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Chatham County commissioners adopt changes to simplify subdivision process

Posted Friday, September 9, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - On Sept. 6, 2011, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve amendments to the county’s Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations aimed at simplifying the process for approval of new subdivisions, including those requiring environmental impact assessments.

“Our purpose in adopting these changes is to remove unnecessary steps in the process, while still minimizing negative environmental impacts,” said Commissioner Chairman Brian Bock. “We have staff with substantial expertise who can handle most project reviews, which also reduces the timeline and related costs.”

The adopted Zoning Ordinance revisions shift responsibility for reviewing any required environmental impact assessments for developments up to 50 lots from the Environmental Review Board to the county’s Environmental Quality Department. “The Planning Department will receive review comments from the Environmental Quality Department and include them in agenda materials for the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners,” said Planning Director Jason Sullivan.

Approved changes to the Subdivision Regulations revise the environmental impact assessment process, including raising the threshold that would require an assessment from 25 lots to 50 lots. For developments with more than 50 lots, a peer review of environmental impact would still be required and paid by the applicant. Environmental impact assessments must be completed within 60 days.

Non-residential subdivisions will use the minor subdivision process instead of the major subdivisions process. Under the changes, agricultural developments without residences are defined as non-residential subdivisions.

The revisions also clarify that non-residential subdivisions, including farms, are exempt from paying the county’s Recreation Exaction Fee.

A major focus of changes to the Subdivision Regulations is reduction of steps and overall timeframe, including establishing a timeline for Planning Department review and a process for the Technical Review Committee. The timeframe for Planning Board Reviews is limited to two months, while review by the Board of Commissioners is limited to four meetings. The revisions also allow for staff postponements for one month.

The Construction Plan Review process shifts to a formal staff review and approval process, but the Board of Commissioners could be required to review the plan if the developer makes significant changes.

The discovery of “historically significant structures” after the filing of the First Plat will be considered a significant change if it resuls in a redesign of the subdivision. Throughout the process, the Chatham County Historical Association would be notified of any structure over 50 years of age or any cemeteries on the property.

For the Final Plat Review,a new process provides automatic staff review and approval as well as an appeal process if staff denies the Final Plat.

Changes to subdivision documentation included:


  • Requiring the First Plat to show the approximate location of all proposed stormwater control devices and related easements in lieu of requiring stormwater and erosion control plans on First Plat;
  • Clarifying that historic structures and cemeteries should be shown on the First Plat;
  • Requiring environmental documentation for subdivisions with fewer than 50 lots;
  • Clarifying subdivision requirements for certifications and/or permits by the US Army Corps of Engineers and the NC Department of Water Quality; and
  • Specifying that Construction Plans should show the same information as First Plats and requiring Final Plats to identify existing or remaining structures and cemeteries.

The changes also formalize an existing county policy requiring a contract for financial guarantees by the developer. The guarantees must include a road maintenance guarantee and all public roads in the subdivision must be accepted by NC Department of Transportation for future maintenance. Staff can review and approve the financial guarantees.

Under definitions, “Steep Slopes” were removed because they are already addressed under the county's Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Ordinance.

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Chatham County commissioners adopt changes to simplify subdivision process

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