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Chatham County ordinance wins statewide planning award

Posted Thursday, October 13, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County’s Compact Community Ordinance recently garnered a top award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association. The county received the Outstanding Planning Award for Small Communities at the group’s statewide planning conference in Fayetteville on Oct. 7.

“The ordinance has helped the county implement a major goal of the county’s Land Conservation and Development Plan, adopted in 2001” said Keith Megginson, Chatham County’s planning director. “It basically targets certain areas of the county deemed most suitable for concentrated development, such as along corridors with access to major highways, public utilities, and jobs sites.”

The ordinance, adopted in 2004, promotes the development of mixed use communities which meet a wide variety of residents’ needs within their boundaries and that also meet other countywide needs, such as education and recreation.

Ben Hitchings, land use program manager for the Triangle J Council of Governments, provided technical assistance to the county in drafting the ordinance. He said that the planning awards judges were “particularly impressed by the overall quality of the ordinance as well as it originality in embracing smart growth principles.”

Specific criteria for the awards program include originality, transferability to other communities, quality, implementation, and comprehensiveness, said Hitchings. The application form notes that the ordinance serves as a model for “walkable communities with mixed-use village” concept and” town centers in a rural, but rapidly suburbanizing, context.”

The development of the ordinance involved many long hours of work by the county’s Land Use Plan Implementation Committee over nearly two years, with input from hundreds of citizens. The resulting standards provided greater assurance to the community that a variety of potential impacts of the development would be addressed or offset, while also providing more certainty for developers about the conditions under which new development proposals would receive approval from the county.

The ordinance includes a number of innovative smart growth components, such as enhanced stream buffers, thorough wastewater treatment measures, affordable housing standards, a 30 percent open space provision, rigorous stormwater management measures, and a peer review process for environmental, transportation, and fiscal impacts.

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