Public decries proposed development agreement for Chatham Park

Posted 8/11/21

PITTSBORO — A request from Chatham Park Investors for approval of a sweeping development agreement was met with considerable community push-back at the board of commissioners’ regular meeting …

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Public decries proposed development agreement for Chatham Park

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Posted

PITTSBORO — A request from Chatham Park Investors for approval of a sweeping development agreement was met with considerable community push-back at the board of commissioners’ regular meeting Monday.

The agreement, which the commissioners entertained in a public hearing, would cover the entirety of the Chatham Park Planned Development District.

A broad range of residential, institutional and commercial land uses are already authorized in Chatham Park’s master plan, including up to 22,000 residences and 22,000,000 square feet of nonresidential uses, according to a written synopsis by Town Manager Chris Kennedy, included in the meeting agenda. But the development agreement “lock(s) in the standards applicable to the subject property, the entirety of the Chatham Park PDD.”

The development agreement would define and guarantee several features of CPI’s future building plans. Its “unquestionably most important” function, Kennedy wrote, is “to guide and direct development within Chatham Park for the duration of the agreement.”

“The purpose of a development agreement is so they have a general idea how to move forward,” he added at Monday’s meeting. “Otherwise it doesn’t serve that much of a purpose. They want assurances as to how they can develop.”

More than 10 members of the public attended the hearing to comment on the proposed agreement. All of them voiced strong reservations, mostly with respect to the document’s duration as requested by Chatham Park: 40 years.

“Who will be at the helm in 40 years?” said Susie Crate, a Bynum resident and professor of environmental science and policy at George Mason University. “Most of us here tonight will not be. Shouldn’t we allow for the creativity and innovation of the next generations to respond more appropriately to the changes? Think of your grandchildren and whether you want them to have their hands tied about the future of their lands and waterways or have the choice to make their own decisions for their families and communities.”

In response, Mac McCarley, a lawyer representing CPI, argued 40 years was within the reasonable expectation for a development as expansive as Chatham Park.

“The statute says a development agreement can have any reasonable term,” he said. “In this case you’re looking at a relatively large and long build-out for this development. The statute used to be limited to 20 years and it specifically said you had to have at least a 25-acre development. So if you’re looking at 20 years as a reasonable amount of time to do a 25-acre development, what would we say is a reasonable time for a 7,000-plus-acre development?”

CPI projections estimate development of the entire Chatham Park complex will take 35 to 40 years. But the commissioners and staff were loath to quickly support or denounce CPI’s request.

“I don’t disagree that the duration of 40 years may seem excessive,” Kennedy said. “I will personally work with (CPI) and discuss if there’s another alternative series of times, perhaps a schedule for revisiting the tenure of it.”

Other commenters expressed apprehension with respect to Chatham Park’s substantial infrastructure needs, its infringement upon the town’s natural resources and CPI’s impact on older, established neighborhoods. Their point was not to stop Chatham Park’s development, some emphasized, but to request the company operate under clearer standards with all of Pittsboro’s residents in mind.

“Let me say I am not anti-development nor anti-change,” Ron Hatley, a Pittsboro resident said. “But if either of those harms the environment or our citizens, it is our joint responsibility to address those concerns.”

The public hearing will continue at the board’s next regular meeting on August 23.

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

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