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Another mini-Briar Chapel for Pittsboro

By Liz Cullington
Posted Monday, August 1, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - The Town of Pittsboro has scheduled a public hearing for its Monday August 8th meeting, 7pm on rezoning a 96.8 acre tract to MUPD -- Mixed Use Planning District (more on that below) to allow a very high density residential development with a tiny "village center" of shops and offices.

The project is unnamed in the documents I obtained from the Pittsboro planner's office so for shorthand I will refer to it as Pittsboro West. This is not like Powell Place because the non-residential component is minuscule, and there appear to be no features that are beneficial to the town or its currents residents such as a donated school site, etc. except more housing, but there is no guarantee than any of this housing will be truly affordable, or dedicated to affordable rental.

Details: Town of Pittsboro now has a website but it does not provide internet access to either the application nor the very poorly crafted MUPD ordinance that governs such a development.

If you have Explorer 5.5 or higher you can access the property location via Chatham County's GIS records. The owner is supposedly one William Steele III (applicant) and the property number is 9471-05-18-1778 (96.68 acres).

You can view the property driving west just beyond CCCC, there is a subdivision out of sight between some of CCCC property and the project. Property stops partway before you get to the next road (Earl's Grading and Cassedy and Fahrbach signs).

The application and maps show that there will be 375 housing units, and the PR could describe it as having a density of less than 4 homes per acre (!) but this would be WRONG, as the overall acreage includes not only the "village center", roads, some tennis courts, etc., but three large streams with steep banks, and other unbuildable areas.

The actual density in the residential areas is: single family homes, 285 on 58.46 acres, i.e. nearly 5 per acre (4.875), and townhomes 90 on 4.65 acres, i.e. nearly 20 per acre (19.35).

The townhomes can be only 12 ft wide at the street, and even the single family homes can be 3 feet apart. The application says that both the "mixed use" and residential areas will or can have 100% lot coverage, which I assume means roof or concrete, or maybe roof alone.

[This page says "proposed zoning and lot standards" so until I find a copy of the current MUPD standards I am assuming that this is already allowed as there is no hearing on changing that town ordinance.]

The residential area can have buildings up to 4 stories high, and the mixed use area buildings up to 6 stories high.

Considering that the master plan shows no parking lots you have to wonder where the cars attached to all this working and living space are supposed to go.

They are all going to have to access the project via 64 just beyond CCCC (no traffic light). Emergency officials do not like projects of this size to have only one access. There is an access road planned to extend to an adjacent tract to the west (Robert L Lyon) which I understand is currently undeveloped.

The soil apparently is poor perk and is currently or formerly pines and hardwoods and presumably will tap onto Pittsboro sewage system.

However, the recently passed "Drinking Water Reservoir Act" (NC) for Falls and Jordan Lakes caps the pollutants that can be discharged from wastewater treatment plants into those watersheds/lakes so I don't quite see how Pittsboro can take this on right now.

The application claims as a plus that there will be a pedestrian cut through to/from CCCC, though it appears to me that this uses the old stone bridge off the walking trail and to cut through the current sustainable farming area!!!

The blurb says the project will be "a natural extension of the town and weave into its fabric" which seems a bit of a stretch, and to call it "a natural extension of the downtown area" is flat wrong, when it is at the low density, non "downtown" end of 64, out beyond the town limits, only the hardiest hiker will be able to walk to downtown, and only by cutting through to CCCC, then taking the roundabout trail to either Council on Aging or 87, then finding a way through town that way. Jeez!

The "architectural character of homes and street standards will reflect the heritage of the Pittsboro area."

Well, call me a bit of a philistine, but to me, Pittsboro's architectural heritage etc. looks as if we have been subject to decades of shock and awe and maybe a project that uses the standards of the brick Remax office opposite Ice and Fuel building could be considered as typical as any, so I find this no guarantee of anything, and Pittsboro does not currently contain any 4 or 6 story buildings I can think of.

Lets talk stormwater, which will be significant on a property that is totally disturbed and then built over. There is NOT A SINGLE STORMWATER RETENTION POND shown on the plan, so presumably it will all go into the creeks and either over or under the highway to the dairy farm across 64, and its cow pond, and/or into Jordan Lake eventually, but not before causing flooding at the bridge next to Pittsboro Park.

The application claims that while they are only required under the MUPD ordinance to provide 5% of gross acreage as recreation area, they provide 15% but this is not really true. They are counting not just the 8% (8.57 acres) "parks and greens" but also 2.32 acres of "undisturbed" area (streams) and a nebulous 3.77 acre "community area." And recreation area includes non-porous surface like planned tennis courts etc. No mention of those being available to non-residents.

Well the village green is a parking space or two wide median strip which I bet will have to be paved over, and is not suitable for any sort of recreation that I can imagine. It appears that all parking is to be on-street.

There is no data on total square footage of the homes and I don't believe Pittsboro requires any percentage of the homes be "affordable" under any definition, whether owned or rented.

Unless folks read the legal notices in the Chatham Record or have property that directly adjoins this tract, people who could be affected are unlikely to know about this until its all approved.

Oh, and yes of course they are asking to be annexed to town.

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