Chatham County Road Re-Opens After Months of Being Closed

After months of Lystra Church Road being closed due to a sinkhole developing, the thoroughfare re-opened this past Friday.

Lystra Church Road in Chatham County closed back in January because of a sinkhole that developed due to a failure of underground culverts that were installed in the early 1970’s.

The $2.2 million repair began on March 21. The project consisted of replacing two 60-inch corrugated pipes under the road and replacing them with one 12-foot-diameter aluminum pipe, according to officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The project was delayed in June and July due to heavy rains interfering with the final stages of the work, especially paving.

Division Eight Construction Engineer John Olinger said the project was unique for several reasons, including because the crew had to deal with Jordan Lake, which is on both sides of the road, by installing dams.

Shaddox Creek Bridge on Corinth Road to be Replaced

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is replacing the Shaddox Creek Bridge on Corinth Road in Chatham County.

The contractor, Smith-Rowe, was awarded the $1.6 million contract and will be replacing the 65-year-old bridge because it is functionally obsolete, which means it was built by design standards no longer applicable in modern bridge design, according to a release.

The construction for the new bridge is set to start on August 1, and the bridge should be done by mid-October, 2017.

The new bridge is being built adjacent to the current one, allowing the current bridge to remain open during construction.

This is one of 17 road and bridge projects recently awarded to the NC DOT.

Chatham Megasite Receives Certification

The Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site or CAM received recertification from the North Carolina Department of Commerce this week.

This recertification ensures that the 1,802-acre site, located in Siler City, has the engineering and infrastructure in place for the site to be construction-ready within a year.

The Chatham County Commissioners approved the option to purchase the megasite back in April, and hope that the site will bring business to the area.

The county paid $540,654 with economic development funds for the option to purchase the megasite, which gives the county until June 30, 2017 to attract a manufacturer for CAM.

Once the year is up, the county will have the option to purchase all or part of the megasite.

CAM has direct access to Northfolk Southern Railway and is the largest site in the state to recieve recertification.

President of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, Kyle Touchstone says, “Both the recertification and public option are crucial steps in marketing the site to any high-yield industrial user.”

Touchstone says that the ultimate goal for CAM is to attract an auto- manufacturing plant to set up shop on the site.

Chatham County Increases Tax Rate in New Budget

Chatham County residents will have their taxes increased for the first time since the 2010-2011 fiscal year in the new budget adopted on Monday night by County Commissioners.

The $107.5 million budget is based on a 63.38 cent property tax rate.

The increase is a 1.19-cent bump. For a resident with a $100,000 home, the increase would result in an increase on a property tax bill of $11.90.

Commission chair Jim Crawford said the budget prepares Chatham County for the “future we know is coming.”

Three areas of the Capital Improvement Project had the most influence on the tax bump, a new elementary school, an expansion of a planned new high school and a new building for Central Carolina Community College.

The new elementary school is slated to open in northeast Chatham County in 2021. The new high school, which is also slated to open in 2021, was budgeted an additional $5 million to expand from an 800-student capacity to a maximum of 1,000 to 1,200 students.

The new Health Sciences Building for CCCC is set to open in 2018.

The budget also includes a five-percent increase for Chatham County Schools, a three-percent salary increase for all county employees, an increase of 15 percent for employee health insurance and funding for 10.5 new positions.

Chatham County Residents are Invited to Community Meetings to Discuss Major Planning Efforts

Chatham County Residents are invited to attend community meetings being held in multiple locations across the county to learn more about and provide feedback on two major planning efforts.

The June 21 and 23 meetings allow for residents to weigh in on both planning efforts at the same time. The public can attend the community meetings any point from five p.m. to seven p.m.

The Chatham County Comprehensive Plan is an initiative of the county government that outlines the county’s development over the next 25 years.

The Draft Chatham Comprehensive plan is a transportation planning effort through the NC department of Transportation.

The goal is to be better informed on decisions in regards to transportation priorities in Chatham County for the next 25 to 30 years.

For more information or to the view the schedule of the meetings visit Chatham County’s website here.

Chatham County Sinkhole to be Repaired by Late June

The sinkhole on Lystra Church Road in Chatham County is expected to be fixed by the end of the month. Recent rainfall delayed the original completion date of June 17, and it is now projected to be done by June 30.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the contractor is making “every effort” to open the road as soon as possible. A portion of the road by Jordan Lake closed in January after the sinkhole emerged.

Officials called the project “extensive.” In repairs, it required workers to excavate two 60-inch culvert pipes under the road and replace them with a 12-foot pipe. A 16-inch underground water line was also relocated. In addition, the road itself is being repaired.

The signed detour between Farrington Point Road and Jack Bennett Road will remain in place until the project is completed.

NCDOT advises drivers travelling east on Lystra Road to take Jack Bennett Road to Big Woods Road, go south to U.S. 64, east to Farrington Point Road and then go north back to Lystra Road. From Farrington Point Road, the detour is reversed.

Drivers are asked to use caution and expect an increase in travel times.

Zoning Public Hearing Turns Contentious for Chatham County

Emotions flared in the Chatham County Commissioner meeting on Monday night during a public hearing over the possibility of zoning portions of the county that have previously been unzoned.

That temperament extended to commissioners Walter Petty and Diana Hales, who were involved in a particularly contentious back and forth.

“You said yourself, ‘I will zone this county if it means I’m a one-term commissioner,’” Petty said to Hales. “And you know what that tells me? It tells me you knew there was going to be opposition, and you pushed for it anyway.

“And you’re willing to take that risk.”

Hales responded saying, “I am willing to take that risk,” noting that she, like Petty, lives in a portion of the county that is currently unzoned.

“So you want to be, move to zoned area,” Petty snapped back, “and let my area alone.”

Several commissioners tried to interject at that point before Hales continued, “I’m not having this argument with Commissioner Petty right now, I think we had a process, we followed the process, right now it’s going back to the planning board.”

That exchange came after nearly two hours of public comment. The board was holding an input session after it voted in December to move toward zoning the currently unzoned portions of the county as residential land going forward.

Commission chairman James Crawford said he believed the zoning extension was being considered with hopes of establishing guidelines across the county.

“What we’re trying to do is establish a common set of rules for the county that are predictable and will allow for the land-use plan – for the public input there – to actually stick,” Crawford said.

Exceptions would be made for businesses already in operation and establishments already in place that would be “non-conforming” to new regulations.

While the Monday night public comment period was supposed to discuss challenges presented by residential zoning, it quickly took on the shape of residents being split between those opposed to the zoning as a whole and those supporting the measure in general.

Some in opposition called it an “anti-business” proposition that amounted to government overreach.

“We the farmers are afraid of what might come once zoning is in place and you guys have control of us,” one speaker expressed. “It’s almost like on the western side of the county we will be having taxation without representation.”

Other residents were more blunt with their criticism.

“If you really care about Chatham County, leave us alone. If you don’t like Chatham County, move.”

Others saw the potential of zoning as a way to protect their land. One resident said her husband sells produces at the local farmer’s market in addition to both of them working full-time.

“I am 100 percent in favor of zoning, and I actually wish our property was zoned R-5,” she told the commissioners. “We live in an agricultural part of the county that is under extreme development pressure and, after doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people, feel that zoning is our best chance for ensuring agriculture has a place in this county going forward.”

Some feared what was being presented this time would change in the future and impact their land.

“I’ve seen what zoning does,” one resident warned. “You can say it’s Zone 1 now, but Zone 1 will change as you get the power.”

Another speaker asked for zoning to be put in place, arguing it would benefit the county on many levels, from the economy to the environment.

“We have working land-use plans and zoning in counties all around us,” she said. “And it favors growth; it favors the value of your property; it will make this county. And we can avoid such terrible, preventable damages to both our natural environment, our peace of mind, our businesses, all kinds of things.”

Some didn’t feel like the commissioners had done enough to prove the work was worth the cost.

“I want you to count me amongst the people that aren’t convinced by the explanations advanced so far that the cost of what we’re doing – both in money and political capital and loss of focus on what we really need to accomplish – is worth what we’re doing.”

While there were varying views of how to get there, one end result was a common theme among the speakers.

“Please do proceed with very careful zoning and planning to keep agriculture alive and well and the character of the county,” one resident pleaded.

The zoning proposition was sent back to the planning board at the conclusion of the meeting.

The earliest any decision could be reached by the commissioners is late this summer.

Mike Roberson Named Chatham County Sheriff

Chatham County Commissioners unanimously appointed chief deputy Mike Roberson to the position of sheriff.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve as Sheriff of Chatham County,” said Roberson  “The men and women of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office truly enjoy serving the community. We will continue to hire top notch public servants to ensure high quality service to the community.”

He takes over for retired sheriff Richard Webster.

Roberson took his Oath of Office alongside his fellow Sheriff’s Office employees in a ceremony held Wednesday May 25.

“Mike Roberson has been an influential leader and trusted member of the Sheriff’s Office family for many years,” said Webster. “We have an amazing law enforcement team and I am confident that Sheriff Roberson will continue to make positive changes and do great things for Chatham County.”

New ABC Store in Chatham County Approved

A new ABC store could be opened before the end of the year in northern Chatham County.

The North Carolina Alcohol Beverage Control Commission approved the request for a new location at its board meeting last Wednesday.

The application shows that the proposed location would be on Morning Drive and occupy two suites in a strip that is currently under construction.

There is currently an ABC Store at 50050 Governor’s Drive, but that location would be closed upon the new store opening at the proposed site.

A tentative open date has been slated for October 1, 2016 and the new location has a projected first-year sales total of $768,350, per the Chatham County ABC Board.

Chatham Commission Chair: HB2 is ‘Steaming Pile of Prejudice’

Chatham County Commissioners joined the growing list of local government leadership across North Carolina opposing House Bill 2 on Monday night.

Listen to the report from WCHL’s Blake Hodge below:


Chatham County Board of Commission Chair James Crawford read through a resolution opposing House Bill 2 at the board’s meeting earlier this week. The resolution said that the legislation, which requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom in public buildings corresponding with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, “is not based on factual criminal data and lacks an authentic understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” The resolution urged the North Carolina General Assembly to “repeal House Bill 2 at the earliest opportunity.”

The legislation has placed North Carolina in the national spotlight as Governor Pat McCrory and GOP leadership have called the bill “common sense legislation” that protects the privacy of North Carolinians, while advocates maintain the law is among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

Board member Walter Petty asked that the board not wade into the controversy over House Bill 2 because he wanted to see what the General Assembly did with the legislation once the short session begins on Monday.

“I think rather than create more problems and animosity,” Petty said, “I’d like to see us buy some time here and wait and see how things shake out before we move on this.”

Karen Howard disagreed with Petty, saying it was important to be ahead of the curve on this issue.

“If [passing the resolution] becomes disruptive, then we have a bigger problem than a resolution,” Howard said. “I think that getting out ahead of this and confronting this ugly piece of legislation in its face is essential.

“I think that the more communities that do this, the faster this thing is going to find its way out of our state.”

Howard also expressed displeasure that the bill removes local government’s abilities to put ordinances in place that go beyond the state’s nondiscrimination policy.

Petty said he did not feel House Bill 2 accomplished its “intended purpose” and, therefore, wanted to allow the legislature time to alter the law.

“Do you want to send a child into a changing facility or a locker room and have mixed company in there,” Petty asked. “I don’t know that we want to do that, and I think that was the intended purpose.”

Crawford said this bill was not about protecting women and children but rather served as a “Trojan horse” to pass discrimination in law.

“If [the General Assembly] really cared about the safety of women and children, they would have called a special session that would have dealt with child abuse as we know it exists,” Crawford said. “It would have been talking about people who are in the home; it would have been talking about restraining orders against angry spouses or angry ex-boyfriends. That’s where the problem lies for those kinds of things.

“And so, again, we’re back to not just the falsity of the Trojan horse, but they picked a target that they thought they could still beat up on, right? We’re still playing smear the queer in this country.”

Crawford added that he worked with a grad student who transitioned from female to male when Crawford was teaching at UNC and shared how this law would impact them.

“Under this law, Connor has to use the lady’s room – with Connor’s mustache,” Crawford said. “Or Connor faces the choice of breaking the law and going where he now feels comfortable going.

“Transgender people aren’t made up; they aren’t figments of someone’s imagination; they aren’t something created by a liberal agenda.”

Crawford also pointed to House Bill 2’s impact on jobs and tourism in the state.

“We’re trying to invite people into our state to invest and to have jobs and to enjoy our tourism amenities,” Crawford said, “But yet, in our parlor, we have this steaming pile of prejudice.”

The board voted 4-1 to pass the resolution with Petty voting against.

Orange County Commissioners passed a resolution calling for the repeal of House Bill 2 on Tuesday night, joining a growing list of local governments standing against the legislation.

The future of HB2 is being considered after the United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision that barred a Virginia transgender teenager from using the bathroom of his gender identity.