Pittsboro board addresses fire truck purchase, microbrewery definition, UDO and more in whirlwind meeting

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/24/21

PITTSBORO — The board of commissioners stepped through several action items in its regular meeting on Monday, voting on land use proposals, town ordinance on microbreweries, a resolution of support …

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Pittsboro board addresses fire truck purchase, microbrewery definition, UDO and more in whirlwind meeting

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PITTSBORO — The board of commissioners stepped through several action items in its regular meeting on Monday, voting on land use proposals, town ordinance on microbreweries, a resolution of support for congressional climate change legislation and more.

New fire truck

The board held a public hearing to consider a proposed installment loan between the Pittsboro Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and First Bank to fund purchase of a new ladder truck. The loan amount would not exceed $1,433,477.

While the decision to approve the loan agreement fell to the town’s board of commissioners, the entire responsibility for loan repayment would fall to the PVFD.

“There’s no liability on the part of the town for any of the repayment of the debt,” said Town Attorney Paul Messick. “So it’s really pretty straightforward and it’s of benefit to the bank and to the fire department.”

The commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in support of loan.

Land use and development

After discussions in several previous meetings, the board finally voted on Monday to approve a rezoning amendment for 94.29 acres north of the U.S. Hwy. 64 bypass, just south of Northwood High School Road. The land will be designated for commercial use.

A majority of the land was previously rezoned in 2018 to permit construction of a small subdivision. In January, however, the developer — Eco Northwood MUPD LLC — petitioned the board to again consider the parcel rezoning, this time including a roughly three-acre sliver of land which had been overlooked in the original evaluation.

Eco Northwood — owned by Durham’s John Fugo and Sanford’s Kirk Bradley — proposed an 18-lot community with a maximum of 21 lots in 2018. They amended their proposal to include 26 lots in the most recent iteration. The rezoning amendment also included lot configuration and street revisions.

Commercial zoning areas permit “restaurants, building supply, light manufacturing, distribution and professional services,” according to a presentation from Kayleigh Mielenz, a Pittsboro town planner. “Development in these areas should be well-planned with streetfront and interior lot landscaping, coordinated building styles, attractive signage, and shared driveways/access where appropriate.”

New ordinance welcomes microbreweries

Red Moose Brewing, a Pittsboro-based microbrewery with plans to expand operations in town, requested zoning ordinance amendments to include microbreweries as permissible under several zoning classifications: neighborhood commercial, highway commercial, central commercial, light industrial, heavy industrial and mixed use planned development. The expanded flexibility would make Pittsboro a more inviting locality for microbreweries, which are increasingly popular community social settings countrywide.

Red Moose, owned by Pittsboro resident Daniel Jenkins, also proposed in writing that a new definition be added to Pittsboro’s ordinance for the term microbrewery, distinguishing it from regular breweries: “An establishment primarily engaged in the brewing of ale, beer, malt liquors, and nonalcoholic beer ... with a capacity less than 15,000 barrels per year, on premises for either consumption on premises or sold directly to the consumer. Accessory uses include a restaurant, a public tasting room, and the retail sales of ale or beer, or related products.”

The proposed amendment was previously considered under public hearing and town staff heard no comments from the community. On Monday, the board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution approving the text amendment in the town’s ordinance.

Resolution in support of potential congressional legislation

The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2019 was a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that proposed to impose fees “on the carbon content of fuel products that emit greenhouse gases,” according to the board’s agenda packet for its meeting. On Monday, the commissioners approved a resolution to formalize their support of the bill’s 2020 iteration in a bid to sway Congress’ ultimate decision.

The resolution came before the board primarily at Commissioner John Bonitz’s behest.

“As you know I’ve spent a good chunk of my professional career focusing on climate change,” he said, “and helping move our economy in ways that emits less greenhouse gas and contributes less to climate change.”

Bonitz works with the N.C. State Energy Collaborate as a clean transportation specialist.

“The EICDA is a market-based proposal,” he said. “The emphasis is definitely on the market and incentivizing the behavior and technologies that will emit less pollution and deliver more efficiencies.”

Should the EICDA pass, energy providers, such as those operating oil wells and coal mines, Bonitz said, will be required to pay $15 per ton of carbon emissions in the act’s first year. In subsequent years, the fee would increase by another $10 per ton of carbon.

The money collected from fees is to be deposited into a carbon dividend trust fund from which administrative expenses can be paid and dividend payments made to U.S. citizens or lawful residents.

If energy providers must pay fees, however, user rates are sure to increase, Bonitz admitted.

“But that would be offset — for most of us more than offset — by this monthly dividend,” he said. “All of those fees that are collected from the source of fossil fuel are then paid back out to citizens and that happens in a way that’s very prompt and rapid so that we actually receive money in the bank, or a check in the mail that for most of us would more than make up for that and thus incentivize us with cash in our pocket to pay that small premium for a better air conditioner, a better furnace, a more efficient car.”

At least one commissioner, though, was unsure that increased energy rates would be displaced by dividends and eventual market benefits.

“I feel like the bottom line to this figure dividend is going to come back down to our lower and middle class people,” said Commissioner Jay Farrell. “If we’re going to get some type of dividend out of it, I’m sure we’re going to be paying for it in the long run ... I’m not ready to move forward with this, but whatever the will of the board is fine with me.”

The board voted 4-1 in support of the resolution, with Farrell the lone dissenter.

Chatham Park final plat approvals

The board considered and unanimously approved three separate petitions for final plat approvals from Chatham Park Investors, the developers of Chatham Park.

Plat recordation is the official approval of a subdivision or associated feature for interment in the municipality’s land records. Under some circumstances, the town can approve final plats before a project’s completion.

At least “40% of the total cost of improvements must be complete for the board of commissioners to consider waiving the requirement that the applicant complete all public improvements prior to plat recordation,” according to a presentation from Senior Planner Theresa Thompson.

But approval of a final plat is not synonymous approval of the final product — whether a road or any part of a subdivision.

“There is a differentiation between adoption of the final plat and acceptance of the road,” said Town Manager Chris Kennedy. “It’s an offer of dedication to endorse a plat where it says public, but it is not accepted until the board renders a future decision to formally accept the road for public maintenance.”

Chatham Park Investors first requested final plat approval for the northern part of Vine Parkway. So far, 96% of the total costs of road improvements have been completed and CPI agreed to provide a letter of credit in the amount of 125% of the estimated remaining construction costs.

The developer offered similar assurance with respect to Wendover Parkway, of which 93% of the total cost has been completed.

Subdivision North Phases 4a and 4b are two sections of the larger Chatham Park project. Only 54% of their total costs have been completed, but still the commissioners approved final plat. Phase 4A will house 15 single-family detached lots and eight townhome lots. Phase 4B has 10 single-family detached lots.

UDO amendments

The board entertained discussion on two potential amendments to its Unified Development Ordinance but did not take action Monday to approve or deny any changes.

The town’s current UDO requires all streets in minor and major subdivisions to be public.

“There was some discussion in the past about if that’s something that has the board’s consensus,” said Thompson, the town’s senior planner, “or if the board would like to allow the option for private streets as well, which staff recommends adding.”

Most towns, Thompson said, permit private streets, though under varying conditions.

The commissioners agreed that forbidding private streets might stifle development and create burdensome circumstances for the town, which is obligated to maintain all public roads.

The current UDO also includes an extensive neighborhood compatibility clause that requires new construction to meet the aesthetic of existing buildings and land features. Most commissioners voiced strong disapproval of such an ordinance, saying it prevents the town from upholding its commitment to uniqueness and diversity.

“This section does not inspire any level of funkiness that was one of the things we had hoped to accomplish,” said Commissioner Michael Fiocco, “to keep Pittsboro funky.”

Mayor Jim Nass agreed and feared the neighborhood compatibility standards would “create the opportunity — if not the reality — of requiring so much sameness as to change the whole nature of the community over time.”

Though no decisions were made, the commissioners agreed they would probably elect to strike the neighborhood compatibility clause from the revised UDO.

Under state law, the UDO must be completed by July, but the commissioners will begin making decisions later this month.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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