Pittsboro Matters, a committee of over 600 local residents, filed a lawsuit challenging the Pittsboro Town Board’s rezoning approval of Chatham Park. The 7,120-acre mixed-use development project is located on the outskirts of Pittsboro, adjacent to Jordan Lake, and would add approximately 55,000 new residents to a town with a current population of about 4,000.
The lawsuit claims the Town Board violated:
- Pittsboro’s recently adopted land use plan, which is a specific requirement of NC law
- Pittsboro’s zoning ordinances, including the Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance that was proposed by Chatham Park investors and adopted by the Town Board in 2013 to guide the approval and implementation of their process
- And the state constitution, as the PDD and master plan contain key regulations that are so vague as to be unenforceable
Jeffrey Starkweather, one of the plaintiffs, said the best-case outcome he envisions is for Preston Development to sit down with members of the public to receive more input on the Chatham Park plan, ideally incorporating the recommendations provided by a third-party consultant last year. The report, made by The Lawrence Group, suggested that 30 percent of the land be protected as conservation space with an additional 10 percent to be set aside to public parks. “The town has essentially put these developers in the driver’s seat,” said Starkweather. “From the very beginning, we approved and supported the consultant’s recommendations.”
Preston’s master plan allocates 19 percent of the land for open space, but land allocation increases as the square footage of business space and the number of residential units grow. The amount of land required for park space is also tied to the amount of development at any given time.
Preston Development’s planning consultant, Philip Culpepper, offered a short statement from company officials: “We believe that the commissioners did their due diligence prior to taking a vote by holding public hearings, during which residents could express their thoughts and concerns regarding the development,” the statement said. “Because this is a legal matter between the complaints and the Town of Pittsboro, it is inappropriate for us to comment further.”
Pittsboro Matters and local residents want the developers to fulfill a number of conditions before approving the plan, including:
- Identifying and setting aside adequate conservation and recreation areas
- Assessing environmental, traffic, fiscal, and socioeconomic impacts
- Protecting the Haw River and Jordan Lake with greater conservation buffers
- Providing land for school sites
- Involving the public meaningfully in the overall design and review process
“What I’d like to see come out of this is some give on the part of the developer – to see them say ‘OK, how can this be a better plan,'” said Amanda Robertson, the Pittsboro Matters chairwoman. “Because they haven’t.”
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