Pittsboro board talks land use, high school graduation and upcoming events

Posted 3/24/21

PITTSBORO — The board of commissioners spent most of its regular meeting Monday evaluating land use requests — zoning amendments and a final plat approval — in addition to fielding citizen …

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Pittsboro board talks land use, high school graduation and upcoming events

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PITTSBORO — The board of commissioners spent most of its regular meeting Monday evaluating land use requests — zoning amendments and a final plat approval — in addition to fielding citizen comments and looking ahead to important future business.

Town Planner and Interim Planning Director Theresa Thompson commanded the floor through most of the commissioners’ session, presenting requests from local developers and town staff.

Graham Scott Oldham, owner of about 13 acres on U.S. Hwy 15-501, is hoping to build a new shopping center on land currently zoned for residential and agricultural use. Oldham requested the board rezone his property for highway commercial conditional zoning. The land currently hosts Poultry Villa Landscaping and Supplies.

“This building and any other buildings will be demolished before the shopping center is built,” Thompson said.

The land is not within town limits, and might under different circumstances violate the terms of commercial zoning, she added. But its location adjacent to other commercial properties, and immediately north of the Mosaic development, makes it a fitting candidate for a shopping center.

“It is located near town limits, providing practicality, easy access and reduced travel times to the community,” Thompson said.

The commissioners generally approved of the project’s scope, and agreed to forward the request to the town’s planning board for consideration.

Commissioners Michael Fiocco and John Bonitz, however, expressed concern with the shopping center’s current mock-up.

“My biggest concern is that the layout just has a sea of parking lot as we enter Pittsboro,” Fiocco said. “I’d ask the developer and designer to consider that.”

Thompson next requested the board amend three zoning ordinances to better comply with the town’s future Unified Development Ordinance, which must be approved by mid-summer. The first amendment — adjusting requirements for “multiple means of vehicular access” — underwent serious commissioner scrutiny and revision.

All developments must provide at least two separate access points if they meet any of five criteria. A full list of adjustments to the ordinance will be available on the town’s website, but the biggest change is as follows:

“Where two apparatus roads are required, they shall be placed a distance apart equal to no less than on-half of the length of the maximum overall diagonal dimension of the property or area to be served, measured in a straight line between accesses.”

At least one road must be constructed to Town of Pittsboro and NCDOT roadway standards.

The requirements will be generally binding, but may be “modified and/or waived” by the board of commissioners after approval from the “Fire Code Official.”

“For the benefit of the audience,” Town Manager Chris Kennedy said, “the definition of the fire code official is the fire chief or other designated authority charged with the administration and enforcement of the code or a duly authorized representative.”

In her final presentation, Thompson requested the board grant final plat approval to Chatham Park Investors for a new subdivision comprised of 42 single-family detached lots. The commissioners unanimously approved.

Citizen comments

Heather Johnson of Chatham Business Services attended Monday’s meeting to request the board approve a pandemic-measure to commemorate high school senior graduations.

“I’ve been talking with the board by email about a high school senior sign project,” she said.

She and some partners organized a similar event last year for “high school seniors who found themselves without a traditional year or graduation.”

Signs commending seniors and acknowledging their accomplishments lined East Street — a pandemic substitute for an in-person graduation ceremony. Johnson requested the board permit her to launch a similar campaign for the class of 2021 to begin on May 1.

“Last year I remember being at several places across the state that did similar things,” Mayor Jim Nass said. “... It was really a good thing to see wherever they were; it really worked out well.”

Other commissioners seconded his approval and the board officialized its consensus to support the effort. A formal motion and vote were not required.

The commissioners were unsure whether town ordinance or NCDOT regulation might prohibit such a display. They requested Kennedy further investigate the projects logistics and report back.

Looking ahead

The board of commissioners have several important discussions scheduled in coming weeks. Interested residents can attend commissioner meetings via Zoom. Meeting links are posted on the town’s website at pittsboronc.gov.

• Audit report and tax revals

“We’ll have a couple of interesting topics at our April 12 commissioner meeting,” Kennedy said, “that will easily draw the interest of the public.”

The first is Pittsboro’s annual audit.

“For those who may recall,” Kennedy said, “we usually have the audit much earlier in the year if not in the previous year.”

Yearly audit reports are typically due by Oct. 31 of the preceding year and available for town review shortly after. But pandemic setbacks delayed the town by several months.

Chatham County representatives are also expected to attend the April 12 meeting to present findings from the recent tax revaluation. Pittsboro residents will receive notices of property revaluations starting at the end of this week.

“So, anybody who has any questions can certainly listen in that evening,” Kennedy said, “and you’ll have a Pittsboro-centric conversation about the reval, and where the values are trending towards for the next for years.”

• Budget retreat

The board will host its annual budget retreat starting at 9 a.m. on Sat. April 17.

“It will be in person for the board,” Kennedy said, “but virtual for those who wish to listen in.”

Budget retreats are public meetings and must be accessible for interested viewers. A Zoom link will be posted on the town’s website.

• Budget hearings

Following Pittsboro’s budget retreat, the board of commissioners and town staff will host budget hearings before the public. The first is scheduled for May 10.

“The budget will be open for public inspection,” Kennedy said, “... to allow those who want to dig in, make suggestions, or make any other comments.”

A second hearing is scheduled for May 24.

“If all goes well,” Kennedy said, the commissioners should be able to adopt the town’s budget at its regular meeting on May 24.

“A lot of things coming up on the docket,” Kennedy said, “both on the business meetings and outside of it, but we look forward to having those occur and keep us moving along.”

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

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