lake, where Pittsboro residents get their drinking water. Although the Chatham Park master plan does include land buffers around streams and rivers, Chiosso says the buffers in the Chatham Park master plan are not nearly big enough.


The streams are conduits for whatever pollution comes off the land. Chiosso also says residents can expect to see much more drastic flooding in the area once Chatham Park starts building. She would like to see developers spell out how they are going to deal with the burden on water supply that an additional 50,000 people will create.


Preston Development did approach conservation group the Triangle Land Conservancy back in 2007 for an independent assessment of the land. The final report, called the Southwest Shore Conservation Assessment, is 126 pages of analysis and recommendations of how to best protect water quality and other natural features within Chatham Park.  None of these recommendations ended up in the master plan.


A lot of scientists did pro bono work, and they had some great ideas, but it was completely dismissed by the developers. Chiosso, who was a key contributor to the report, says this dismissal and similar actions by the town and developers are what propelled Pittsboro Matters to file suit earlier this year.


The lawsuit is not intended to stop Chatham Park. They have the right to develop their land. Its to bring them to the table for negotiation on things we felt the town and developers did not give enough attention to, Chiosso says.


The lawsuit, filed August 6th, is asking the court to overturn the approval of the Planned Development District ordinance that made Prestons project possible in Chatham County.


Gene, a Pittsboro resident for 28 years, says he chose to live in Pittsboro partly for its proximity to the hustle and bustle of the Triangle. He thinks further development of the area will mainly benefit residents.


There are certain groups of people that believe there should be no development period and you should leave everything in its natural state, which is unlikely to happen because its right between the Triangle and the Triad, Galin said about environmentalist concerns.

Galin points out that the those who dont want to live in Chatham Park dont have to, but many residents are excited about what the development will mean for them and their families.

They may not want to live in Chatham Park but they want the opportunity for their kids to.

Chatham Park Investors are now seeking a new rezoning request, but whether the lawsuit is responsible is contentious. Pittsboro Matters says it is, while Preston Development told the News & Observer on November 19th that while they are taking the lawsuit into consideration, the new rezoning request is routine. Now they must undergo a new series of reviews before the Town Board of Commissioners, who must reopen the process to public input.


Meanwhile, Preston Development officially broke ground on Chatham Park December 2nd on a portion of the project they say will house UNC Health Care specialists by August of 2015. Theyve also fired back at Pittsboro Matters lawsuit, filing a motion on November 26th claiming that the citizens group is violating its own by-laws by attempting to influence legislation.


Pittsboro Mayor Bill Terry doesnt think the lawsuit will change much about the trajectory of Chatham Park.


The most obvious thing is it delays progress, Terry said when asked about the lawsuits impact on Chatham Parks future. The effect is short term.

Terry says he understands why Chatham Park is such a divisive issue in a small town like Pittsboro.

There are folks that place a real high value on the environment and quality of water in Jordan lake and the Haw and biodiversity. Those folks tend to view it as not a good thing, said Terry. And then theres a whole other group of business persons and entrepreneurs who have car dealerships and restaurants, etc. and they just went through a recession and barely survived.

Terry, who took office late in the decision-making process, thinks Chatham Park will have a positive impact on Pittsboro because of the increased job opportunities, but he is disturbed by how much power the town has given to the developers. Going forward his goal is to have Pittsboro start taking the lead in defining whats important in the projects planning.

Im not sure Ive won that battle but its a battle Im going to keep fighting. We need to get the town back into the drivers seat.

Silvan Goddin is a Pittsboro native.
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Yesterday at 09:23:50 AM by Muddylaces
IMO there the candidates will fall into two categories.

1. Slow or Stop Chatham Park Candidates.  PMS candidates
2. Check and Verify pro-growth Chatham Park candidates. 

Oakley A. Bennett -Check and Verify pro-growth
John Bonitz --------unknown
J. A. (Jay) Farrell --Check and Verify pro-growth(I think)
Bett Wilson Foley----not sure
Heather Johnson ---Check and Verify pro-growth
Casey Mann ---------Unknown.   If she's aligned with the former Mayor I'd think she'd be Check and Verify pro-growth....But I don't kbnow
Beth Turner ---------not sure
Bill Terry ------------PMS

Please correct my list Jack....or someone more in the know.
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xx Pittsboro town board candidate, Casey Mann wants to raise Chatham County taxes
August 02, 2015, 04:35:19 PM by Gene Galin
Pittsboro town board candidate, Casey Mann wants to raise Chatham County property taxes

Pittsboro, NC My name is Casey Mann, Maryland native, former Executive Director of the NCDP and a proud resident of Chatham County. I am a single mother of two children, with a son attending Northwood High School and my daughter attending Horton Middle. We live on Toomer Loop in Pittsboro, NC.

Property tax increaseI am here because the communities I have lived in for most of my life have made investments in education, housing, transit, food and quality of life. I would not be speaking to you if not for those community investments. I would not have brought my children here if I believed Chatham County lacked the same compassion and long term vision for its residents.

While my mother was going back to school we lived in public housing. It wasnt wicked or scary, it was a safe haven and shelter that allowed my family to get on a corrected course. Without the safety net of shelter and basic needs, my mother, myself and by extension my kids would not have been able to get ahead. I would not have been able to work in Raleigh and my family would not have been able to move to Pittsboro. As a mother of two, I have spent time sleeping on the couch because the fair market rent was just too much for us to afford three bedrooms.

Chatham County will need a vigorous program to address the current and future growth that we will experience as the county and this part of the state continue to grow and prosper. We need to have an active and staff supported affordable housing committee, not to create some sort of haven for the unrighteous or unwilling, as many would have you believe. We need a strong affordable housing committee because we want to be a righteous and willing community.

We need to have a strategy to ensure that affordable energy and transit are available to all citizens, because without homes that are energy efficient and smartly planned, we fail to have affordable living options for all of our citizens. Our neighbors. There may be jobs and health care, but without transit options, those are not reachable to many. And without energy efficient places to live, the securities of a warm home in the winter or a cool place to sleep in the summer may also be unattainable. We need to invest directly every year in affordable/workforce housing.

I strongly request that you fully fund transit in Chatham County and create a budget line to fund annually affordable housing either directly, via grants, public/private partnerships and/or rental assistance programs in Chatham County. One penny of tax revenue a year would make a good start.

A new resident of Pittsboro and candidate for the Pittsboro town board Casey Mann spoke during the public input session of the Chatham County commissioners meeting on May 18. She was the former Executive Director of the NCDP under the failed administration of NCDP chairman Randy Voller.
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moved MOVED: There is no voter fraud Oops! Double-voter arrested...
July 31, 2015, 09:35:17 AM by Gene Galin
This topic has been moved to North Carolina.


xx The magic bus is back! Public subsidized funding approved by Chatham liberals
July 30, 2015, 07:03:21 AM by zorro
A major change that the board made to the budget proposed by the County Managers Office was providing funds to continue the PBX transit route, which has seen its ridership nearly double over the past five years. [Actual numbers please] The loss of a federal grant meant that Chapel Hill Transit no longer had enough funds to continue the route. [So Chatham NEVER really had to put money into it] The PBX route soon will be provided by Chatham Transit Network, which can operate the route at a savings of approximately $100,000 annually compared to Chapel Hill Transits cost. [Bet Chapel Hill Transit used the federal money for the PBX route to support some of their other costs] Crawford said that continuing the PBX route is especially important in a growing county. [Is it really Jim? Prove it!]

The growth from Chatham Park and other developments means a greater demand for transportation to and from surrounding areas, he said. [Chatham Park is supposed to be a Work, Live and Play development. Not much need to bus to Chapel Hill] Public transit reduces traffic on the roads and provides viable options for those who, for various reasons, cant drive themselves to jobs, hospitals and classes. [BS Jim. There will be jobs, a hospital and schools INSIDE Chatham Park] County Manager Charlie Horne said that Chatham Transit Network can use existing staff and combine other trips to save money on the PBX route. The $120,740 required in fiscal year 2016 to fund continuation of the PBX route includes a one-time expense of $87,900 to purchase a bus. Afterward, the cost to operate the route is about $40,000, with the town of Pittsboro anticipated to cover some of the cost.
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xx Pittsboro Board Of Commissioners Meeting - 2015-07-27
July 29, 2015, 04:54:17 PM by Jack Stevens
The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners meeting.

Includes several rezone approvals, the planned new water tank, etc.

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xx Call For Artists - Banned Books
July 29, 2015, 10:18:01 AM by Chapel Hill Public Librar
The Chapel Hill Public Library wants artists in Chatham to know about an open call that goes through August 17th. Each fall we use original works of art from local artists to create Banned Books Trading Cards.

We are asking that Chatham's artists join us by putting pen to paper, paint to canvas, and pixels on the screen for a good cause.  The Banned Books Trading Cards project needs original works of art inspired by any book or author that has been banned or challenged. Artists from Orange, Durham, Wake, Chatham and Alamance counties are eligible.

Thanks to a generous grant, this year's program will be the largest it has ever been. The Library is printing 10,000 sets of trading cards that will be sent to any North Carolina school teacher who asks for them. All entries will be on display in Chapel Hill during one of the Library's busiest times of year. The public exposure is only part of why we hope people will participate. Winners are eligible for a cash prize, and will be part of a great tradition of defending free expression.

Details are available on our website at www.chapelhillpubliclibrary.org/Banned-Books

The August 17th deadline for submission is fast approaching just one month left to choose a challenged book or author and get your work in to the Library! We hope many will join us in this celebration of Banned Books Week and look forward to seeing what everyone creates!
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xx 2015 Pittsboro Mayoral Candidates
July 28, 2015, 01:18:07 PM by Jack Stevens
Unfortunately, given the track record of PBO elections, she will more than likely win one of the seats and may even turn out to be the one with the highest number of votes.   
Along with Cindy Perry for a mayor.  I have yet to find anyone who has had anything nice to say about her, but a few who have said the opposite. 

Oh I'm afraid I can't agree with you there.  I have always found Cindy to be pleasant to talk to and work with.  She's not a crazed ideallogue type of Democrat. She's represented developers in her time so I wouldn't say that she's anti-development either. I think that she will lead productive meetings without a personal or political agenda.

I'd like to know more myself, but can this be taken to a separate thread?  Either a candidate specific thread or one that encompasses all candidates?
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xx hey all...railroad question
July 28, 2015, 10:30:18 AM by Muddylaces
I was on the 17th green last night at chapel ridge around 7:45pm.   It was dead quiet when I heard a train whistle.   It sounded like it was going through a crossing.    The sound seemed to come from the east.   Does anyone know what line I could have been hearing?
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xx Chatham Countys Park at Briar Chapel opens for limited use on August 1
July 27, 2015, 09:24:35 PM by Gene Galin
Chatham Countys Park at Briar Chapel opens for limited use on August 1

Pittsboro, NC On August 1, Chatham County Parks & Recreation Department will open the new Park at Briar Chapel to the public, but residents should know that the park has limited amenities at this time. The park is on the corner of Andrews Store Road and Parker Herndon Road and the park opens at 8 am Monday to Friday, except on major holidays.

Park at Briar ChapelAn official grand opening will be held on Sept. 18, 2015, with a movie night and other activities. More information on this event will be announced in August.

We are opening to the public on August 1, but this really is a work in progress. The park currently has soft ball fields, a soccer field, a multipurpose/football field, and a building with restrooms and concessions, said Tracy Burnett, director of the countys Parks & Recreation Department. You will see some final field prep work going on, so we appreciate your patience.

Burnett said that other amenities will be added when funds are available. A next phase would include a picnic shelter, playground, walking trail and lighting for two ball fields and dugouts.

Residents can begin making reservations for the park starting Sept. 19. Existing organized sports providers and the schools that already have an agreement in place to use the park will continue to use the park, but other group and individual agreements will not be considered until Sept. 19.

Park visitors can use the existing completed facilities after August 1 as long as the facilities are not rented out. If a facility is reserved, signage is posted at that field. To access online park reservations, visit http://recreation.chathamnc.org .

We know that the demand for all types of athletic fields in this part of the county is high and we will schedule as many as we can squeeze in, Burnett said. Her office has received requests from schools, youth baseball, adult softball, lacrosse, adult flag football, adult soccer and many others.

Burnett said that residents also have asked for more passive amenities like the picnic shelter, walking trails and playground.  I hope that we can continue to secure funding to add more and more things to the park that we know will be well used.
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