Town approves first public park built by Chatham Park

Posted 7/3/20

PITTSBORO — Chatham Park is about to break ground on the first of seven public parks it will build before handing them over to the Town of Pittsboro.

The 10-acre park is expected to cost Chatham …

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Town approves first public park built by Chatham Park

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Posted

PITTSBORO — Chatham Park is about to break ground on the first of seven public parks it will build before handing them over to the Town of Pittsboro.

The 10-acre park is expected to cost Chatham Park’s developers about $2 million to build and is being constructed adjacent to the Vineyards, a community off Thompson Street the company is also building.

The plan for the park, approved unanimously by the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners with some caveats on June 22, will include several individual play areas geared toward specific age groups, a dog park, a shelter, a grill area, an amphitheater and a multi-purpose play field the size of a high school soccer field. The plan also calls for a splash pad, but since the slated date for the opening of the park is this September — when those features are typically being readied for winterizing — that feature will be installed in the spring of 2021.

Chatham Park is a 7,000-acre planned development community in Pittsboro which is expected to take 30 years to construct. As part of the agreement the developer has with the town, the company is to construct seven parks at approved locations, spending a minimum of $500,000 each. The parks are then to be turned over to the town to be publicly owned and utilized. The first park, according to that document, was to be built within three years of the 1,500th house in the “park service planning area.

Though Chatham Park has only broken ground on fewer than 30 homes so far, it requested building the park sooner because “buyers want to see recreational amenities now, not the promise of future amenities to come,” according to planning documents. The company, acknowledging that “revenues from Chatham Park growth have only begun to be realized,” proposed building the park and owning and maintaining it for a year while allowing it to be used for all residents.

The plans for the park were provided to the town in August 2019 to request the board of commissioners consider whether or not to approve the park. In January of this year, the board agreed to the location of the park, but the final plans were approved two weeks ago.

The planning document included comments from staff regarding the request to build a park in advance of the previously agreed three years of the 1,500th home. Though the plan fulfilled all obligations of both town ordinances and Chatham Park elements, staff raised concerns about the town’s ability to finance maintenance of the park after Chatham Park hands over ownership a year after completion. The was also a question about what a “year” of maintenance may be, as the splash pad will not be completed until Memorial Day weekend in 2021.

During the June 22 meeting, Chuck Smith, the vice president of planning for Preston Development, the company managing the project, said the company was open to discuss ownership timelines as well as maintenance schedules, which will include a year from the opening of the splash pad.

Chatham Park had also presented the board with estimates of revenues from Chatham Park, saying the first five years were likely the most accurate. Smith believed that those estimates demonstrated that revenue would more than cover the maintenance costs involved. In addition, Smith noted that the estimated costs for Chatham Park to maintain the park — close to $100,000 — was much hirer than the town would have to pay as the company would need to use private contractors. Doing the work “in-house,” with town staff as happens at other town facilities, should incur less of a cost. Bearing that in mind, he said the company would also be willing to review both the revenues and the expected costs of maintenance after one year, all the while having the park viewed a “public” with access for all residents.

Town staff also had concerns about the overall cost of the park as compared to the $3.5 million cap for parks built by Chatham Park as listed. During that June meeting, Smith said Chatham Park had made a “commitment” to invest no less than $500,000 for each park. He noted that he would be willing to work with the town for language in the elements that would make that commitment more clear.

The staff and several commissioners asked about the rules governing the park, specifically when it came to the dog park. Smith noted that those rules were up to the town to determine. There was some discussion among the commissioners as to whether a “key fob” program should be established to ensure those who access the dog park have pets who have been properly vaccinated. That point was quickly set aside in order to ensure that all residents had access to all of the amenities of the park.

At the end of the discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the park with the caveat that the timelines of exchange of ownership, amount of time of maintenance and rules of the park to be established by the town, be put in place while the park is under construction. In addition, the town will need to decide on an appropriate name for the park.

“The creation of the first park in Chatham Park is an investment in the town that will benefit future generations for years to come” Smith told the News + Record after the meeting. “Recreation and open space amenities that can be used by all provides a much needed community focal point and addresses our goals for social equity in an innovative way.”

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

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