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Candidates' answers to Pittsboro Together questionnaires

Posted Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - Each question is followed by answers from three town board candidates competing for two open seats, listed in alphabetical order as follows: Pamela Baldwin, Efrain Ramirez and Chris Walker. Those answers are followed by Randy Voller, who is a candidate for Mayor. Incumbent Mayor Nancy May did not complete the questionnaire, but did provide some statements during a telephone interview, which Pittsboro Together included following the questionnaire.

1. Citizen participation in local government decision-making.

a. Are there any barriers to citizen input to Pittsboro town government? If yes, please explain what they are and what you would do to change them and/or what specific proposal you would offer to enhance citizen involvement in town governance. If not, please say how town officials encourage citizen involvement.

Baldwin: I do not have first hand knowledge of specific barriers to citizen input to Pittsboro Town Government. However, if there are barriers which discourage citizen input, such as meeting location and no time allotment for public input, these things should be alleviated in the following ways: 1) change the meeting location to accommodate a large number of people (change to the old Courthouse Courtroom) and 2) always allot ample time on the agenda for citizen input. Additionally, I propose in order to enhance citizen involvement, the time, place and meeting dates should be advertised in the local newspapers and on the local radio station. Also, the town administration should develop/expand a Town of Pittsboro website which can advise citizens of meeting dates and locations as well as proposed agendas. And on this same website request citizen input/questions, comments via e-mail to the Mayor, Town Commissioners and Town Manager.

Ramirez: Residents of Pittsboro know very little of what our town government does. There is a definite need for the town to publicize its policies & decisions, especially with dramatic growth we are facing. This growth will affect Pittsboro’s immediate & long term future and citizens need to be aware of the town’s strategy for dealing with this growth. For example, citizens cannot even obtain access to the town’s land use plan, zoning and subdivisions ordinances and development proposals on the town’s web site.

Walker: No, I don’t think that there are any barriers to citizen in-put, however it is worth noting that citizen attendance at scheduled and advertised town board meeting is almost non-existent. I truly wish that the fine citizens of Pittsboro would attend and participate in our meetings. The challenges that the town faces need the in-put that only citizens can offer.


Voller: I am not aware of any specific barrier or policy that limits citizen involvement. I have heard citizens complain that the board has been insensitive or rude to its citizens. One particular case involved the request by a group of Chatham Forest residents to address the connectively of Springdale Drive to their community. They were on the agenda, but never allowed to speak at the meeting. Involvement should be encouraged through the interaction of the citizens with Town staff, the public hearing process, the planning board, the section of the agenda dealing with "citizens matters" and the public interaction of board members and the mayor with citizens. Unlike what happened to the residents of Chatham Forest, it is my goal to make this process less mysterious and more welcoming to the citizens.


b. Sometimes citizens have to stand in the hallways during public hearings and meetings of the Town Board and Planning Board because there is not enough space in the meeting room. What would you propose to change this situation?

Baldwin: In order alleviate the overcrowding situation, I propose to change the meeting location to accommodate a larger number of people. (For example, to the courtroom in the Old Courthouse).

Ramirez: The Town Board seems to have a similar attitude that they have had for the past 20 + years. The administrative staff has improved markedly. However, I question whether all of the Commissioners have kept pace with the town's progress. There needs to be more space and time for public hearings and discussion. Perhaps all Town Board meetings could be held in the Superior Courtroom until such time the Town can afford it's own larger public hearing room.

Walker: It is true that we have very limited space. I would actively support moving public hearings to a larger facility in order to make the decision process more participatory.

Voller: I would recommend installing double doors between the map room and the meeting room at Town Hall so on occasions of overcrowding more citizens can be accommodated.

2. In a small town such as Pittsboro, real or potential conflicts of interest can exist when elected officials, professional staff members and contracted advisors have financial investments or relationships with individuals who must do business with town boards.

a. Do you think the Town of Pittsboro should develop a conflict of interest policy: If so, what do you see as the benefits and purpose of such a policy? If not, explain why you do not feel such a policy is not needed?

Baldwin: The Town of Pittsboro should develop a conflict of interest policy. With this type of policy there would not be the possibility of giving political favors to a particular group in exchange for contracts or monetary gain. The benefits of the policy would decrease the possibility of corruption and personal gain. Also, this assures an open government and allows business the opportunity to participate without special preferences. If the potential for a conflict of interest does exist the official should abstain from discussion and voting.

Ramirez: Yes! Benefit and purpose of this policy are the same. Preventing a Town Commissioner from influencing and/or voting on an issue that affects the Town, which at the same time, benefits the Commissioner (or any Town Official) personally. There can be NO conflict of interest between members of the Town Board and those they regulate. They represent those who elected them, not those who are trying to gain favor on behalf of commercial & economic interests who have business before the Town Board. Anyone who may have even the slightest personal or financial involvement in matters coming before the board must recuse themselves.

Walker: The conduct of elected officials is governed by North Carolina statutes. I am not aware of any decision that the board or a member of the board has made that resulted in personal gain. It is important to remember that commissioners are elected from the local citizenry, not from outside unrelated areas. In a small town, sure we are going to know the local business people. I want to be perfectly clear on this, I am proud of my voting record and equally proud to serve with my fellow commissioners. While we don’t always agree on every issue, we do operate in an open and transparent manner. If the town’s attorney feels that we can enhance the transparency of our actions then I would support those measures.

Voller: I believe a policy should be developed and adopted and a citizens board should be created by the commissioners and staffed by citizens to evaluate conflict of interest issues.

b. If so, what key provisions should that policy include?

Baldwin: The key provisions should include a thorough explanation of conflict of interest, outline the reasons for the policy, state which officials are governed by the policy, and the consequences of not adhering to the policy.

Ramirez: All town officials, whether elected or appointed, should be required to fill out full disclosure forms indicating any financial or personal interests that they have that might relate to town business and they should recuse themselves from discussions or deliberations when involving those interests.

Walker: I’ll say it again, citizen attendance and participation is the best way to operate a government.

Voller: A citizens board should be created by the commissioners and staffed by citizens to evaluate potential conflict of interest issues.

c. What and whom should it cover? Board members? Contracted services? Professional staff?

Baldwin: The policy should primarily include the mayor and town commissioners and the town manager and planner. The policy should cover areas in which the mayor, town commissioners, and manager and planner could receive personal, financial, gain or prestige.

Ramirez: All elected officials, the town manager and planner, and any person under contract with the town to provide professional advice and services.

Walker: Everyone involved should and is bound by ethical standards of conduct, including full disclosure.

Voller: Create a citizens board to research the issue and subsequently recommend to the commissioners what and whom should be covered by a conflict of interest policy.

3. The rapid population and geographic growth of the Triangle area is having an impact on Pittsboro and will have a more dramatic effect in the future. Some citizens want Pittsboro to grow as big and fast as possible so we can have all of the commercial amenities that are available in other Triangle cities. Others want to preserve its small-town flavor.

a. What is your vision of the Town of Pittsboro 10-20 years from now? Please address projected population size and demographics, pace of growth, geographic growth, emphasis on infill and/or expansion beyond the town. Also, envision the mix of business, transportation, environmental protections, look of the town, nature of residential areas, residential/commercial/industrial separation of uses vs. mixed uses, etc.

Baldwin My vision of the Town of Pittsboro 10- 20 years from now still includes a small town friendly image, but a town which is larger than it appears. To actually project the above demographic a more knowledgeable study would be required. However, I do see the population growing to not quite double the size that it has now in the next 10 years to 20 years if the growth pattern continues which is approximately 150 persons in the last 3 years. I do see better planned growth in Pittsboro and beyond the town. The planned growth should include impact studies which address the impact of growth on the fire department, police department, water and sewer to name a few and the necessary action taken to insure that all of these departments and utilities are covered. The town planning board, town commissioners, mayor, town planner and town manager must work and review impact studies together and then make an informed decision regarding the future approval of any type of growth within the town. Additionally, citizen input should be solicited. These are all crucial decisions regarding the progressive planned expansion of the town. The growth should include small but well paying industry, environmental protections of lakes and streams and waterways. I also see more restaurants, and recreation in the town. The residential areas should include affordable quality housing as well as higher priced housing with business owners/ developers which are concerned about the community and the town. I do not see that transportation will change significantly other than commuter buses and park and rides but no large scale transportation system. The separation of uses (residential versus mixed uses) may vary depending on what the people of the town would like to see implemented.

Ramirez: Pittsboro is going to grow. I accept that as a fact. There is nothing which can be done to turn back the growth that is here and/or prevent what is to come. The question in the mind of most citizes is: what type of growth ? How much can we support as a town? How much do we residents of Pittsboro, want? As opposed to the growth that interests from outside of Pittsboro seek to have approved for corporate &/or personal gain,I want to listen to the voice and wishes of Pittsboro’s residents, including those in the ETJ. People in Pittsboro want to maintain our small town atmosphere, but at the same time improve our downtown business community and employment opportunities to take advantage of Pittsboro’s many assets. As a commissioner, I will ask to what extent will this corporate or personal gain benefit, damage or dramatically change the character of Pittsboro. We cannot reverse the damage already done ! But, town officials need to more openly involve citizens in making creative but realistic plans for the future so that long term damage does not occur.

Walker: First, I want to refocus this question, my vision of Pittsboro spans more than 20 years and is in smaller time frames. The water and sewer crisis we currently face has to be dealt with in one and two year action plans. Keeping that in mind, let’s move on with your question. Pittsboro is strategically located making it highly desirable to a wide variety of people and business entities. The quaint small town atmosphere is one of our assets, one that we must protect. The reality is that we are going to grow, that growth will bring revenues to the town and new job opportunities to our residents. The town’s ETJ was increased prior to my first term and we are seeing the benefits of that now. Growth (increased revenues to pay for critical infrastructure) that’s what it really means. We are currently under a moratorium because Pittsboro does not have the water and sewage capacity to serve future resident needs. I need only to remind you that TV crews filming our water main breaks have become a fixture in downtown. Many of our residents are on fixed incomes, or are young families who cannot afford increased water and sewer rates. I did vote to support Toll Brothers proposal, that proposal brought over $6 million dollars to the town in up-front aid in the cost of waste water treatment and the commitment of additional financial assistance. In the short term the town of Pittsboro has got to come into compliance with water quality standards or face potentially astronomical fines from the state and federal agencies. Right now we are in violation at Robertson Creek. Last year local restaurants were closed on at least two separate occasions because of water quality, those closures mean lost income, lost wages. The prudent path for Pittsboro to take is one that inspires reasonable mixed use growth that will generate the necessary revenue (money) to pay for the infrastructure that will protect the quaint friendly atmosphere we all want. The charm of this town want be worth much if you can’t drink the water or flush the toilet. I would like nothing better than to see greenways, bike paths, service and retail stores aesthetically nestled among housing communities where people raise their children, and nurture their families, but if they can’t live here because we don’t have healthy water and safe sewage treatment, or if fees and taxes have to climb so high people can’t survive then all those things won’t mean much.

Voller: A town of 10,000 to 15,000 residents with a diverse population growing at a reasonable rate from the inside out. I see Pittsboro as the potential hub of the county and would encourage population density for the county to be located in the municipal/urban centers as opposed to sprawling out like kudzu.

The downtown should be a vibrant place to conduct business and enjoy the community. Cultural spaces that promote music, film, theater and art events would be a start. Retail spaces that cater to a wider range of the consumer base would be a goal as well. More public spaces and businesses catering to a wider range of interests is the goal. Encouraging mixed use development downtown is also a goal.

Downtown Pittsboro should be a "destination" spot for the county and beyond. We need to capitalize on the ease of getting to Pittsboro on US-64, US 15-501, and NC 87.

Protecting and encouraging green space planning will protect water quality and enhance the overall quality of life. I will also encourage public transportation options between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill and RTP. This is important since Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are in negotiations to merge their bus systems so a link to Pittsboro from Chapel Hill and RTP is essentially a link to the Triangle as well.

b. Is it possible to preserve and enhance Pittsboro’s small town friendly atmosphere, physical character, and visual attributes in the face of increasing pressures to grow? If so, what would you propose the town can do in this regard?

Baldwin: Yes, it is possible to preserve and enhance Pittsboro’s small town friendly atmosphere. The key to this lies in planned growth and open communication with residents of Pittsboro, the planning board and town manager, and business owners and developers. It is necessary to do projections as to how we expect the town to look in the future and how the town will be affected by growth.

Ramirez: I believe that it is possible. I believe it should be done. I vividly remember
what Cary and Apex looked like when I first came to North Carolina. Yes, there were few restaurants, motels, super markets, etc. Shopping was primarily local. One needed to go to Raleigh for many things. Now, though still quaint, there is little commerce in the Cary & Apex town centers. And using Siler City as an example, do we want a mega strip on the US 64 bypass corridor? Or even on business US 64 as it approaches & or leaves Pittsboro. And, if business is to develop on these roads; what is to be the architectural & asthetic design of these commercial centers? Set back? Landscape design ? Sign ordinance? Etc? Or do we just accept what any one wishes to plop down in our midst? We need bold and imaginative new leadership to maintain and enhance the character and quaintness of Pittsboro’s central business district.

Walker: Absolutely, if we put the infrastructure in place that is required, we will have the resources and freedom of choices to nurture and enhance our town.

Voller: Yes, it is possible but this task will require patience, planning and foresight. For starters, I would propose hiring private consultants to work with the citizens and historical society to develop a long term plan for preservation and aesthetic appearance.

c. Do you feel a need to develop a strategic plan and update the land use plan for Pittsboro? What role should citizens play in developing those plans?

Baldwin: Yes, it is important to develop a strategic plan and update the land use plan for Pittsboro, but citizen input is always very important their with ideas, suggestions and comments should be reviewed and considered.

Ramirez: Yes ! Citizen/residents of Pittsboro should have an intimate involvement in town planning and future development. Somewhat similar to the Strategic Plan developed by the Strategic Planning Development Committee on which I served for two years. But, this time, let’s not shelve it as was done then by County Commissioners. The Town should survey those who are already here concerning what they want to see as the future of Pittsboro.

Walker: I believe an acceptable Land Use Plan is not a static document, it is a dynamic planning framework that prosperous communities utilize as a guide and should be revisited every two years. It is the framework we should grow from. I would like nothing more than to have vigorous relevant citizen input in the future of Pittsboro.

Voller: Yes, a good plan is vital if Pittsboro is to grow sensibly. The citizens should be encouraged to provide input so the plan can be periodically updated and massaged.

d. Should the town control and manage its growth, both geographically and population-wise? If so, in what manner?

Baldwin: In terms of control and management of growth it is not specifically clear. Geographically of course it should be managed. Population size control requires special consideration and clarification.

Ramirez: Yes, definitely! We need to concentrate in attracting business to the downtown area and industrial and employment areas within the current town limits. We should be attempting to fill in abandoned, empty and underused properties within the town before we expand and sprawl out into our beautiful rural countryside. We definitely should avoid the type of strip mall shopping center you see on the outside of many small towns that end up destroying their scenic and potentially vibrant downtowns.

Walker: It’s called stewardship, and yes that’s why I’m proud of my record as a Pittsboro town commissioner. Good stewardship is about making the hard choices, making sure that priorities are in order. Good stewardship has nothing to do with blame-game politics and weak fearful inaction.

Voller: The Town should evaluate its corporate and extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) limits and determine the most effective and efficient path of growth for the Town. This process should be an essential part of the long term land use plan.

e. Do you believe that the current land use plan is adequate to deal with the growth the town is facing now and in the future? If not, what would you propose?

Baldwin: The current land use plan needs to be revisited and updated based on the growth spurt within the last five years. A land use policy should include long term projections which the current one does. However, it should be reviewed and adjustments made as necessary.

Ramirez: My understanding is that the plan is inadequate to handle the dynamic growth Pittsboro is experiencing. We need to start a citizen task force process involving citizens from all part of the town and the ETJ in a similar effort that the county used in developing its strategic and land use plans. And then we should follow it.

Walker: As I stated earlier, land use plans should be revisited every two years.

Voller: It is my understanding that the current land use plan needs to be updated.

4. Citizens have expressed concerns that local zoning decisions are made that seem to contradict the land use plan, and that rezoning has occurred on an ad hoc and reactionary basis. Some say the Town Board has even "spot- zoned" property in contradiction to the land use plan and State law.

a. Do you believe these concerns are accurate, and why or why not?

Baldwin: These concerns may or may not be accurate. In order to make that determination specific local zoning decisions and the land use policy must be reviewed and recognized as the guiding template for town growth. .

Ramirez: I believe they are of great concern. It seems to me that “spot zoning” as suits the convenience of the Board and those looking for development advantage is common practice of the Board resulting in patchy and hodge-podge development patterns..

Walker: No I do not believe the concern is accurate. Each rezoning request must be reviewed and evaluated from a variety of perspectives. I believe that the decisions that have been made so far by this town board have been the most prudent choices available.

Voller: I have observed the process long enough to conclude that these perceptions are factually based.

b. What would you do to give land-use planning a greater prominence in Town decision-making?

Baldwin: The plan must take high priority backed by situation study and research, and factual information to guide board members and the mayor in decision making backed by information gathered at public hearings.

Ramirez: Use the land use plan as a principal basis for making individual decisions on development proposals.

Walker: I feel that if we have the sincere concerned input of our residents the land-use plan will have the prominence it deserves.

Voller: Once the land use plan has been vetted and adopted, require that the board follow the plan and at the very least require staff to provide case by case analyses to the board indicating how each application/request jibes with the land-use plan.

c. Would you insist that rezoning and subdivision development be made in accordance with the land use plan?

Baldwin: Again, the current land use plan must be reviewed in depth and impact studies made and if the board, mayor, town manager, planner and citizens are in agreement then rezoning and subdivision development must be in accordance with the plan. However, after the studies are completed and the current land use plan proves to be inadequate, then another plan must be put into place and then the new land use plan must be adhered to.

Ramirez: Yes!

Walker: If the plan is kept updated as it should be the answer is yes.

Voller: This is a reasonable expectation

5. The Town has recently reviewed or approved several large residential and mixed-use
developments.

a. Do you believe the Town Board has been sufficiently proactive in negotiating with developers regarding provision of infrastructure, utilities, public recreation facilities, and public amenities? If not, what do you think the Town should be doing in this regard?

Baldwin: There appears to be no negotiations with the developers regarding the above mentioned items. The Town should request the developer to cover more of these items to offset the cost to taxpayers for increased services.

Ramirez: I believe that the Town Board has been overly influenced by developers’ “experts” and arguments in making decisions. Pittsboro is not ready for the type of major development it has been approving. Pittsboro does not have the professional resources to undertake their own impact studies to challenge the developer’s paid experts.

What comes first the chicken or the egg ? Does the Town prepare & upgrade its neglected infrastructure based on estimates of number of incoming residences provided by developers. Do we just allow people and new housing to come and then we worry about water & sewer; roads & traffic lights; public safety, health, education & recreation; and worse yet, depend on the citizen/residents/taxpayers to foot the bill for all of this infrastructure? If we are going to have development, then we need to have the leaders with the courage not to approve new development unless they are willing to provide for the infrastructure and services to meet the needs of the people they will be bringing to Pittsboro.

Walker: First, there is a difference between reviewed and approved. The Town board is asked to review many proposals. Approvals that I have voted in favor of have most definitely been proactive and even aggressive in negotiating for the provision of infrastructure, utilities and amenities.

Voller: I have not been privy to all of the details of these negotiations. More transparency would be helpful and the Town should develop a policy guiding its leaders on what should be requested of developers. The process should be less political and arbitrary and more transparent and professional. To that end I think the current staff is doing a good job.

b. What kinds of additional public amenities would you require of large-scale developments? If they are providing tennis courts, swimming pools and other such recreational amenities, should they be required to make those available to the public in some way (free or with reasonable fees)?

Baldwin: This is a possible point of negotiation; it could be requested that the developers provide amenities for the public in other areas of the Town or perhaps build a park at another location with the above mentioned public amenities.

Ramirez: Recreation is sorely lacking in Pittsboro. The only recreational program available to residents seems to be sidewalks. And there clearly are not enough sidewalks for people to walk safely around town. Again, public officials should be requiring developments to provide public recreation facilities as part of allowing them to build in our town.

The "tennis courts" are in a dismal state. There is a lovely area in Town Lake Park, developed & I believe paid for by the Jaycees. Town Public Works does what it can to keep the area mowed & clean. I feel that town management supports recreational programs, but is restrained by the Town Board of Commissioners.

There are several sewer easements around Town Lake that could be excellent & scenic walking trails; but in essence Town Lake is in disrepair and somewhat abandoned. Some months ago a graduate student brought forth repairing and enhancing the Town Lake park. It was an excellent presentation. The majority of the Town Board ho hummed through this presentation, yawned when it was over and without further consideration, shelved it as something the town could not afford. That was it! There has been no follow up to obtain grant funds to pay for the recommendations.

Walker: I think that the potential residents of any developments will dictate the amenities they require. There is a difference between public and private amenities. What Pittsboro needs in that regard is a balance of both public and private offerings.

Voller: I think we should explore creative solutions such as contracting with the new YMCA to develop and manage Pittsboro's recreation department. Such a partnership would be a win/win situation for all parties and ensure a unified and strong recreation program. We currently have few recreation opportunities in town for residents.

c. How can officials ensure that large developments do not negatively impact our highways and natural resources? Should our land use regulations [zoning, subdivision and other similar ordinances] be upgraded to address these issues?

Baldwin: It is the officials’responsibility to ensure that the large developments do not negatively impact highways and natural resources and this can be done again through impact studies and those studies must be presented to the officials and citizen allowed input requested as well. Without these impact studies an informed decision cannot be made. Yes, the land use regulations should include these issues also.

Ramirez: Seems obvious that large developments impact highways & natural resources. Just watch traffic in the Pittsboro traffic circle during the morning and afternoon commute times. Dump truck traffic on Hillsboro Street is especially bad. This is in spite of the new US 64 bypass. With regard to 2nd part of the question, the answer is again, an obvious yes! We should seek help from the many knowledgeable environmental experts and citizens organizations in the area to serve on a task force to strengthen and develop strong environmental land use regulations for the town. As the county seat, we should be serving as a model in this regard.

Walker: One more time…Our land use plan should be revisited every two (2) years.

Voller: Large scale development will leave a footprint. It is imperative that the Town weigh the potential benefits against the negative impacts. Yes, the land use plan should incorporate these thoughts.

6. Both county and local officials are making decisions about major residential and commercial developments and the infrastructure needed to service them and to encourage economic development and the expansion of the tax base. These decisions effect citizens living in both the county and the town.

a. Do you believe the elected officials and their professional staffs in the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham are adequately coordinating and cooperating in their planning and decision making concerning the above-stated issues? If so, please provide specific examples and indicate if there are actions you would proposed that would improve their joint planning and decision making? If not, provide specific examples of where you think this process has fallen short and what specific policies and arrangements you would propose to improve joint planning and decision-making between the town and county.

If so, please provide specific examples and indicate if there are actions you would proposed that would improve their joint planning and decision making? If not, provide specific example of where you think this process has fallen short and what specific policies and arrangements you would propose to improve joint planning and decision-making between the town and county.

Baldwin: To answer this question would require an in depth analysis of all the decisions regarding the above referenced issue. I do not have any specific examples regarding if the decision making process has fallen short. However, there are actions I would propose to increase the joint collaboration and cooperation between the two; first of all after all the information has been gathered there should be regularly scheduled joint sessions for discussion, review, and cooperative endeavors. The relationship between the Town and the County should be excellent.

Ramirez: Bringing town commissioners from Goldston, Pittsboro & Siler City together, and along side County would be a worthy endeavor. Getting all the local government bodies to work together; to cooperate for the good of all residents of Chatham would be a most worthy effort. As a divided county, we are easy picking for outside developers who see a gold mine in Chatham. Building Pittsboro’s future with vision and a cooperative spirit is a must.

Walker: I believe your town board has done a good job. I need only to point to $6 million dollars to aid in our waste water treatment cost that benefits Pittsboro residents. I believe that there is always room for improved coordination between the Town and County, but I am elected to represent the citizens of Pittsboro and that’s where my priorities lie.

Voller: Chatham County and its municipalities should be pulling together instead of apart. I think elected members should audit each other’s meetings, the staffs should meet regularly and there should be regular joint meetings between the elected officials with stated mutual goals that can be monitored and achieved.

7. Citizens express concerns that Pittsboro lacks adequate recreational and cultural programs, while the Town has failed to maintain the public tennis courts and the Town Lake property.

a. Do you think Pittsboro officials have made a sufficient effort to encourage and support recreational and cultural activities? If yes, please state the specific steps that the town has taken and what additional steps you would propose? In no, state specifics as to where you believe the town has fallen short and what would you propose to provide greater encouragement and support.

Baldwin: No, Pittsboro officials have not made a sufficient effort because the budget for the Fiscal Year 2005-2006 only indicated expenditures of $15,800 to recreation. A good recreation program requires more funding than this amount. An increased amount of support would be to increase funding and outline the specific recreational facilities/cultural activities and the cost and provide a plan to obtain the facilities and cultural activities.

Ramirez: There are only two recreational programs in Pittsboro, supported by the Town: the Pittsboro Street Fair, which is in part I believe financed by exhibitors & town merchants, and the Pittsboro Christmas Parade. Clearly, town officials have done little or nothing to promote and support recreation in the town. Both our neglected town lake park and our nearly gone to seed tennis courts were originally financed by grants that town officials were able to obtain without significant public expenditures. We need to make this a priority if we are going to attract the type of high tech or small business development that this town so urgently needs to balance its growing residential-dominated tax base.

Walker: I strongly believe that we have done as good of a job as the money would allow. We recently met with the YMCA to begin discussions regarding recreational activities to benefit our residents. To break it down a little further, “it is good stewardship to fix the plumbing before you decorate the room”.

Voller: The public perception is one of apathy and malaise. I think seeds are being planted for improvement, but in order for them to flower attention must be given to recreation and culture. Specifically the town has no recreation department, and very little is organized and marketed to offer its citizens.

b. Should the town repair the tennis courts and Town Lake? Should it expand recreational programs, if so, in what way?

Baldwin: Yes, the town should repair the tennis courts and Town Lake. Also an expansion of recreational programs should include additional tennis courts, a public swimming pool, basketball courts ,walking/jogging course, a full park for public use with an area for small children to play.

Ramirez: Something definitely needs to be done for Town Lake; and for the trails around Town Lake because 1) it provides an area of entertainment, recreation & education for students at Pittsboro Elementary School; 2) it connects several new developments near Town Lake to recreational facilities and town center via walkways; and 3) it is the only public soccer field in town. Tennis courts should be improved. Same for basketball courts. Same for the Community Center. There should be basketball courts at the Community Center.

Walker: The town does not own the land the courts are on. That lease is coming up for renegotiation, until we have a long-term lease in place I would hesitate to invest public dollars in assets not controlled by the town.

Voller:I believe the County owns the land where the tennis courts and basketball courts are located. Recreation programs should expand through a partnership with the YMCA. The County is currently collecting a $1,500 per building permit recreation fee. Many of these fees are for permits in Pittsboro. Chatham County and Pittsboro need to be sharing some of these fees.

c. Do you think Pittsboro would benefit from a performing arts facility in town? If so, what would be the role of public officials in providing financial support or leadership?

Baldwin: Yes, Pittsboro would benefit from a performing arts facility in town. The role public officials should plan is one of seeking grants and other ways to obtain financial support and place an allotment in the budget to begin the process.

Ramirez: There is need for a performing arts facility. At present the only one available is the multi-purpose room at the Community College and occasionally, the Label Mill. The question here is how effectively will it be used. If it is built, will they come?

Walker: I strongly support cultural growth in our town, however I think it is premature to consider financial support from the town until we have the infrastructure to support such a population.

Voller: A performing arts facility and affiliated spaces would be great. Public officials should rally the county and state behind this idea and help energize the citizens as well.

8. Citizens and business persons have expressed concern that local officials have not provided leadership or support for the economic and cultural development of downtown Pittsboro.

a. Do you agree with the above statement? If you disagree, please provide specific examples of such leadership and support? If you agree, in what specific ways has that leadership and support fallen short and what would you propose to provide more leadership or support.

Baldwin: It appears that the Town Board has not encouraged or attracted additional merchants to the downtown area or attempted to utilize the unoccupied business space. In order to provide leadership and support the officials can visit established merchants and ask for their input regarding their business and proposed business.

Ramirez: Merchants in Pittsboro have provided leadership in developing the town commercially & culturally. The Town Board has not shown much in way of leadership & support. It appears that they are not involved in, or very interested. There is a great deal of artistic talent that has not been tapped by the Town. The Town has yet to recognize the level of economic development that could result from tapping this resource of artistic talent.

Walker: I think the citizens and business people of Pittsboro have every reason to be proud of the leadership they have.

Voller: Yes. It has always appeared to me that the town officials have little regard for its business community. The Pittsboro Merchants Association (PMA) should be encouraged to be involved with town government.

b. What do you think the role of local officials should be in downtown development?

Baldwin: The local officials should play an important role in downtown development and should take an active role by holding public meetings and forums and recruiting activities for downtown.

Ramirez: There should be total involvement, including working with the merchants to promote downtown events and shopping, and bringing local property owners, potential investors, merchants and interested citizens together to develop plans for how to revitalize and re-energize downtown.

Walker: Public officials are charged with the responsibility to make sure that the infrastructure exist and is adequate to attract and sustain commercial interest.

Voller: Becoming leaders as opposed to followers. Working with the Pittsboro Merchants Association (PMA), the county and state to evaluate all options for downtown vitality and development.

c. Describe your vision of what downtown Pittsboro could become and what it would look like.

Baldwin: My vision for downtown Pittsboro, is a place which is easily accessible to everyone. With nice restaurants, an outside entertainment area and stores and shops.

Ramirez: Downtown Pittsboro should be a magnet for tourists, shoppers, diners a destination for visitors from even beyond Chatham County. There is much competition for tourism dollars. Without assistance from our Town Board, the reputation as a place to go for the day cannot be fully stablished. Merchants & the artists in our community need the help of Town Government to thrive. The Town Board should consider every possible way to attract visitors who spend the day (as opposed to only attracting residents). We have plenty of talent.

Walker: I envision a downtown that has the necessary infrastructure to nurture creative entrepreneurial spirit that values tradition.

Voller: Residential and commercial uses mixed. Public spaces. Cultural venues. Alive day and night.

d. Should Pittsboro officials encourage large commercial developments outside of town? Why or why not?

Baldwin: It would depend on the type of large commercial developments and what type of effect is would have on the town.

Ramirez: I would suspect that the intersection of US 15-501 & 64 bypass will attract large scale commercial and mixed-use development. The secret to success for all commercial developments in the Town will be how these can be physically linked to each other without stripping our main arteries with commercial development. The land use plan must take precedence,

Walker: There is no yea or nay answer to this question, each proposed project must be weighed on its individual merits.

Voller: Depends on where the project is, its affect on the town and county, the relative merits of the project, and how the developments jibe with the land use plan. We should encourage growth from the inside out. We don't need to be a donut with a hole in the middle and growth ringing the town.

9. Some citizens argue that the town should do more to improve the aesthetics and appearance of the town, including its quality and look downtown, other commercial/business/industrial areas, and recreation areas and other public spaces.

a. Do you believe the town should be involved in improving the aesthetics and appearance of the town and why or why not?

Baldwin: Yes, the town should be involved in this type of improvement. Because it is very important to show that the citizens are about their town and want to look it best.

Ramirez: Yes! I believe have already explained reasons. We need to take pride in our town and show others how special we are.

Walker: Elected officials should be focused on the best use of town resources as they impact public spaces. I would not support the use of public dollars to enhance private property.

Voller: Yes. There is an old German proverb that translates: "how you arrive is how you shall be received." We should aspire for beauty instead of settling for mundane mediocrity. So let's put our best foot forward

b. What specific policies or practices would you like to see the town implement to improve and/or to protect the aesthetics and appearance of the town?

Baldwin: Allot amounts to the budget for town improvements.

Ramirez: We need to determine what is achievable, practical, as well as aesthetic.

Walker: The town board has consistently reviewed its signage ordinance and monitored compliance, I have been told by many that our ordinance is the most business friendly in the county.

Voller: Enforce its zoning code and develop a set of standards and/or guidelines.

c. Should this include architectural and appearance guidelines? If yes, can you state any specific proposals you would promote concerning the type or objective of such guidelines?

Baldwin: No, not necessarily.

Ramirez: Yes ! High quality development and appearance should be our goal.

Walker: I would not be opposed to the establishment of an architectural review committee.

Voller: The objective would be to aspire to beauty. Sameness equates to dullness more than beauty and I think our citizens can recognize the difference between a junk pile and a treasure trove. We need to encourage different types of design and discourage the two extremes: the sanitized corporate look which has no "soul" and the "junk yard" look.

10. Citizens are increasingly interested in walking and biking in town, both for exercise and to save on gas, yet there are many areas of town where it is unsafe to walk because there are no sidewalks.

Is making Pittsboro a walkable and bikeable community an important goal? If so, what steps are needed to make the streets safer for walking or bicycling?

Baldwin: Yes, this is an important goal because this is good exercise and these types of improvements would make Pittsboro an even more hometown friendly place. Sidewalks and bike routes should be added.

Ramirez: There are several areas that are not walkable. Both US 15-501 north and south of the traffic circle and especially area around Cotton Street & Pittsboro Elementary School, and along both Old 87 and new NC 87, no sidewalks and increased traffic. We should make Pittsboro a more walkable and bikable community. Absolutely.

As for transportation, Town Commissioners should find the way to become part of the greater Triangle public transportation plan (bus/rail/light rail). We are now an integral part of the Research Triangle.

Walker: Once we have identified the resources to pay for adequate infrastructure the town will be in a position to examine quality of life enhancements that our citizens would desire.

Voller: Interlinked bike trails and more sidewalks are a must.

11. (For Mayoral candidates only). Since the Mayor only votes in the case of a tie, some argue that this is only a ceremonial position.

a. What do you believe the Mayor’s role is? What are the specific responsibilities of the position?

Voller: The Mayor is a position of leadership and vision and the role of the mayor is to articulate the vision the citizens want and need to enjoy a sustainable quality of life residing in and around Pittsboro.

b. Do you believe the current Mayor provides the kind of leadership Pittsboro needs to meet current and future challenges and opportunities? If so, please provide examples of leadership. If not, please be specific about what should be done.

Voller: I think the current mayor has worked hard and loves Pittsboro, but there is more to be done to prepare Pittsboro for the realities of today and the future. I believe that Carolina's first title team in 1957 was a great undefeated NCAA basketball champion. Carolina's 2005 team were champions, too. I want to be Pittsboro's champion for the 21st century.

Comments of Mayor Nancy May in a telephone conversation with Jim Hinkley, September 23, 2005

I have been really caring about the Town for 51 years. I was on the Planning Board for 11 years three of which I was the chair, and I have been Mayor for six years. Because of the pressures and requirements of the job, I just have not had the time to respond to the questionnaire because I have been very busy this week, mostly on Town business. I am on so many boards and have so many meetings and am on the move almost constantly. I believe that I have done my very best. What I do for the Town is with a great deal of pride. I try to represent the Town to the best of my ability. I just have returned from a meeting with people from Governors Club.

I have been to seminars and planning conferences and meetings about how towns can be improved. We, however, do not have the funds to hire people and do many things. Unfortunately, it is not what you want, it’s what you can afford. It seems that everywhere we turn for help, we are turned down.

The new Town Manager, David Hughes, is the greatest thing that has happened to this town in a long time.

As Mayor in Pittsboro, I have no power [the Mayor only votes to break a tie]. All I can do is chair meetings and represent the Town. That is pretty much the limit of my powers. I have no say in how the Board of Commissioners votes and in the decisions they make. The Town Board minds are already made up.

I would like to see many of the things done that are asked about in the questionnaire, but paying for growth and these amenities is another question. The Town Board is not in a position to provide incentives. It is not prepared for the future. Sewer has been in disrepair since 1989, but developers are helping out in the sewer situation. I know about the water and sewer situation. I have learned a lot over the years, and I have the experience.

We had a graduate student provide us with a good plan for the town lake, but we did not have the money to follow through with her recommendations.

Biolex is a wonderful industry in our town. It may eventually have a manufacturing plant in the Research Triangle. I hope that there will be a number of research spinoffs from the Triangle for us.

I foresee Pittsboro as a town not any larger than 15-20,000 some day.

 
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