PITTSBORO — In a 3.5-hour meeting filled with a pattern of stretches of pure silence and brief clashes between staff and elected officials, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners on Monday …
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PITTSBORO — In a 3.5-hour meeting filled with a pattern of stretches of pure silence and brief clashes between staff and elected officials, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously passed the town’s fiscal year 2019-2020 budget as well as amendments to the Open Space Element of Chatham Park’s master plan.
The $5.18-million budget, which did not include a property tax increase, was approved with a few amendments from its original draft, including $66,300 for a new generator for Town Hall — money pulled from last year’s spending plan — and an additional $13,100 for the Main Street Facade Improvement grant program.
The generator was necessary, according to Town Manager Bryan Gruesbeck, because the town plans to still use the current building on East Street after the new Town Hall building in downtown is finished, “in all likelihood (for) police.”
Staff and Commissioner Michael Fiocco clashed briefly over the increase to the facade grant program. Fiocco proposed allocating the money that wasn’t used in the FY 18-19 budget to the next budget.
“Main Street’s going to return to the town more than $13,000 at the end of this fiscal year,” he said. “I’m just asking to roll it back into the program. We are having momentum. There are folks that were previously not interested, but they’re coming around as of late.”
The final numbers for this fiscal year aren’t available as of yet, but the fund only paid out $850 in 2017-18 and allocated $15,000 this current year, meaning that it has only distributed $1,900 in 2018-19.
Gruesbeck expressed concern that this would pull the town’s draw from its General Fund Balance — something like a savings account for the town where unspent money is deposited at the end of each fiscal year — over $100,000.
“We’ve worked pretty hard over the past few years to keep our financial position in pretty good shape so we can do things, like build town halls,” he said. “If we do this enough, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Fiocco persisted and the budget was passed with that amendment. As with previous years, unspent funds in that line item will go back into the General Fund reserve at the end of FY 2019-20.
After a discussion that took almost an hour, the board also unanimously approved amendments to the Chatham Park Open Space Element. The element, which had been passed in 2017, was the subject of an amendment from Chatham Park as a requirement of a settlement between the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, the town and Chatham Park reached early last month.
Mayor Cindy Perry opened the discussion to two minutes of silence, starting a repeated pattern. A commissioner, usually John Bonitz or Bett Wilson Foley, would bring up a concern, and Chatham Park’s representatives would respond. At one point, Bonitz said he had many questions but needed more time to put together his thoughts.
Fiocco proposed two minor language changes — which Chatham Park lawyer Ken Eagle said he wanted to bring up anyway.
Repeating something she asked earlier, Foley concluded the conversation by saying she wanted an additional 700-foot riparian buffer — the space between a stream and development — to the already-agreed upon 300-foot buffer along the Haw River to help ensure 35 percent retention of existing trees within 2,000 feet of the river. Both Eagle and Fiocco remarked that Chatham Park had already handled that 35 percent figure in the Tree Protection Element and that adding another buffer wouldn’t change that figure.
The vote was 5-0, with Foley and Bonitz’s silence during the voting meaning approval.
Finally, there was another staff-elected official clash early in the meeting regarding an annexation request from Chatham Concrete LLC regarding their proposed site on Pittsboro Moncure Road. After a couple of citizens spoke out against the site during the public hearing — which was purely on annexing the land into the town, not a site plan — Bonitz asked why Chatham Concrete had decided to locate on the land.
Planning Director Jeff Jones said he didn’t know. Bonitz wondered aloud if the planning department should know that. With a hint of exasperation, Jones said it wasn’t the department’s job.
“It is not the staff’s responsibility to pick and choose and ask the questions of a property owner,” he said. “Our job is to go through and technically review those plans. Our job is not to ask those questions.”
Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.