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Notes from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners' meeting on April 15

By Diana Hales
Posted Monday, April 22, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - More feasibility studies for highway improvements in Chatham; financial disclosure required to serve on committees; why property revaluation for taxes is a good thing; who does NOT own their mineral rights in Chatham;
renting Old Courthouse for events; Chatham County BOC annual report.

*Work Session* (all present)

1. *NC DOT discussion about pending 2013 corridor study, 15/501 Pittsboro bypass, north to NC 54 (Orange Co).* Darius Sturdivant (DOT, Div. 8) said the 13-mile study would determine deficiencies along this stretch related to increasing traffic flow and how to address it (traffic circles, managed lanes, park & ride, etc). DOT working with Triangle Area Regional Planning Organization (TARPO) and DCHC-MPO (see #2) to form steering committee on project scope. DOT also beginning a Hwy 751 feasibility study.

2. *DCHC-MPO (Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization) wants Chatham money*. This transportation planning group just includes a small northeast slice of Chatham bordering Orange and Durham counties. Marcia Brown said Chatham has been a member of this body for 20 years and the City of Durham provided the entire 20% match for federal dollars. Now Durham wants all members to contribute a pro-rata share for 2014. The Federal money for 2014 is $1,262,102 and using a population breakdown for the area covered (14,160 folks in the northeast Chatham area), they asked for $11,201 from Chatham BOC. This group’s planning activities include the metropolitan transportation plan, comprehensive transportation plan, congestion plans, special studies, and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that actually funds road improvement projects *[Chatham doesn’t get much $ attention].* The existing 1994 Memoranda of Understanding is being revised. No one made a motion to pay Chatham’s share.

3. *Statement of Economic Interest required by Ethics Law*. Sally Kost stated that financial disclosure of spouses (and other relatives) is now required if a Commissioner or staff is appointed to a regional planning organization because of provisions in the ethics law. She found that objectionable and a reason not to become an “official” member.

4. *Revaluation pros and cons*. Michael Brown, NC Department of Revenue, said state law requires every county to conduct a revaluation of real property every 8 years. Chatham’s last revaluation was 2009. However, the Chatham County tax office will complete property revaluation in 2014 and notify owners of new valuation on January 1, 2015. The purpose of the revaluation is to reflect the current housing market. Brown said 40 counties are on a 4-year reappraisal cycle*[think urban counties with lots of growth],* and the revaluation is a “snapshot” that reflects buyers/sellers...and realigns values to the market. He said the Dept. of Revenue does a random sampling every year in all 100 counties to compare the sales price of properties to the tax assessed valuation, to achieve a ratio. Chatham’s ratio is 1:04 which means the market value of homes is somewhat below assessed value.

5. *Split estates in Chatham County*. More than 4,000 acres of land in Chatham County have mineral rights severed (by deed). Sally Kost asked the Register of Deeds to find information on the specific boundaries involved in these split estates, and map them as an overlay to parcels. Numerous surface owners are affected because property may have been inherited, or otherwise subdivided, and it is difficult to track back through deed history because deed language is not consistent. *[Note: Title searches only investigate prior 40 years and these split estates go back much further.]* This is an issue for property owners because of the potential
for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in southern Chatham County. The County collects* ad valorum* taxes from the mineral rights owners (if they listed the property), so the Register of Deeds can attempt to identify the property boundaries. Kost pointed out that Lee County’s GIS researched and mapped 76 split estates.

6. *Rental of Old Courthouse*. The old Courthouse in the circle will be dedicated Saturday, April 20. County Manager Charlie Horne drafted guidelines on rental policy: $400 deposit (refundable); a $35/hour charge for custodial service (2 hr. minimum); 60-day reservation; no food or drink on the second floor courtroom. The BOC approved these guidelines. The first use of the refurbished Courthouse will be the Chatham Democratic Party Convention on Saturday, April 27.

7. *Chatham stays with Triangle J Council of Government*. Mike Cross is working with NC Legislative Forum regarding the proposed re-alignment of counties into various regional patterns. The DOT regional reorganization would have moved Chatham into the Mecklenburg sphere, but we will now stay with Triangle grouping.

*Regular Session* (all present)
8. *State of County report, 2013*. No property tax increase; 958 new jobs in last year; spending for general operations is down, but spending for schools is up (a one-time payment of $458,000 for charter schools in 2011 contributed to this increase); mandated services are 72% of the County budget, balance is facility maintenance and computer systems; fewer staff working hard to deliver great service; new buildings include the Justice Center that houses all courtrooms and court officials; the historic courthouse reconstruction*...grand reopening April 20*; a new backup 9-1-1 center in Siler City; and new 62-acre park in northeast Chatham on land donated by Brian Chapel; fabulous staff that win top state awards; new permitting efficiencies for businesses; electronics recycling; assisted 75 pullet and broiler farms to secure new contracts after closure of Townsends; connecting to City of Durham’s water system to supply water for Northeast Water District; Chatham had NC’s highest percentage voter turnout in November 2012.

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Notes from the Chatham County Board of Commissioners' meeting on April 15

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