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Lawrence Group responses to Pittsboro mayor's questions about Chatham Park

Posted Sunday, February 23, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC - The town of Pittsboro hired the Lawrence Group to provide a study report on the proposed Chatham Park development to be located in and near Pittsboro. Below are the Lawrence Group's responses to the Pittsboro mayor's questions presented at a January 31 meeting.

To: Mayor Bill Terry and Board of Commissioners
From: Craig Lewis
Date: February 17, 2014
Re: LG Responses to Mayor's Questions from January 31, 2014

In addition to our report which goes into more detail, I have attempted to provide some brief thoughts and responses to the Mayor's questions.

1. From the PDD Ordinance, 5.2.2. "All uses that are set out and in the approved PDD Master Plan shall be treated as "Use By Right" within the POD, including those identified in the ordinance as "permitted by right" and those "permitted by SUP (Special Use Permit) only." This provision of the PDD ordinance feels like an extraordinary abdication of oversight authority on the part of the Town. I would like the consultant to present a discussion of the pros and cons of granting such sweeping latitude to a developer. Comments should include an explanation of why it would be unreasonably restrictive to require development within a PDD to comply with the same table of uses with which all other property owners within our jurisdiction are required to comply. Why should we allow developments in a POD zone to bypass the Special Use Permit process?

LG Response: This is not an uncommon provision. The purpose of the PDD and similar ordinances such as a Conditional District are to permit greater flexibility within a development application in return for elements that help to mitigate against any known issues. In truth, many zoning ordinances are already moving away from the excessive number of Special Uses identified in their use table in favor of form-based design standards. The current ordinance is yen,/ focused on the separation of uses regardless of their relative compatibility, drawn largely from the post-war model zoning ordinances. Should the same separation of uses and parking standards be applied to the old downtown area, I doubt if it could be rebuilt with the same charm and functionality.

As a master developer, it is in their best economic interest to ensure compatibility of uses within the PDD. If there is a concern regarding certain Special Uses at the edges such as manufacturing or auto-dependent uses then additional buffers can be established at those specific locations. In fact, the last paragraph of Note 11 under 5.2.2 specifically requires that the "master plan establish the development standards to mitigate, if necessary, the impacts of such use, especially with regard to property adjacent to the PDD." Lastly, it appears that on page 10 of the Master Plan, the applicant has addressed this specific issue.

2. From the PDD Ordinance, 5.8.1. "The PDD is a base-zoning district, not an overlay district."
Question: What is the distinction and why is it important? Could we amend the PDD ordinance to make this distinction and its importance clearly understood?

LG Response: This statement indicates that it is in fact a replacement of the current zoning districts. An overlay district would continue to tie back to the underlying zoning districts, which for the most
are auto-oriented and very suburban in their configuration.

3. On page 4 and 5 of the PDD ordinance, the PDD Master Plans requires a listing of public utilities including only water, wastewater and reuse water. Would it be reasonable and prudent to add the following public utilities under this requirement?
a. Electric
b. Natural Gas
c. Communications
Cable Television
iii. High-speed, broad-band Internet access

LG Response: Unless the Town is a provider of such services, then we do not see the need in a zoning application, particularly in a multi-phase, long-term project, to include these elements. The ability to serve development with these utilities are generally not limited by the same issues as water and wastewater - namely topography and treatment capacity.

4. From the PDD Ordinance, 5.8.8 (c). Internal Transitions. "No buffers or transitions are required between land uses within the PDD." Why not? If buffers and transitions between different land uses are reasonable and enhance public health, safety and quality of life in other areas of the Town, why would we not require them under the same standards within a PDD?

LG Response: Buffers are often only necessary between adjacent uses where one use would cause irreparable economic damage to the other. Because of the lack of controls on the quality of buildings, and the location of parking lots, buffers proved to be popular, particularly in older zoning ordinances. Proper building and site design have proven to be much better tools to create compatibility in walkable, mixed-use environments than wide buffers with wooden fences (that rot over time), berms (that can cause drainage issues), and landscaping (that often are not maintained). Most great places - downtowns and walkable neighborhoods were built before buffers. Today's buffers can cause development to be more spread out and less walkable.

5. As part of the consultant's report, I would like to see their recommendations, in the form of a Gantt Chart, that show the various Chatham Park related tasks before us. This will give us a graphic display of what needs to be done, how the tasks should be sequenced and what tasks can be done concurrently. It will also be a good tool to counter the argument that we have not yet figured out our process for dealing with PPDs and appear to be making up as we go along.

At a minimum, the chart should show:
a. CP Master Plan Preparation
b. CP Master Plan Final Approval
c. Completion and Approval of a Unified Development Ordinance
d. Negotiation and Execution of a Development Agreement
e. Formation and Chartering of a Compass Committee (If the Board decides that this is something that we want to do.)
f. Approval of the CP PPD Rezoning Application
g. Conduct of Public Hearings as appropriate.
h. Others as requested by the Board, Manager and staff.

LG Response: We will provide this next week

6. I would like to hear the consultant's analysis of the pros and cons of the "Compass Committee" idea. I think it is clear that we have no requirement to use this public outreach tool; however, we need a meaningful discussion of the pros and cons. This should include some discussion of whether we should use the developer's model where they form and manage the compass committee or the Chapel Hill model where the Town Board appoints and manages the compass committee.

LG Response: By "Compass Committee," we're assuming that you are referring to some type of public advisory committee. Our first response is that you have Planning Board to fulfill that role. Beyond that the Board of Commissioners is tasked with guiding growth and development in the community. If the community has established a clear and well-articulated vision for its growth and development in its Land Use Plan and other supporting documents then further guidance is not necessary. However, we believe that the intent of such a committee should be scrutinized before moving forward. Are they an advisory committee to provide a filter of comment to the development team? Are they a defacto Planning Board for this development? Is it comprised of people with a technical background to provide actual oversight and assistance or simply interested citizens? Is this committee supportive of the overall development concept or will they seek to undermine the process using process as a tool? The bottom line is that the committee can be successful if they are well organized, have a clear role, and a strong leader to make sure they don't veer into areas that are the purview of others. [My emphasis]

This committee, if created, should be manageable in size (10-12 people at most) and tasked with ensuring that each Small Area Plan appropriately reflects the goals and intentions of the PDD Master Plan. Members of the committee should include the town staff and any consultants they determine necessary, 2 members of the Planning Board, and members of the general public who bring unique qualifications to the process.

7. We had some citizen input suggesting that the densities proposed by Preston Development are higher than what is currently found in major metropolitan areas though out the entire 7,100 acres. I sincerely hope that this is not true and that this type of density, to the extent that it will occur at all, will only be in the five activity centers. We need some analysis from the consultant to debunk this notion if it is erroneous. If it is not erroneous, that could be a show stopper.

LG Response: We have also read suggestions by interested parties that the development rivals the population density of the city of Baltimore (across its 92 square miles). We respectfully disagree and
would suggest that it's not an apples to apples comparison. The overall gross residential density proposed by the applicant is 22,000 dwelling units across 7,120 acres (-11 square miles). As a gross density, this equates to slightly over 3 units per acre.

Most of suburban Wake County and Mecklenburg County are zoned and built at this same density.
Southern Village in Chapel Hill is comprised of 1150 residential units across 312 acres for a gross density of 3.68 units/acre. Some portions of Southern Village peak at 8 units/acre whereas other areas hover below 2 units/acre.
Meadowmont, also in Chapel Hill, is permitted for up to 1298 units across 435 acres for a gross density of 2.98 units per acre.

However, the 22 million square feet of non-residential space requested is another matter. To put this in perspective I have listed other large commercial development typologies:
• Regional Mall (e.g., Streets at Southpoint in Durham): —1.33 million square feet on 125 acres
• PNC Plaza Building in downtown Raleigh: 730,000 square feet
• Raleigh Convention Center: 500,000 square feet
• Target General Merchandise Store: 126,000 square feet
• SuperTarget: 174,000 square feet
• SAS Building P (approved in 2013): 244,000 square feet

Coincidentally, Research Triangle Park covers approximately 7,000 acres and is comprised of 22,500,000 square feet of built space. Conversely, Center City Charlotte has approximately 18.4 million square feet of office space within its 2 square mile boundary in addition to its 15,000 residents, convention center, museums, churches, shops, and other amenities. All we can assume is that the applicant is seeking to keep flexibility to develop under two different models — the Research Triangle Campus model or the mixed-use community model.

8. The current PPD ordinance implies but does not directly require that lands in a PPD zone must be contiguous. I'm asking the consultant's opinion on the need to clarify this point in the PDD ordinance or in a subsequent UDO.

LG Response: Yes, this should be clarified. However, the benefit of including multiple parcels in one zoning application does allow for the averaging and balancing of elements throughout the community. One example of this is the ability to manage stummater and watershed impacts across a larger area. A better zoning ordinance would be more useful over time.

9. Page 16, CPMP. The Master Plan states that the Town will expand the water plant as Chatham Park grows and fund that expansion by accumulating capital recovery fees from new growth. I am asking the consultant's opinion on the adequacy of the CP Utilities plan to proceed to act on the rezoning application.

LG Response: For the purposes of this petition, so long as the zoning application clearly states that ability for any development to move forward to a specific development is predicated on adequate capacity and infrastructure, we don't see any need to include those elements in the PDD master plan. This type of detail is best left to the Development Agreement.

10. Page 17, CPMP. "At this time, the Town does not have any water, reuse water, or sewer infrastructure projects that are funded and in design or construction that would provide service to Chatham Park or otherwise need to be incorporated into the planning or development of these utility systems." Not so. We have a permit to build a 3.22 MGD VVWTP. That needs to be incorporated into this Master Plan.

LG Response: The language in the utilities section of the master plan for written in a much different tone. It necessitates a complete rewrite to focus on only those elements that satisfy the determination of utility adequacy. The bulk of the narrative is largely opinion and forecasting of new technologies.

11. Sewer Map and Reclaimed Water Map. There is not sufficient information in this master plan to comment on the feasibility of the proposed "decentralized sewer collection and treatment system." I am concerned that the Town and the developer may be at cross purposes here with respect to the life-cycle cost of operating such a system. I can see how this decentralized system may be less expensive for initial construction; however, the cost of staffing, operating and maintaining five separate small sewer plants over the life of the system needs to be considered here. Again, I am asking the consultant's opinion on the adequacy of the CP Utilities plan to proceed to act on the rezoning application.

LG Response: We cannot comment as to the technical or operational elements of the current proposal at this time. However, as mentioned previously, we believe that this technical information is best handled as a part of the Development Agreement. In addition to Chatham Park, the Town must plan for the potential development that might occur elsewhere in the Town's ETJ. This number, over time, could conceptually equal the total Chatham Park development.

12. Page 17, CPMP. VVI (1) 3. "5.4. Where allowed in the Chatham Park PDD, the uses shall comply with this section unless contrary to the intent of the PDD Master Plan for Chatham Park' This seems ambiguous and unenforceable. Why not just say that 5.4 does not apply, which is the actual affect?

LG Response: We concur that this is indeed ambiguous and left to the interpretation of others. This should be clarified.

13. If the application for rezoning is approved and the Town begins to receive site plans for review and approval, the Planning Board and staff will be asked to render an opinion with respect to whether or not the proposed site plan is consistent with the approved CP Master Plan. What will be the basis of the Planning Board and staff opinions regarding the following plans that are not due for completion until two years from approval of the rezoning:
• Tree Protection
• Signage
• Parking and Loading
• Lighting
• Landscaping
• Phasing
• Affordable Housing
• Public Facilities
• Transit
• Open Space
• Stormwater
• Public Art

LG Response: The current master plan contains very few details by which to measure future small area plans with the exception of the large scale transportation plan (most of which has already been incorporate into the Land Use Plan) and the permitted residential and non-residential development capacities. The approval of Small Area Plans by the Town Board should provide greater clarity and serve as a much more functional bridge between the big picture "numbers" and the small scale details to be reviewed by town staff. The first five elements are components that should not only be considered as a part of this application but also as a part of the comprehensive update of the UDO. Affordable housing is also an element that should be considered as part of a larger town-wide initiative but with specific goals for the Chatham Park development. Phasing should be a part of the Development Agreement

14. Page 41, CPMP, para.3. The proposed CP Master Plan would permit the approval of 5% of residential (1,100 RUs) and 15% of non-residential space to proceed before finalization of the Master Plan. This equates to about 330,000 gallons per day or water and sewer for the residential units alone and perhaps an equal amount form non- residential square footage. Given the current state of our water and sewer utility systems, how do we propose to satisfy that demand for water and sewer? Is it reasonable to approve the rezoning request in the hope that a sound technical answer to this question will emerge at a later date?

LG Response: With regard to the request in Part 3 to permit development prior to the completion of the required elements, we respectfully disagree with this approach and recommend that no development proceed without the adoption of a detailed small area plan and prior to the completion of any of the items noted above. (We also note that the requested numbers are inconsistent with Section IX Small Area Plans.)

15. Page 41, CPMP, para. 5. This paragraph call for voluntary annexations to take place at the same time as site plan approval, in other words, the Town will annex large tracts of unimproved forest lands. Would it be more cost effective for the Town to process petitions for voluntary annexation after a comprehensive annexation cost/benefit analysis indicates that tax revenues generated from the annexation will exceed the cost of municipal services to be delivered to the area to be annexed?

LG Response: We see no reason to wait. In fact, the sooner the better. As most of the land is likely in some bona fide forest or timber management plan, the impact to the Town is extremely low. Early annexation simply provides a greater level of control earlier in the process.

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Lawrence Group responses to Pittsboro mayor's questions about Chatham Park

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