Pittsboro commissioners asks NCDOT to look for alternative for North Woods

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PITTSBORO — Pittsboro’s board of commissioners voted unanimously last Tuesday asking Town Manager Chris Kennedy to write a letter to the N.C. Dept. of Transportation seeking an alternative to a proposed road which would divide the North Woods neighborhood.

The vote came after months of discussions regarding NCDOT’s plan to build a new road through the North Woods neighborhood north of the Chatham Park development. The current plan has NCDOT building a road — the North Chatham Park Way road — that would divide the historic North Woods neighborhood in Pittsboro. Members of the North Woods community petitioned for NCDOT to come up with a compromise that would not bisect their neighborhood.

Pittsboro commissioners voted to ask NCDOT to seek other alternatives during their Aug. 23 board meeting because they were concerned for the North Woods community and potentially dividing a neighborhood which has been there for decades.

Commissioner Jay Farrell said he wanted to see an option which would be on Chatham Park’s property, avoiding the North Woods neighborhood completely.

“I’m really concerned about this,” Farrell said at that meeting. “I’m going to really be pushing for the DOT to examine going ... on Chatham Park’s property.”

The day after that meeting, Kennedy talked to Patrick Norman, a division engineer from NCDOT, about seeking an alternative to the proposed road through North Woods. But Norman told Kennedy the town needed to formally request the study of the alternative in a letter sent to the department.

NCDOT agreed to look at options which would go around the neighborhood, but no action had taken place on the matter up until the meeting last Monday evening, when commissioners asked Kennedy to send a letter to NCDOT urging them again to create another option for the North Chatham Park Way road.

“I think everyone agrees it was clear that the board, with the information at that time, was requesting Alternative 8,” Kennedy said in the Nov. 22 meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Pamela Baldwin said — from her recollection — the board wanted to pursue the study of an alternative road.

“As far as I am concerned, the decision of the board was to look at Alternative 8,” she said.

A letter to NCDOT had not been sent during the time between the Aug. 23 meeting and the Nov. 22 meeting, potentially setting the North Chatham Park Way project back.

Commissioner Michael Fiocco said he regrets losing the three months between the two meetings as this could have potentially had a solution before then.

“I think the study would be 60 to 90 days, and I think that could have been done by now,” he said.

Fiocco also noted Alternative 6 — the proposed road NCDOT wished to build through North Woods — was definitely an option worth considering given the various obstacles with limiting environmental impact. However, he still believes other options should be provided for consideration.

“It’s very surgical in going through the neighborhood, but nonetheless, it goes through the neighborhood,” Fiocco said. “I think it is legitimate to request a plan that works that doesn’t go through the neighborhood.”

Commissioners voted unanimously for Kennedy to draft and send a letter to NCDOT as soon as possible to formally request a study to be conducted to find an alternative route to the proposed North Chatham Park Way road.

This is likely not the last time Pittsboro commissioners will be faced with a difficult proposal regarding road development.

Commissioner Kyle Shipp said there are many chances for conflict down the road, and he doesn’t want a delay like the one with North Chatham Park Way.

“There’s a lot of these conflicts in our future, and this timeline in the project is far too late to deal with them,” he said. “As I have said before, we need to get ahead of these as soon as they’re coming up and not let any of these get to this point.”

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.

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