Local News

Landowners decry Chatham growth plan

Posted April 16, 2009 7:05 p.m. EDT

— Some Chatham County residents are fighting a proposal to regulate development along major highways that crisscross the county.

The plan would restrict how landowners could use property along U.S. Highways 64, 15/501, 421 and 1; N.C. Highways 87 and 751; and Pittsboro-Moncure Road. Supporters say the proposal is about smart growth, but opponents say it's the equivalent of a land grab.

"You never know when you might need to sell a piece of land or something," said Charles Lutterloh, whose family farm is off N.C. 87.

The Lutterloh family has owned the property since the late 1700s, but he said the operation now barely breaks even, forcing the family to run a trucking business on the side to make a living.

The growth plan would eat into potential profits if he wanted to sell some of his land, Lutterloh said.

"Developmental costs would be dramatically increased," he said. "It's just taking individual property rights away from landowners."

Sally Kost, vice chairwoman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, said she doesn't believe the regulations would make affected land any less valuable. Instead, she said, it would protect the county's rural character.

"We are trying to be proactive and get out front of this before the development backs us into a corner," Kost said.

The plan, which commissioners aren't expected to discuss for a few months, would designate certain areas for certain types of development, resulting in less congestion, Kost said.

Supporters of the plan point to Capital Boulevard in Raleigh and say they hope to avoid such uncontrolled development and traffic.

"I'm afraid (that), for 15/501, we may be too late," Kost said.