Pittsboro board pledges support to North Woods neighbors

Posted 8/11/21

PITTSBORO ­— The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners agreed in its regular meeting Monday to assist property owners in Pittsboro’s North Woods neighborhood with their campaign to revive the …

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Pittsboro board pledges support to North Woods neighbors

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Posted

PITTSBORO ­— The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners agreed in its regular meeting Monday to assist property owners in Pittsboro’s North Woods neighborhood with their campaign to revive the N.C. Dept. of Transportation’s investigation into potential road alignments for the impending North Chatham Park Way.

Design and construction of the North Chatham Park Way has been hotly contested since planning for the 2.7-mile road accelerated in January. At a pubic hearing on Jan. 7, NCDOT unveiled “Alternative 6,” an iteration of the road’s trajectory that would run through the North Woods neighborhood — a 200-acre, private community of 17 properties. The four-lane highway is necessary, NCDOT has said, to serve the many thousands of new residents who will inhabit Chatham Park in coming years, and to mitigate traffic issues through downtown Pittsboro. Already, a section of the larger Chatham Park Way has been constructed between U.S. Hwy. 64 and Suttles Road, but North Chatham Park Way would extend the road to U.S. Hwy. 15-501.

Back in June, months-long debate over potential realignment plans was abruptly cut short when NCDOT announced it would move forward with plans to bisect the neighborhood, according to a NCDOT email obtained by the News + Record. The department had previously suggested it might amend the proposed alignment to circumvent the North Woods community.

On Monday, the topic reemerged as the board discussed a request from Chatham Park Investors for the town to approve its small area plan for the Chatham Park North Village. The 2,225-acre community would comprise 11 of 27 sections identified in CPI’s Master Plan of 7,068 acres to be developed over coming decades. The North Village will sit directly adjacent to the North Woods neighborhood.

“The central feature of the small area plan is the North Chatham Park Way, a major divided road that’s planning to run through and destroy my North Woods neighborhood,” said Mark Pavao, a North Woods resident whose led the community effort to oppose the road’s current trajectory.

To elicit support for their cause, Pavao and the 16 other North Woods land owners launched a petition in January on Change.org called “Save North Woods Neighborhood.” They implored residents of the greater Pittsboro area to voice their disapproval of the proposed North Chatham Park Way alignment. Within a week, more than 2,300 had signed. As of Tuesday, the number exceeded 3,750.

The missing link, however, was explicit support from Pittsboro’s commissioners, Pavao told the News + Record. In Monday’s meeting, the board and staff publicly pledged to continue the inquiry into NCDOT’s chosen alignment before voting to approve CPI’s small area plan.

“I would like to know the extent of alternatives that were looked at,” Mayor Jim Nass said, suggesting there might still be a compromise that could better serve the North Woods community.

Since the start, Pavao and his neighbors have insisted a 200-yard rightward shift in the North Chatham Park Way’s alignment would minimize impact on North Woods without significantly changing Chatham Park’s development plans. Some commissioners said Monday they had not seen a satisfying rebuttal to that suggestion.

“What would be the repercussions of changing it 200 yards?” Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Baldwin said, echoing sentiment from other officials. “That’s what I’d like to know, just as the mayor stated.”

Approval of the small area plan would not in itself guarantee the current road alignment comes to fruition, however.

“The Small Area Plan is a conceptual guide for how future growth might occur in the North Village and the information, illustrations and maps provided are not considered as binding,” Pittsboro Planning Director Theresa Thompson wrote in a memo to the board. “... The Small Area Plan includes conceptual locations of public facilities such as parks, schools, fire stations, proposed transit stop locations and trail heads. The actual locations, design details and required improvements may vary and will be determined by final surveys and development plan approvals.”

The North Chatham Park Way itself falls under NCDOT jurisdiction, though its construction is part of a joint effort including the Town of Pittsboro. If the board was to approve the current small area plan, it might suggest to Chatham Park and NCDOT that Pittsboro’s commissioners support the highway’s path through North Woods and it could set dangerous precedents for future development, Pavao said. He was encouraged, though, by their interest in further investigation.

“The board is interested in understanding the proposed destruction of my North Woods neighborhood,” he told the News + Record. “There was also recognition that what happens with North Chatham Park Way is a harbinger for the future South Chatham Park Way which is projected to affect many more private homeowners.”

The board will address the small area plan request again at its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 during which the commissioners may bring the matter to a vote. NCDOT representatives have been invited to attend the meeting and explain their current decision to proceed with a road alignment through North Woods, Town Manager Chris Kennedy said.

The meeting will be held on Zoom. A link will be available on Pittsboro’s website, pittsboronc.gov.

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

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