Plan Moncure

Balancing act: community plan looks to weigh future needs with current concerns


MONCURE — Don Brown, like many in Moncure, can trace his lineage to the community back several generations.

Nowadays, he’s in sound financial standing and says he could move elsewhere if he wanted. But he doesn’t. Moncure is the community that raised him and showed him what mattered in life, which is why he’s still around. Likewise, he doesn’t want to see his close-knit rural town lose its unique qualities.

“Areas like this (Moncure) are fast becoming extinct,” Brown said. “I used to see dirt roads everywhere and say ‘dang I hope this gets paved.’ Now, I look at those dirt roads and say ‘gosh I hope that dirt road stays.’”

Brown also acknowledges, however, that change is on the horizon for Moncure. With VinFast, FedEx and other industrial development opportunities on the way, there’s a need to balance the opportunities of the future with the desires of existing residents.

The industrial growth could also lead to a new grocery store or community center nearby. Currently, Moncure residents have to travel nearly 30 minutes to the closest grocery store in Pittsboro. Perhaps the growth is a way to get some of those things closer to home.

But some residents don’t want change. As Brown said, “It’s hard to have your cake and eat it too.”

“I could’ve lived in many places, but I decided many years ago that I’m just fine here,” Brown said. “Wherever that happy medium is, that’s to be determined.”

‘Elephant with butterfly ears’

In an attempt to find that midpoint, Moncure residents, including Brown, gathered at Moncure School last Wednesday for the third community meeting around the small area plan, Plan Moncure.

The purpose of last week’s meeting was for consultants on the project to present plans for future development and conservation in Moncure. The presented scenarios were based on public input received through community stakeholder sessions in community meetings and survey responses collected between January and April.

Matt Noonkester, one of the lead consultants for Plan Moncure, explained four scenarios to the crowd of about 50 residents. None of the four scenarios were absolute options, rather they were meant to determine what sorts of things residents wanted to see in the future.

“Our end result is probably going to be something like an elephant with butterfly ears,” Noonkester told the crowd. “These four options each represent extremes in some respect, so the final product will likely be some mix of each.”

Scenario A was designed with current zoning regulations, and no changes to existing regulations. In previous meetings, Moncure residents expressed a desire to keep things the same and with minimal changes. Current codes, however, show the area is not building as densely as the zoning allows. This scenario shows how dense things in Moncure could become if the rules go unchanged.

“A lot of folks have told us they want to keep Moncure rural,” Tyson Smith, a lead consultant on the project, told residents. “But what could build out under current zoning plans is much more dense and intense than people realize.”

Scenario B showed what would happen if Moncure adhered strictly to the 2017 Unified Development Ordinance, Plan Chatham. The county is currently in the process of updating its UDO, which is expected to be completed later this year. Notably, the same consultant group  — White & Smith LLC — is assisting the county on Plan Moncure and the UDO update.

This scenario, however, adheres to the old document. B results in limited growth for Moncure, but does include the development of several “village centers,” or areas with grocery stores, shopping, local businesses, etc. In this plan, much of the development is industrial rather than residential because the 2017 UDO was designed with the mega sites of Chatham County in mind.

“What you’ll see in this plan is things that want to be around a VinFast or other major business sites,” Noonkester said. “There’s also a lot more green on this map because the areas between concentrated development would be agricultural or rural.”

Under B, development would be concentrated in smaller areas than in other scenarios.

Scenario C aims to slow down growth as much as possible. In A and B, the plans work under the assumption of one-acre plots of land for housing units. Scenario C increases that to five-acre plots per unit. This means that while there is heavy growth expected for Moncure, most of those people would commute inward from neighboring counties — like Durham, Harnett, Lee, Orange, Randolph or Wake — to work in Moncure. This means less property tax revenue for the county, and that housing is much less dense than in other scenarios. This plan would also lead to the lowest infrastructure needs because there is minimal growth.

Scenario D aims to accommodate all expected growth in the area. This plan aims to meet the demand by increasing the supply of housing. This would lead to more multi family homes, denser development and increased population. While D has the largest footprint and highest impact of any of the plans, it represents a more urbanized and connected vision for Moncure with enough housing and nearby amenities for people to live, shop and work in the area.

“We understand there are aspects about each of these plans that may make people uncomfortable,” Noonkester said. “But that’s why we’re here tonight — to test ideas and push boundaries.”

Next steps

After each plan was presented, residents talked with consultants and county staff about their likes and dislikes for each plan. These responses were documented on paper at the meeting, and collected via survey. The consultants will aggregate these responses and make a preliminary presentation of a “preferred hybrid scenario” for Plan Moncure to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners on Monday, June 5, at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center in Pittsboro.

The recommendations by consultants, if approved by commissioners, will then be adopted into the UDO. The UDO document shapes land use policy throughout the county as developments occur.

“We just want to honestly tell the story in both directions,” Noonkester told the News + Record. “In some ways, we want to look out the windshield for what to do, in other ways we have to look out the rearview mirror and ask what did we previously decide.”