Public hearing scheduled for Williams Corner, located in Lystra Road-15-501 intersection

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/13/20

Debate over re-zoning for the 501 Landing project near the Lystra Road-U.S. Highway 15-501 intersection occupied a good chunk of the February meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, and …

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Public hearing scheduled for Williams Corner, located in Lystra Road-15-501 intersection

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Debate over re-zoning for the 501 Landing project near the Lystra Road-U.S. Highway 15-501 intersection occupied a good chunk of the February meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, and if that approach holds, we may see something similar next week.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on Williams Corner, a 118-acre mixed use community that its website says is “unlike anything else in Chatham County.” Developed by Chris Ehrenfeld — a parntner investor in Chatham Media Group, which owns the News + Record — and Bold Commercial Real Estate, the project is expected to be built in three phrases over seven years, beginning with apartments and retail at the Lystra intersection. Phase 2 will feature offices and storage space and Phase 3 will see the construction of more apartments.

The project’s website argues that “being in close proximity to a desirable mixed use community like this typically increases” neighboring property values, and says developers will make “approximately $2 million of off-site improvements” required by the N.C. Dept. of Transportation.

The website,, has a lot of resources, including site plans and applications as well as a lengthy FAQ. Ehrenfeld also told me that the project has been “many years in the making” and “will be a beautiful development that will enhance Chatham County.”

The public hearing will go over changes to the development, Ehrenfeld said, including leaving 89 acres of the project’s tract “undeveloped” and allowing space for more small and “service-oriented” retailers instead of “medium-box” ones.

“These smaller and more specialized businesses thrive on having a built-in audience of people living on site,” he said. “The retail and the apartments will support each other which allows them both to be successful. In addition, we believe Williams Corner is the exact type of development our Board of Commissioners, through the adopted comprehensive land use plan, has said is appropriate and needed in this precise location.”

Plan Chatham, the land use plan Ehrenfeld cited, has already faced some opposition, at least in parts of it, through the 501 Landing vote, as Commissioners Diana Hales and Karen Howard voted against its approval — despite it being located in a small part of Chatham, around the Lystra intersection, designated for commercial development. The proposed Williams Corner site is in the same node.

“Plan Chatham is a great plan that seeks to balance preservation with growth,” Ehrenfeld said. “We know growth is coming to the Triangle and to Chatham County. So the question is, how do we handle the growth? The commissioners, with community input, did a great job of creating a plan that calls for growth in limited but sensible and concentrated areas.”

Plan Chatham, he said, eliminated approximately 97.6 percent of the land outside of the towns from eligibility for development. That leaves about 2.4 percent of the land in nodes where Plan Chatham directs dense growth to happen.

“Within each of those circles, much of the land is already developed or within existing residential neighborhoods,” Ehrenfeld said. “There is very little land available to achieve the desired density. Specifically, on the 15-501 corridor, there are two ‘Community Centers’ located within the compact residential zone which are the areas designated for the most concentrated development. Williams Corner is in one of those two centers. Plan Chatham expected Williams Corner since it was already approved. Density and walkability are two of the hallmarks of smart growth. Thanks to Plan Chatham, 15-501 will never be a continuous strip of commercial development.”

Ribbon-cutting around the corner for new State Farm agent

A little further north up 15-501, a new real estate office in Chatham County will be the site of a ribbon-cutting and open house next week.

State Farm’s Connolly Walker has a new office located at 11470 U.S. Highway 15-501 in Chapel Hill, and will host an event from 5 p.m. to 7:30 on Thursday, March 19. According to the Chatham Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the event, Walker has worked for State Farm for eight years and opened her own agency in January 2020.

Additionally, Walker’s office is hosting a food drive for Chatham’s CORA food pantry throughout March, and donations will be accepted at the ribbon cutting event. For quotes given in March, she will make a $5 donation to CORA through the State Farm “Quote for Good” program.

So much happening in that little corner of Chatham County. Keep an eye out here for the latest.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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Dan Jones

The article by Zachary Horner in the March 12-18 edition of the Chatham N&R is a glaring example of unbalanced and agenda driven reporting. It is filled with misleading information and only provides the perspective of the developer of the proposed project, Chris Ehrenfeld who just happens to be part owner of the Chatham N&R. Adjacent property owners were not contacted or interviewed for the article which would have provided an alternative perspective. If, as the article concludes the site was intended by the County for high density residential development, why is it necessary for the developer to ask for a rezoing from the current classification to a classification that would allow significantly more density than the original plan approved in 2006? This is not as clean and well thought out as the article would imply. There are many, many issues with the development of Williams Corner that have yet to be resolved.

Sunday, March 15