Pittsboro revisits two additional elements, passes one

Posted 6/14/19

PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners revisited two different Chatham Park Additional Elements at its meeting on Monday — the Tree Protection Element and the Open Space Element.

As …

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Pittsboro revisits two additional elements, passes one

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PITTSBORO — The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners revisited two different Chatham Park Additional Elements at its meeting on Monday — the Tree Protection Element and the Open Space Element.

As part of the Chatham Park Planned Development District Master Plan passed in 2015, the town and Chatham Park agreed to negotiate 12 separate additional elements. These elements include regulations on open space requirements, landscaping, stormwater management, public art, lighting, signage and more.

Tree Protection Element

Late last month, the board approved the Chatham Park Tree Element, conditional on five requested changes or clarifications made by the board. During that meeting, Chuck Smith, a planning consultant working with Chatham Park, would repeat the requested changes back to the board to ensure that they were satisfied with the change. Chatham Park returned with those changes on Monday for the board’s consideration.

The board requested at the meeting last month that a definition of tree coverage protection area have added language that says “no [tree coverage protection area] shall be larger than any section or village center identified in a small area plan.” But during Monday’s meeting, Commissioner John Bonitz noted that although the change was his suggestion, he still felt it was “not sufficient,” requesting the definition be linked to a draft small area plan that had not yet been approved by the board. Chatham Park and town staff both objected to the suggestion, noting that since the document had not been approved, additional changes would not be appropriate. Without consensus, no changes were made.

During May’s meeting, there was a request from the board to move a footnote regarding timbering on Chatham Park land into the body of the element, with the acknowledgment that it should not conflict with state law. Chatham Park’s attorney and the town’s attorney worked to create the language to include. In addition, Commissioners Michael Fiocco and Bett Wilson Foley collaborated to ensure that Foley’s concern about timbering were addressed within the constraints of the law. Even so, at Monday’s meeting, the board had some difficulty agreeing to the language. After extensive discussion, the language was altered again until a majority of the board agreed.

Chatham Park agreed to include a line item on the tree coverage area table to reflect greater tree coverage 2,000 feet from the banks of the Haw River. Chatham Park noted that since the goal was to preserve existing trees rather than developing and replacing trees to fulfill an tree protection requirement, using the table was limiting to explain the concept. Instead, an entire paragraph was added which notes that 35 percent of the existing trees must be preserved. Commissioners Foley and Bonitz felt that the number should be 50 percent, but in a 3-2 vote, the board decided that 35 percent was appropriate.

The board decided to change the phrase “encourage to consider local” nurseries to “required to consider” in two different sections of the element to which Chatham Park complied. The board also asked attorneys for both the town and Chatham Park to investigate whether the “special assessment district,” the proposed tax zone that would be just for Chatham Park that could be used for infrastructure, could be used to replace trees that die in a natural disaster or disease. A memo included in the agenda noted legislation that governs special assessment districts does not authorize the use of those funds for that type of activity.

After the extensive discussion, the remaining pieces of the Tree Protection Element passed with a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Fiocco, J.A. “Jay” Farrell and Pamela Baldwin voting for and Foley and Bonitz voting against.

Open Space Element

Commissioners also held a public hearing Monday to consider an amendment to the Chatham Park Open Space Element that passed unanimously late in 2017. The amendment was submitted by Chatham Park as a requirement of a settlement reached between the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality, the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham Park reached early last month.

That agreement settled a dispute about permitting for the town’s proposed force main and sewer line to Sanford after 11 months of negotiations. Pittsboro’s commissioners approved the construction of a force main, a pipeline that will carry wastewater from Pittsboro to Sanford’s Big Buffalo Wastewater Treatment Plant, in 2015. The project, which would nearly triple Pittsboro’s wastewater capacity from 750,000 gallons a day (.75 MGD) to 2.75 million gallons a day, is estimated to cost about $19.79 million.

In a letter dated May 3 of last year from DEQ to the town of Pittsboro, Linda Culpepper, who was DEQ’s interim director at the time, noted that “it has recently come to the Division of Water Resource’s attention that commitments and mitigation strategies included in the Environmental Impact Statement [filed in 2010] are not being implemented and enforced within the Pittsboro service area.” The letter did not include any specific areas or ways that the town was not adhering to the statement, and when asked in April by the News + Record, DEQ representatives stated it would not comment further because of ongoing litigation. The letter triggered petitions for a hearing from both the town and Chatham Park Investors with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.

Chatham Park Investors agreed to track stormwater control measures and design evaluation scores on a website accessible to both the town and the state. The control measures and design evaluations scores were already required by the Chatham Park Stormwater Additional Element, which was passed by the town last year.

Chatham Park Investors also agreed to introduce several text amendments increasing riparian buffers as listed in the Chatham Park Open Space Element. As changes to town ordinances require several processes by law including public hearings, the town was only required to consider the amendments in the settlement. In exchange, the state agreed to not require any additional mitigation strategies as the current measures require at least as much control and buffer as required by state law and to rescind the May 2018 letter.

Chatham Park offered two separate memos Monday outlining the revisions to the Open Space Element as mandated in the settlement. Town staff noted in the public hearing’s introductory memo that the proposed language was consistent with the agreement and that no other changes or amendments were proposed in conjunction with the submittal. The town’s planning board also recommended to approve the proposed amendments.

The requested amendment strengthened language surrounding the definitions, regulations, and requirements for riparian buffers in the Chatham Park development. Four community members spoke during the public hearing requesting that the amendment consider stronger language and regulations with some mentioning items within the Tree Protection Element. Without any discussion from the board, Pittsboro Mayor Cindy Perry stated the board would “take these comments into consideration” and moved on to the next agenda item without a vote. The element will likely be taken up by the board at its next regular meeting.

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.


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