Haw River activists flood Pittsboro Commissioners’ Meeting with concerns over Chatham Park amendment


PITTSBORO — On Monday night, the Pittsboro commissioners met for their regularly scheduled town meeting, where they discussed several community matters and concerns. 

The Splash Pad is set to receive the key component needed to fix the issue at hand and is expected to be up and running within the next couple of weeks. 

Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Baldwin mentioned to those in attendance that the fair would be in town from Sept. 21 - 24 and encouraged everyone to come out and enjoy the festivities. "You may not to get to ride all the rides, but you'll have a good time," she said enthusiastically. 

Commissioner Kyle Shipp mentioned the VinFast groundbreaking ceremony and looks forward to that major project moving along. 

The topic of changing the mayor’s term of office from two to four years, which would not take place until the next election in 2025, was brought up for discussion. 

At the last public meeting on July 24, the board approved an amendment from two years to four years which requires a public hearing and 10-day notice, which will then be considered and voted on at the next public meeting scheduled for Aug. 28, 2023. 

“It would be more consistent in being able to handle the business of the town when someone has a more consistent term, to work more easily with the town manager, and I am in favor of this change,” said Baldwin. 

Randolph Voller, the former mayor, supported the change of mayor to four years, mentioning that the Sanford mayor's term is four years. He suggested that more could be accomplished in this time frame. In addition, he recommended that the commissioners should be increased to seven, with the mayor as the tiebreaker. 

Chatham Park commerce center requested an annexation into town limits. Jay Farrel made a motion to approve the annexation request, which was approved unanimously. 

However, the public comments forum regarding the small plan amendment by Chatham Park regarding Chatham Park North Village was the main topic of the night. 

The changes that are being proposed would involve an alteration in size and shape of some park areas, a through-road near the Haw River buffer area, and a ten-foot-wide paved pedestrian walkway and bicycle greenway. 

About half-a-dozen people signed up to speak in opposition to this amendment, most of them associated with the Haw River Assembly, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit citizens’ group that was formed in 1982. 

According to the Haw River Assembly website, the group “is dedicated to the goal of environmental justice and equality for all people in our watershed.” 

One public speaker, Susan Crate, accused the Chatham Park Developers of telling her, “It’s our land, and we can do what we want with it.” She continued by speaking critically about the construction and process that went about communicating with her, adding that it would severely hurt the ecological system, and the traffic would be a major pollution problem for the area. 

“Is this the same Chatham Park that encourages us to live, work, play?” asked Crate. “We deserve better than this.” 

Executive Director of Haw River Assembly, Elaine Chiosso, presented a petition of signatures against the amendments made by Chatham Park, claiming over 1,000 signatures from citizens that have yet to be confirmed to be local residents. 

Speaking out against changes that Chatham Park wants to make, Chiosso spoke about her concern about deforestation and the environmental impact down the stream and into Jordan Lake. She also urged the board to reject the new road route proposed by Chatham Park developers, arguing that there should be conservation goals in mind in areas that are close to rivers and trails, not development. 

A few concerned citizens took turns speaking out against the amendment, placing the local environment at the forefront of their concerns. One individual raised concern for the Bald Eagles, which have nested around Jordan Lake and have now started working their way up the Haw River, while another citizen spoke of trees and greenery being the air conditioner of nature.  

Chuck Smith stepped in front of the commissioners to make a statement and take any questions. 

“First, I just want to say that there’s a number of provocative things that have been said here tonight,” Smith rebutted, “We have never – never, ever, said ‘this is our land, and we can do what we want’ and I’m not saying someone working for us may have never said that, but we, the investors have never said that.” 

Many of the questions asked by residents focused on whether or not the plan is to reduce the number of parks originally planned. 

Smith answered by stating that they would not hit the maximum but would meet the requirements, saying, "And there's a number of parks that aren't shown (on the plans) that the public will have access to, but are not showing on the plans," he added. 

Commissioner Ferrel asked about a 50-acre park that originally was planned to be 70 acres, inquiring why that had changed. 

“We still have a park there, but there won’t be a school site there – the school said they did not want that location,” explained Smith.  He further went on to say that they had found a different location more preferable to the school’s plans. 

While public comments were taken into consideration Monday night, there is a minimum 10-day period that must be allowed for anyone to voice their concerns before a vote is taken by The Pittsboro Town Commissioners.  

The actual vote on the matter is set to be held at the next regular scheduled commissioners meeting on Aug. 28.