Consultant Recommendations Calms Some Residents’ Worries About “Chatham Park”

Now that a recently-hired consulting firm has made suggestions calling for a more detailed project plan for the proposed Chatham Park, Pittsboro residents said they are feeling more comfortable with the major development that would dramatically change the make-up of the small town.

“And so, in general, yes, we like the direction that it is going. We still have some issue with some of the things, but as a general rule, we favored it,” said Jeffrey Starkweather of the “Pittsboro Matters” steering committee, a grassroots group advocating for citizen input during the design of the development.

Starkweather, a retired attorney, sat in on the packed Pittsboro Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night to hear Town leaders review recommendations from The Lawrence Group, a St. Louis-based consultanting firm, regarding the development.

Chatham Park is a more than 7,000 acre mixed-use project planned for the east side of Pittsboro, spearheaded by Preston Development, INC. It is designed to be completed in several phases and could bring development to the town in the form of medical facilities, parks, trails, and retail and residential options.

It’s been projected that this could increase the population of Pittsboro from 3,000 to 60,000 over a 30-40 year period

Commissioner Beth Turner said that if the planning process is “done right,” Chatham Park which has been in the works for year, could benefit Pittsboro in many ways.

Following discussion, the Board approved the consultant’s recommendations and sent them on to the developer.

“I think the consultant did a really good job at addressing a lot of those concerns. They were very forthcoming at listening to the citizens, town staff, and the developer. I feel like it was a good process,” Turner said.

Progress was halted in November after the Board denied a rezoning application for the project following hours of heated public debate.

Starkweather said that he and others never opposed the idea of Chatham Park outright, but rather they wanted a more detailed plan to include a look at what the project would entail, including studies about how density would affect transit operations and traffic in the area.

He said he supported the “smart growth” model where people live near where they work and recreate.

“I think the citizens have been heard to some extent in the sense that we needed some expert outside consultants that would represent the Town’s point of view. Yes, I think they have made a lot of improvements,” Starkweather said.

A recommendation from the consultant included that 30 percent of the total land area should be set aside as conservation areas, given that the Chatham Park site would be located within a protected watershed. It was also suggested to dedicate 10 percent of the total land area to park space.

Starkweather said he favored those suggestions, but believed that Town leaders should continue to work toward maintaining open communication lines between residents and town leaders and the developer.

“My feeling is that this has been mostly sort of a technocratic, land use, physical, engineering, planning, formal process, but the people that are going to make up the Town in a sense have been left out,” he said.

Both Starkweather and Turner agreed that development in Pittsboro is inevitable.

The Board is awaiting comments regarding the recommendations from Preston Development, INC. Another public hearing will be held at a later date.

Plans For Proposed Chatham Park Project Halted

PITTSBORO - Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller said he is frustrated about the Board of Commissioners’ decision Monday to halt plans on the proposed major development project known as Chatham Park. Many town residents have voiced concerns over the speed of process, but Voller said it will not happen hastily.

This was a vote for re-zoning, but it was not carte blanche. There was an enormous list of things that would have to be done,” Voller said.

With only one dissenting vote, the Board denied a rezoning application for the project following hours of public debate.

Chatham Park is a more than 7,000 acre mixed-use project planned for the east side of Pittsboro, spearheaded by Preston Development, INC.  It is designed to be completed in several phases and could bring development to the town in the form of medical facilities, parks, trails, and retail and residential options.

It’s been projected this could increase the population of Pittsboro from 3,000 to 60,000. Voller said that though the population of Pittsboro would likely increase dramatically, it would happen slowly over a 30-40 year period

“This wasn’t going to be an instant situation,” Voller said. ”This isn’t like ‘Chia Pet’ development where suddenly you go from no citizens to 50,000.”

Voller said the worries expressed by many residents were that growth brought by Chatham Park would be unsustainable. He said that would not be the case.

“From a smart growth and sustainability perspective, the thing that you want to do is drive your growth into the urban centers and preserve your rural character, rural buffers, organic farms, and agriculture centers outside of town,” Voller said.

Now that the rezoning recommendation has been tabled temporarily, Voller said town leaders will seek advice from an outside consultant.

“There is a tremendous amount of work that is going to have to go into providing plans and information that addresses a lot of the issues that the citizens have brought up in the past eight months.”

Voller added that he believes anxious residents simply need more information about Chatham Park to feel comfortable. He plans to continue to engage the community during the process.

Preston Development Looking To Expand Into Pittsboro

PITTSBORO – Preston Development INC. is planning a new project for Pittsboro called Chatham Park.

The new project would be a long process taking 30-40 years, but could bring many new aspects to the town like medical facilities, parks, trails, houses, and businesses.  Consulting Planner for Chatham Park, Philip Culpepper, says that Pittsboro and the people there will not be left out of the project.

“We will be a part of Pittsboro,” Culpepper says. “We’ve already annexed portions of the property into Pittsboro. We consider Pittsboro, its historic downtown, and the people of Pittsboro an integral part of what we are trying to do.” Culpepper said.

Several developments in Chatham County like Briar Chapel, Powell Place, and Westmoore have tried to blend businesses with housing, but have had little success.  Culpepper says that they have a different plan to bring in business and that they will not focus on retail like these other developments.

“We’re looking at more of broader range, of not only retail, but medical facilities, light industries, office parks, things like that,” says Culpepper. “So it’s a much broader range and we’re already seeing the demand. We anticipate building a medical office facility here very shortly.”

Currently Preston has several projects ranging across the state.  When asked why Pittsboro, Culpepper says it seemed like the next big area for the Triangle.

“Seeing it as the next logical location for development to occur,” Culpepper says. “Wake County, a lot of development has taken place to the west side of Wake County. Jordan Lake comes in, realizing the demand was going to be there, realizing that we wanted to put a quality project there so that the demand could come into a quality development rather than being scattered across the county.”

Culpepper has worked with Pittsboro commissioners for the past eight years on planning this project and has faced almost no opposition. A few people have complained that the town will have to provide the infrastructure for the development.  One of the owners of Preston Development, Tim Smith, says that this will not be a problem because the company is planning on building the entire infrastructure themselves and possibly giving it over to the Town in the future.

“We’re not asking the citizens to pay for anything,” Smith says. “We’re going to pay for our own water lines, our own sewers, own sewer plants, and we going to generate enough tax revenue to go back to pay for anything that the Town would require to give us like fire, police, and all that; so we’re paying for everything. This project will not cost the citizen of Pittsboro one cent, not one cent.”

Preston development is also a member of the “Clean Tech” cluster, a world-leading user of energy saving devices.  Smith says that as a member of the “Clean Tech” cluster the developers plan on using the green technology from the RTP area to make the development as new and modern as possible.

“Everything that we can possibly do, everything that’s new we want to use it,” Smith says. “If something comes out next year that’s better, we intend to use it. So we intend to use everything that’s available to us that’s why we’re a member of this Clean Tech cluster. They’re going to provide us with all their expertise and use our project as a model demonstration project for the world, so we’ll be a world demonstration project for all the newest things that come out.”

The Chatham Park development may grow past the current 7,120 acres of land that are already owned.  Smith says he hopes that in 40 years he can look at the development and be proud of everything that they achieved.  Smith also says they want to work with local contractors and businesses when developing Chatham Park to include the community in the development.

Below is a map of the proposed site for Chatham Park in relation to Pittsboro.  On Saturday, the Town Commissioners are having a meeting to discuss some aspects of Chatham Park with their staff.

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