Letter to the editor: ‘One-sided’ article on Chatham Park disappointing

Posted 3/24/21

To the Editor:

I was very disappointed in your two-part article on Chatham Park. It is a public relations piece masquerading as a news article

Mr. Rawl and Mr. Smith are at some pains to …

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Letter to the editor: ‘One-sided’ article on Chatham Park disappointing

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To the Editor:

I was very disappointed in your two-part article on Chatham Park. It is a public relations piece masquerading as a news article

Mr. Rawl and Mr. Smith are at some pains to dismiss the Chatham County residents who questioned the gigantic scope of this project, the impact on the Haw River watershed, the lack of affordable housing, and the long-term issues of adequate sewer and water. Their comments in this interview have the same arrogant tone they adopted during many of the public hearings, where they basically said, “We have built all these developments in other places, we do a good job, all you locals stop asking all these questions about stream buffers, setbacks from the Haw, and open space. Just trust us. Don’t regulate us.” That was their approach in a nutshell and it seemed to work well for them in their negotiations with the Town of Pittsboro.

From past experience I expect this dismissive attitude toward their critics from Mr. Rawl and Mr. Smith, but I am surprised that the author of the article would quote these statements so approvingly. Did the author consider reaching out to the staff at the Haw River Assembly to hear their thoughts on the impact of Chatham Park? Or to former Pittsboro mayor Bill Terry, who was heavily involved in the contentious approval process? Or to other members of the Pittsboro Town Board? Surely there are important questions about a development of this size that should be discussed with someone other than the developers themselves! In the interest of balanced journalism perhaps you would consider a third installment where other voices could be heard?

As a long-time subscriber, it is clear to me that the new ownership of the News + Record has made many positive changes to the newspaper. You seem to be reaching out to a wide range of groups in the county and covering local issues in greater depth. That makes this one-sided article even more disappointing. Whether Chatham Park is ultimately a good thing for Chatham County will take decades to determine. But your story of hard-working developers overcoming unrealistic environmentalists and annoying government regulators seems fundamentally distorted to me. I think a more accurate narrative would be: millionaire Wake County developers backed by Cary billionaire James Goodnight create a development on a scale unprecedented in North Carolina while only paying lip service to environmental issues and the concerns of many local residents.

David Scott

Editor’s note: The conflicts and disagreements between Chatham Park investors, the town of Pittsboro and local environmentalists have been well documented in previous news coverage by the News + Record, including details from discussion and debate in Pittsboro Board of Commissioners meetings and votes made by the town board to approve elements of Chatham Park’s development plan. The News + Record stands by the details provided in the two-part series, which was not a “promotional” article but a story providing an overview of the most recent work completed at the development and a look at plans for 2021.

Chatham Park officials provided various documentation from the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality and from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to refute the claims made in these letters, but opted not to respond directly to the claims — other than to say that Chatham Park maintains that it will provide a higher tree protection standard than any other development in the Haw River watershed, and to address the statement about “destruction of streams and wetlands.”

In regards to that statement — that the N.C Dept. of Water Resources denied the 401 permit that would allow destruction of streams and wetlands by CPI and NC DOT to construct North Village and North Chatham Park Way — Bob Zarzecki, the principal and wetlands development manager for Soil & Environmental Consultants, PA, in Raleigh, wrote to the News + Record: “The applicants submitted a revised application on September 8, 2020, which was determined by (the Dept. of Water Resources) to include the additional items necessary for a complete application as listed in the June 1, 2020, denial letter, with the exception of the eight (8) additional items requested by DWR in their October 21, 2020, request for more information letter. One of these items was simply a notice to the applicants that DWR intended to hold a Public Hearing. The applicants provided the requested information on November 12, 2020, and DWR deemed it adequate to be considered a complete application suitable to hold the Public Hearing and complete their review.”



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