Local News

Chatham County Leaders Consider Growth Moratorium

Posted May 22, 2007 10:55 p.m. EDT
Updated May 23, 2007 7:43 a.m. EDT

— Chatham County Commissioners said they've had to raise taxes one too many times, and now they're considering a plan to control growth.

About 15,000 homes are coming online in the county, and from water and sewer lines to roads and schools, its feeling the squeeze.

“Chatham County needs to catch its breath, so to speak,” said resident Barbara Ford.

Commissioners have considered a temporary halt on growth -- a moratorium that would limit new subdivisions to 25 homes each for the next year. Commissioner Mike Cross said it’s the responsible thing to do.

“The growth is coming we want to try to develop smartly,” Cross said.

There are two competing thoughts at play in growing counties like Chatham, which considered the alternatives at a meeting Tuesday night. Some residents said they feel that increasing the tax base can keep property taxes down, while others say growing drives them up.

At the public hearing Tuesday, residents voiced what they don't want to become.

“Wake County has seen massive development in the last decade,” said resident Mary Lucas. “They have a school system in disarray.”

“I moved here from Cary to get out of the madness,” said resident Kathleen Hundley.

Wake County leaders are considering their own options in controlling the costs of growth. Lawmakers are considering bills to allow Wake County voters to increase the sales tax or apply a fee for selling a home.

Those with ties to home builders say the growth-control ideas are bad for the business that fuels the local economy.

“The moratorium will hurt economic development,” said Frank Thomas with the Orange, Durham and Chatham Home Builders Association.

“To say ‘No more, stop,’ it sends a message to the rest of the region, ‘We're closed for business, you're not welcome,’” said Chris Sinclair with the Triangle Community Coalition.

Opponents of the Chatham County moratorium said communities can work with developers to set aside land for roads, parks and schools. A new piece of legislation even allows developers to build schools and lease them. Wake County has a pilot project with that idea in the works.

No decisions were made at Tuesday’s meeting in Chatham County. County Commissioners will draft an ordinance and take it up at a future meeting.