Local News

Chatham County Weighs Pros, Cons Of New Development

Posted September 15, 2004

— Chatham County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Encouraging development while maintaining the county's rural character can be a real balancing act. That concern is coming into play with the proposed Briar Chapel development.

The proposed development, with 2,300 homes and 1,500 acres, is expected to increase Chatham County's population by nearly 10 percent. Members of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities say it is just not a good fit.

"It's going to increase the traffic in an area that's already jammed. The kind of gridlock that we are going to get there will be unprecedented in the history of the count," activist Gary Simpson said.

Briar Chapel would sit to the west of Highway 15-501, about 10 miles north of Pittsboro. Some shop owners in town do not understand the fuss. They welcome the potential business and other benefits that could come their way.

"I don't see anything wrong with it as long as they build it right. We are not going to get any industry. We might as well get a good tax base," said Chester Barker, who supports the development.

This week, there will be two public forums to discuss Briar Chapel. While residents do not seem to see eye-to-eye on the issue, neither do county commissioners. Some commissioners say they do not plan to attend the forums.

"You would think that they'd want to know, want to learn. The general perception often by the general public is they just want to get it through," activist Gary Simpson said.

Commissioners said they spent the last two years carefully looking at the project. As for the forums, they claim since they are based more on emotion rather than fact, they could be subject to legal action if they go.

"Our county attorney indicated that if we were to attend such a hearing, it would open up a question of our decision in the end," commissioner Bob Atwater said.

The board will be at the official county public hearing in October. However, any final decision on the controversial development could be months away.

A forum was held Wednesday at Jordan Matthews High School in Siler City. Another forum will be held at the same location at 6 p.m. Thursday.

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