Chatham Commission Chairman: Countywide Zoning ‘Best Way Forward’

“I just don’t understand why our opinions had no value.”

That was the sentiment of one Chatham County resident who spoke during the public comment period of Monday night’s meeting of the County Commissioners where the board approved blanket zoning for the previously unzoned portions of the county as either R-1 – estimated to be one residence per acre – or R-5 – estimated to be one residence per five acres.

The message of feeling unheard by the county leadership seemed to be echoed by those opposed to the new guidelines. The meeting Monday night was expected to draw a large crowd after a public hearing had overflow attendance earlier this year. To accommodate the larger crowd, Monday’s meeting was moved to Chatham Central High School but it was less than half full.

Commissioner Walter Petty – who was against the blanket zoning – attributed the lower attendance to some residents feeling defeated and that a decision had already been made in the minds of the majority of the commissioners.

The meeting was a culmination of about 18 months of work from county staff and leadership.

Residents were divided at the previous public hearing between those supporting zoning to protect the land from overdevelopment and those against zoning because they felt it was government overreach.

Another speaker on Monday night shared concerns that the decision would have a negative impact on Chatham County’s future.

“We have seen what poor planning has done to north Chatham,” she told commissioners. “And I’d hate to lose the rest of Chatham to that kind of planning. Yet, with your R-1 and R-5 zoning, that is exactly what you’re opening us up to.”

Another resident said he could not remember the county being so polarized over one issue.

“I’d like to see this county united again instead of split down the middle,” he said, “and this has probably been the most divisive thing I’ve seen in my adult life in this county to go on. And it needs to stop.

“We could all work this out. But not with a one-size-fits-all all-one plan.”

A resident supporting the zoning changes acknowledged that it would impact his property and said he was grateful for that.

“We live on 16 delightful acres,” he said. “We support the effort to establish countywide zoning. We are aware that it will apply to our land, and we support that change.”

Some residents who are new to the county said they chose the area because of the freedom that fewer regulations offered. Meanwhile, others said they chose a certain portion of the county purely because it was zoned and, therefore, they felt protected from development.

“I live in northeast Chatham, and I’m R-1,” she said. “And I would not have come to Chatham County without the protection of the zoning. And I totally support the efforts of the Board of Commissioners, the planning board and the county staff to get this county zoned.”

The planning board voted to support countywide zoning but did so in a close margin.

Some members said they felt the blanket zoning was not the right way to go forward. Those supporting the plan said they had looked to surrounding and counties growing as quickly as Chatham and saw that they were all fully zoned.

And with the Chatham Park development on its way, the board wrote in its recommendation that this was the best way to protect the county as a whole.

Commission chairman Jim Crawford supported the zoning and cast the deciding 3-2 vote.

“I am voting for the zoning because I believe it is the best way forward for the county,” the chairman said. “It’s that simple.”

Land that is a bonafide farm will be exempt from any zoning changes by law. Businesses currently in operation in the newly zoned areas will be grandfathered in and allowed to continue operating. Any new proposals will have to go through the public process to apply for rezoning.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/chatham-commission-chairman-countywide-zoning-best-way-forward

Chatham Commissioners Approve Countywide Zoning

Chatham County Commissioners voted 3-2 to apply zoning to the remaining portions of the county that were previously unzoned at its meeting Monday night.

The vote means that the newly zoned portions of the county will now fall under R-1 or R-5 zoning regulations.

R-1 will allow “low to moderate density residential development in residential and agricultural areas (approximately one residence per acre).” R-5, meanwhile, calls for approximately one residence per five acres in areas adjacent to rivers and streams.

Bona fide farms, which are defined by state law, are exempt from the zoning regulations as long as they continue using the property for agricultural purposes, according to a release.

Businesses that are in areas that were previously unzoned are being grandfathered in as non-conforming issues, meaning they can continue operating even though they do not fit the current zoning guidelines.

The issue had been a contentious point among Chatham County residents and commissioners between those thinking this was a way to protect the county from impending development and those who felt it was government intrusion.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/chatham-commissioners-approve-countywide-zoning

Multiple Drug Busts in Chatham County

Chatham County authorities have arrested two men in what appear to be separate incidents involving narcotics.

Members of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office stopped a vehicle on White Cross Road in Pittsboro on August 4. That stop led to a search of the vehicle where deputies found six grams of crack cocaine. Officials say 46-year-old Reginald Bland, of Graham, was operating the vehicle and was taken into custody. Bland was charged with possession with intent to sell/deliver cocaine, possession of cocaine, maintaining a vehicle for a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Also on August 4, members of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office searched a residence at 4440 Old Graham Road, in Pittsboro, where investigators seized 16.5 grams of crack cocaine, along with 28 grams of marijuana, 17.74 grams of opiates, 6.64 grams of psilocybin mushrooms and over $3,000 in cash.

Donvelle “Chubbs” Partridge was arrested after the search. The 34-year-old was charged with 13 drug offenses including trafficking opiates and counts of possession with intent to sell/deliver a schedule I, schedule II and schedule VI controlled substances.

Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson issued a statement in the release associated with the arrest of Partridge:

“I commend my staff on their teamwork and investigative skills. I also want to encourage any citizen who is concerned over potential criminal activity in his or her neighborhood to contact the Sheriff’s Office with more information. Community safety is a responsibility we all share, and we value citizen participation in safeguarding the welfare of Chatham County.”

The releases announcing the arrests were sent separately on the same day by Chatham County officials. They did not say the cases were related.

Bland was being held under a $10,700 bond as of last update.

Meanwhile, Partridge was being held on a $300,000 secured bond.

Both are scheduled for court appearances in Pittsboro on August 22.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/multiple-drug-busts-in-chatham-county

Countywide Zoning Going Back Before Chatham County Commissioners

A contentious topic will be revisited at the Chatham County Board of Commissioners meeting tonight.

Much of rural Chatham County is not currently subject to zoning regulations, but that could change Monday night.

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners will meet on Monday night with countywide zoning on the agenda. A public hearing was held on the topic in June. Opinions were split at the time between residents who felt the zoning was a way to help protect the county from the development coming to the region and those who felt this was overreach from the local government into areas it was not wanted or needed.

Chatham County has been a popular place for development in recent years with the growth of the Triangle in North Carolina. The county has been seen as a cheaper option in the area when compared to Wake, Durham and Orange Counties.

The commissioners heard nearly two hours of public comment at the June meeting. Since then, the planning board has recommended countywide zoning by a 7-4 vote.

The meeting Monday night is expected to draw a large crowd. So much so that the meeting has been moved to the Multipurpose Room at Chatham Central High School.

The zoning will impact 388 square miles that are currently unzoned. County officials have discussed the issue for the past 18 months with multiple planning board and subcommittee meetings held on the topic.

Seven of the eight counties that border Chatham are currently fully zoned, according to the planning board. Some residents are concerned that due to the other counties zoning policies, more operations that could negatively impact the land would choose Chatham County due to fewer regulations.

With the Chatham Park development in the works in the county, the planning board felt it was important to get out in front of the issue with countywide zoning.

The meeting Monday night is scheduled for six o’clock at Chatham Central High School.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/countywide-zoning-going-back-chatham-county-commissioners

Chatham Asking for Public Input for New County Plan

Chatham County is developing a 25-year Comprehensive Plan for the county, and wants to hear from the public what that vision should include.

“Absolutely every voice counts,” said Hillary Pace in the Planning Department. “We need to hear from people with all types of perspectives and all parts of the county. We want to hear from people who work here or operate a business here as well as residents.”

From now until August fifth, a 10 minute online survey will be available for the public to weigh in on what the plan should place importance on.

The plan is a policy document that will provide guidance for the development of the county over the next 25 years.

The survey covers all of the plan’s targets of development including transportation, economic development, land use and development, environment, affordable housing, public health, utilities, parks and recreation as well as other local concerns.

After reflection on community priorities as well as careful analysis of data and existing policy documents, the plan is expected to conclude in April 2017.

The process has already involved three public input meetings in June and contribution of opinions from many different organizations across the county including local governments, nonprofits, businesses, education and many others.

The goal of the County is to have at least 700 people take the survey.

The survey is available in both English and Spanish.

For more information regarding the plan, visit the Chatham County website.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chatham-asking-for-public-input-for-new-county-plan

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/chatham-county-road-re-opens-after-months-of-being-closed

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/shaddox-creek-bridge-on-corinth-road-to-be-replaced

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/development/chatham-megasite-receives-certification

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chatham-county-increases-tax-rate-in-new-budget

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.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chatham-county-residents-are-invited-to-community-meetings-to-discuss-major-planning-efforts