BOC delays NNP Briar Chapel vote, to decide at November meeting

Posted 10/23/20

PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Board of Commissioners decided nearly four hours into its regular session meeting on Monday to delay a vote on a request on behalf of NNP-Briar Chapel LLC for its …

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BOC delays NNP Briar Chapel vote, to decide at November meeting

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PITTSBORO — The Chatham County Board of Commissioners decided nearly four hours into its regular session meeting on Monday to delay a vote on a request on behalf of NNP-Briar Chapel LLC for its Final Plat review.

According to the county’s website, an approved Final Plat is a permanent record of a subdivision as constructed that is filed with the Register of Deeds and shows important dimensions such as property lines. Following presentations from multiple stakeholder groups and ensuing discussion, the board opted to make a final decision regarding approval of NNP’s Final Plat at its November meeting, following the advice of the county attorney Bob Hagemann.

“Bringing it back in November may be the prudent thing to do given that its 10:30 and you still don’t have a clear understanding ...” Hagemann told the board. “You don’t have to have an answer tonight, you’re not required to.”

These proceedings follow months of troubles for NNP-Briar Chapel, the company which owns Briar Chapel at Newland Communities and has experienced delays on approval of its final plats, consisting of Phase 13 Section 3 and Phase 14. The county has approved approximately 75 or more requests from NNP for preliminary or final plats for Briar Chapel, but the approval of its last two single family residential plats has been delayed by a major issue: wastewater and sewage concerns in Briar Chapel.

“The past 10 months of my life have been dominated by issues surrounding the Briar Chapel wastewater treatment plant as an inhibitor to my daily life,” Briar Chapel resident Patricia Van Hoy read during the board’s public input session. “Once the commissioners approve the two plats, Briar Chapel will have no leverage. Please delay Newland plat approvals until Old North State stabilizes the system and implements odor control.”

Another speaker added: “This is a pervasive quality-of-life issue for so many of us in Briar Chapel.”

Multiple residents spoke of a nauseating odor from sewage spills, as well as actually seeing and walking through spills on the trails near Briar Chapel.

Old North State Water Company in Briar Chapel and Envirolink, the company which manages its operations, have been plagued with problems of sewer spills in the Briar Chapel community in the last few years. The News + Record reported in August that since 2016, Briar Chapel’s sewer lines have spilled more than 47,000 gallons of raw sewage with nearly 39,000 gallons estimated to have reached surface water, according to the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality. This year alone, more than 15,000 gallons of sewage has made its way to surface water from the community’s sewer lines.

Though county staff recommended approving both of NNP’s requests, the county’s planning board unanimously suggested denying approval because of wastewater concerns. Nick Robinson, presenting on behalf of NNP, emphasized many times that NNP was legally entitled to final plat approval due to meeting the county’s Subdivision Ordinance requirements.

Robinson thanked all the county staff and folks from the Briar Chapel Home Owners Association for their collective efforts to come to an agreement in moving forward. StopChatham North, a group working to stop Briar Chapel from becoming a regional wastewater treatment plant, also made a presentation to the board, but disagreed with Briar Chapel Home Owners Association regarding the board’s approval.

“This agreement is monumental after months of deliberation,” Robinson said, adding that the sooner the final plats are collaboratively approved, the better off the community will be. “When you take a step back and look at what’s been accomplished in Briar Chapel over the last 15 years … it’s astonishing really.”

Neither NNP nor Old North State Water Company denied the wastewater problem during their presentations, but instead insisted that continuing to address solutions for sewage spillage could and would happen as operations expand.

The board will make its final decision to approve or deny the request at its November meeting, likely at a regular session meeting on Nov. 2. Indications from the county staff and attorney make it seem likely the board will approve the request, unless evidence is found in Chatham’s Subdivision Ordinances as grounds for denial.

“We’ve been watching this show for a very long time,” Commissioner Jim Crawford said during the presentation by Dwight Allen, on behalf of StopChatham North. “It’s going to get harder and harder to fix it ... What’s the end game for the community here as you see it?”

More reporting on NNP-Briar Chapel’s request and the issue of wastewater will follow in weeks to come in the News + Record.

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.

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