Try to wade through the rhetoric or engage in a rational discussion about the Town of Pittsboro, Chatham Park and development plans, and you’ll discover one thing quickly: som etimes it’s hard to …
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Try to wade through the rhetoric or engage in a rational discussion about the Town of Pittsboro, Chatham Park and development plans, and you’ll discover one thing quickly: som etimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
It’s more accurate, of course, to say it’s the noise about said trees that’s hampering legitimate dialogue and hamstringing progress toward resolution over issues surrounding the 7,000-acre Chatham Park planned community that, over time, could add more than 20,000 households to Pittsboro.
Regardless of how Pittsboro commissioners and other officials and area residents — like those well-intentioned folks who gathered around the Chatham County courthouse for an hour-long Procession of the Trees event last Friday afternoon to promote tree preservation — feel about Chatham Park, the development is well on its way to happening. The question is whether the dialogue that takes place between now and then can be honest, truthful and constructive, and allow for a mutually-beneficial outcome.
Listen to what’s been said so far and it’s understandable that concerns and confusion are rampant. Pittsboro officials have openly questioned Chatham Park’s plans and claims and even accused CP staff of being outright dishonest; some speakers in public forums (and online) have lobbed half-truths and patent falsehoods and described the planned development with words like “slum” and terms like “bird holocaust.”
What environmentalists and some town officials and residents seem to want is for Chatham Park to just go away.
Amid all the rhetoric, though, there are simple truths.
First, the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham Park developers each want to create the best, most environmentally sustainable project in the state, and one whose economic viability will certainly provide a significant boost to Pittsboro’s municipal revenues and economic ecosystem. Second, if Chatham Park does what it says it will do, it’ll meet environmental standards higher than most any community in North Carolina — particularly when it comes to contentious elements like tree coverage, tree canopy, stormwater and landscape requirements. And finally, even though Chatham Park is a private development, its published plans — contrary to the claims of naysayers — exceed almost all of the stringent standards of similar developments around the state or the southeast.
Chatham Park has plainly demonstrated in writing and in practice its willingness to follow protocols, rules and regulations and abide by higher requirements than any other small developer or property owner in Pittsboro or Chatham County would be expected to abide by currently— all the while hearing opponents say, “Yeah, but Chatham Park should be doing more.”
The takeaway is that even though development (Chatham Park and otherwise) has and will continue to change Pittsboro, Chatham Park has the potential to be exemplary. It’ll never be as exemplary as no development, which is the understandable, but unrealistic, desire of a segment of Chatham’s population. So the reasonable, and logical, expectation is that Pittsboro officials and stakeholders will hold Chatham Park accountable, in an objective way, for the 2 percent of the county’s land mass that it will occupy.
There’s always an implicit and explicit need to provide balance between economic viability and sustainability. When that occurs, progress and preservation are both valued. Chatham Park has pledged that; the Town of Pittsboro should trust but verify as it works alongside Chatham Park in a cooperative partnership.
Editor’s note: the News + Record has invited one representative from the Haw River Assembly and one from Chatham Park Investors to submit a 750-word opinion piece about this subject for publication in the newspaper’s Feb. 28 edition.