Pittsboro Board approves 741-acre rezoning for possible 55+ development

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PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro board of commissioners approved a rezoning request Monday for more than 700 acres, which will likely be developed as a new age-restricted neighborhood.

Jamie Schwedler, a partner at Raleigh’s Parker Poe Attorneys & Counselors at Law, filed the petition as a representative of PulteGroup Inc. and other vested parties who plan to develop a 55+ community off U.S. Hwy. 15-501, south of Moncure Pittsboro Road. The future Chatham Park Way would bisect the neighborhood, which would also encompass part of Sanford Road.

The land — about 741 acres — was previously zoned for heavy industrial and residential-agricultural uses; it is now low-density residential. PulteGroup hopes to build a planned-unit development including no more than 2,223 one-family detached residences and townhomes, club houses and other amenity buildings.

The rezoning request evoked considerable debate in recent weeks. At a public hearing on Aug. 9, a member of the public spoke against the rezoning request citing inconsistencies “with Pittsboro’s Land Use Plan” and claiming “the rezoning area is too large,” according to meeting minutes. Members of the board expressed similar concerns with rezoning such a substantial stretch of land.

On Sept. 8, the town planning board took a harder stance, recommending with a 5-1 vote that Pittsboro deny Schwedler’s request.

Despite some opposition, though, most commissioners supported the proposal and voted Monday to rezone the property. It passed 3-1, with Commissioner John Bonitz opposing and Commissioner Jay Farrell abstained from voting.

“I am generally against general rezonings,” Commissioner Kyle Shipp said, “and try to look at them in a way that separates rezoning from any intended use. That’s been pretty difficult in this case, with how the applicant has presented things. But at its core the rezoning, I think, is an overall positive, which is a change for me.”

Bonitz felt otherwise.

“The fact that the planning board has recommended against it is meaningful to me,” he said, “and the conversation at the planning board meeting was very much about how it’s inconsistent with our future land use plan. They found that the rezoning request is not reasonable and will have an unreasonable impact on the surrounding community.”

In previous meetings of the board, PulteGroup representatives argued the town has much to gain from a new, dedicated 55+ community.

“In Pittsboro, there’s a significant aging population,” Chris Raughley, the company’s vice president of land entitlements and development, said in a public hearing. “And persons 55 and older are expected to continue to move to the area.”

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which Raughley shared in his presentation, the median age in Pittsboro is 42.8 — 10% higher than elsewhere across the greater Triangle area and North Carolina as a whole. About 14% of Pittsboro residents are between 60 and 69 years old, and 10% are 80 years old and older, “more than double the rate for Durham/Chapel Hill, and more than double the rate for North Carolina as a whole,” Raughley said.

“So based on the trends and our experience in anticipating demand in the active adult housing market,” he added, “the project will meet the growing need for active adult housing in Pittsboro by providing multiple housing types in a location convenient to downtown Pittsboro.”

Other news

• Renovations to the downtown traffic circle have finally completed, Town Manager Chris Kennedy announced in the board’s meeting.

“Today is the final day of the DOT downtown traffic circle project,” he said. “I think we’re excited to see that project come to fruition and completion, both at the same time.”

Residents and passersby may still see some workers, but heavy machinery has left the area.

“I would note that we will see a little bit of work after the fact,” Kennedy said. “The completion is for the road project — we still have the lighting project outstanding. So we will see some of the lighting fixtures around the circle be swapped out. But DOT wanted their contractors basically to demobilize.”

• The board voted to deny a rezoning request from David Mang to change a .78-acre parcel at 879 and 881 Hillsboro Street from high density residential to office and institutional.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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