Local News

Pittsboro still undecided on Chatham Park

Posted March 10, 2014

— Residents packed the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night to hear the body review recommendations from an independent consultant regarding a controversial development project that would change the face of the small Chatham County town.

Recommendations from The Lawrence Group, a St. Louis-based consultant firm retained by the town, call for more detail in plans for Chatham Park. Concerns revolve around the lack of detail regarding land use, utilities, schools, transportation, open space and development.

If approved, Chatham Park, a multi-use development of homes, businesses, research space and parks that would encompass more than 7,000 acres between the east side of Pittsboro and Jordan Lake, is expected to be completed in phases over 30 years by Cary-based Preston Development.

The massive development, three times Pittsboro’s current size and equivalent to the size of Research Triangle Park, is expected to increase the town’s population by over 1900 percent, from 3,000 to more than 60,000 residents.

The project, which has been in the works for years, was put on hold in November after the board tabled a vote to approve a rezoning recommendation from the town’s planning department.

Plan analysis

In a presentation to the board in February, The Lawrence Group said the plan “lacks a coherent vision and the necessary performance standards to implement that vision,” but added that, in general, projects of this size can be well designed.

“Unfortunately, because of a lack of a clear vision, we found it very difficult to visualize how they intend to achieve both 22,000 residential units and 22 million square feet of non-residential space,” the group said in its report. “At best, we believe that there is a hybrid or overlay (either/or) plan that can maximize this for a truly mixed-use project that also accommodates the significant environmental features in the area.”

The group offered a number of recommendations, including:

- More details regarding design standards and imagery
- Technical site standards for utility use should be uniform across the town
- Commit to provide fire stations and schools in the development
- Include east-west roads to connect the development to the rest of Pittsboro
- Strive for 40 percent open space
- Cap building heights at 4 stories with certain exceptions

Preston Development, the builder behind the project, said they will respond to the recommendations in writing.

Increasing public services

Chatham Park will consist of 27 sections with five activity centers “that serve as convenient, accessible service and retail destinations for surrounding neighborhoods,” according to the development’s master plan.

The effort, according to the plan, would require significant investment from the town and county, from expanding water and sewer service to possibly:

- Increasing the police department to 168 employees
- Turning the Pittsboro Volunteer Fire Rescue Department into a full-time agency
- Building 12 new schools (eight elementary, two middle and two high schools) to handle an increase of nearly 10,000 students
- Improving road and highway infrastructure, including building new roadways

Western Triangle growth

Chatham Park is the latest effort to bring large scale development projects to the western part of the Triangle.

After a five year battle, construction is expected to begin this year on 751 South - thanks to action from state lawmakers. The General Assembly approved a bill last year forcing Durham to annex the development. The legislation allows the city to wait 10 years before annexation and requires the developer to pay to widen N.C. Highway 751 and abide by environmental rules protecting Jordan Lake.

The project, located in southern Durham County along N.C. Highway 751 near Chatham County, would include about 1,300 homes and 600,000 square feet of office and retail space.

Battle lines drawn

Just like 751 South, Chatham Park has not been without opposition.

Pittsboro Matters, a grassroots group committed “to the preservation of the local economy, environment and culture” of the town, claims the project will result in an influx of “big box retail” stores and chain restaurants, among other issues.

Proponents believe the effort would boost the local economy and bring more jobs to the area.

It is unknown when town leaders will decide whether to approve or reject the project.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • oyid Mar 11, 2014

    Based on the Cary track record for Preston Development, I would bet my money on them. Pittsboro needs to keep Preston on task and up to the same standards as the West Cary developments.

  • mewuvbb Mar 11, 2014

    @KERMITDFROG refer to all of the empty buildings that are not being used, always need another grocery store or a fast food joint

  • Mar 11, 2014

    Just moved there for the peace and quiet, I can see money-bags Preston cares nothing about anything except shareholder profits at the expense of Pittsboro residents. Be gone with your project....

  • Softly Softlybeep Mar 11, 2014
    user avatar

    SAYAWHONC has it right about planned growth. Truth is, the alternative would most likely be an uncontrolled patchwork of housing developments and strip malls. Growth will happen, whether you want it to or not. I've seen it before in other fast-growing urban areas. Let's try to make the growth as planned and thoughtful as possible.

  • Eq Videri Mar 11, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    ChatReb, just curious: Do you work in Pittsboro? If not, which town?

  • Eq Videri Mar 11, 2014
    user avatar

    Chatham County is going to keep growing, folks. That's what happens when you're on the periphery of one of the nation's fastest-growing urban regions.

    So the real question is not WHETHER to grow, but HOW to grow over several decades.

    And the choice is: either through careful planning of large tracts like this one, or willy nilly without good coordination of roads, parks, water lines, sewers, etc.

    Sure, make the plan better if possible. But if Pittsboro shoots down Chatham Park, it will get lousy development over the next 30 years instead of good development over the next 30 years. Either way, it will not stay rural.

    That is Pittsboro's actual choice, and the town's commissioners need to face it.

  • Dwight Fields Mar 11, 2014
    user avatar

    OH and one more thing. If you liked it so well where you were that you want this and that brought into this area where some of the ones who have always lived here do not mind driving some miles to get to the places and businesses you want to see come here I have a thought for you. Why don't you move back to where you came from or to an area where you have all these amenities that you so desperately need? That will settle everything. You will have all the things you do not want to drive to get to and there will be plenty of homes and people and lines to wait in for all the things you need. I don't need or want them myself.

  • Dwight Fields Mar 11, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I agree with you totally. I have lived in this area all my life. My mom worked for years in that courthouse in the middle of town, you knew everyone that walked up and down the street and everyone was friendly and spoke. Go ahead and call it "Mayberry" if you like but it was a great place to grow up. Now, they opened the flood gates with the new four lane to hippy hill and you know no one and the town doesn't even look the same. You are hard pressed to fine "natives" anymore. Leave this development to someone else and some other area who wants 60,000 people living nearby.....I don't want it.
    PS: WRAL, put a "LIKE" button on this comment page!

  • rhythm section Mar 11, 2014

    Complain all you want, but if you don't want someone moving in next door, buy the lot.

  • cruzinlong Mar 11, 2014

    rather have that near me than fracking that's going to take place in other parts of Chatham.