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Chatham Park was created as a legacy for the people of North Carolina

By Statler Gilfillen
Posted Monday, June 9, 2014

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Hillsborough, NC - I have been following Chatham Park for about a year and created a web site at ChathamParkNC.Wordpress.com. May 21, 2014 public meeting at the Courthouse in Pittsboro. I delivered the following statement and follow with some comments.

As a professional, I bring over 30 years of experience in planning, development, architecture, construction and university teaching, plus a unique global view of urban planning to Chatham Park. I have talked extensively with parties on both sides and created a website at: ChathamParkNC.Wordpress.com. I speak as an independent observer with no legal or financial interest in Chatham Park.

I concluded that Chatham Park was created as a legacy for the people of North Carolina. The idea that the richest person in North Carolina, would need to take on the difficult path and public debate to create a Chatham Park, purely for financial gain, made no sense. I applaud the potential greatness this project can bring to North Carolina. I applaud the potential to show the world what great planning and design can be created.

The best laid plans can go astray. The best of intentions can get twisted and deformed. The best and brightest can stumble. Emotions often overrule rational thinking. I have observed all of this, and more, from both sides. I have also observed, the greatness of our democratic process working here.

The Lawrence Group has made an excellent report calling for answers from Preston and Pittsboro. I can see the tremendous efforts since last November. I now see a vision statement that gives meaning. More answers and new laws are required during the next two years. I believe that based on The Lawrence Group's advice, it is time to proceed.

No master plan, no contract, no promise, can ever exceed the good faith of working together to complete the work. Pittsboro will still hold the power to shape this work.

I may never live to see the work completed, but I believe that if allowed to proceed, that my children, now ages 8, 11 and 14 will live in a better world because of what we do here.

Based on the changes articulated and the expanded vision, I support approving Chatham Park to move forward. END

There were approximately 65 people who actually got up to speak that evening. Each person had three minutes to present their point of view. Many of the comments were the same as they were last November as it is clear that no matter what the outcome, some people will not be satisfied or happy. It was clean that some people will speak against any change. Some people spoke with a complete lack of knowledge of facts or the documents submitted. Many people spoke from both sides with clarity and intelligence. Some people who spoke in opposition, I believe did so very fairly, given that I am still concerned that many of the answers, I consider routine, have still not been forth coming from Preston.

The following are some of my conclusions:

1. TIME TO APPROVE: I believe it is time to approve Chatham Park. Many answers will come as the work proceeds. It is time for the elected officials, having listened to the public, their consultant, the town staff and Preston to make a decision.

The plans submitted by Preston are not perfect and many answers still must be forthcoming. I believe that what has been submitted will be the basis that make Chatham Park the legacy for North Carolina it is planned to be. I believe, that at worse the quality of Chatham Park will far exceed what most developers would or could provide.

2. CRISIS FACING PITTSBORO: The crisis facing Pittsboro is not Chatham Park, but the lack of control of the planning and development outside of Chatham Park. My review is that the issues related to the environment, density, transportation, schools, etc are in place for Chatham Park but that little has been done to control the other developments outside of Chatham Park. Countless less qualified developers applying for permits allowed under the current weak and outdated regulations could be the real nightmare. To date I have seen little progress toward meeting the Lawrence Group comments about bring the regulations and planning outside of Chatham Park up to date. Although Preston has seemed willing to reach out to help, outside of Chatham Park is Pittsboro's responsibility. Pittsboro's failure to act not only jeopardizes the future of Pittsboro but also Chatham Park.

4. MORE DETAILS NEEDED: I too would like to see the "details" and written contracts for Chatham Park. I believe that most of these concerns will disappear as this project moves forward. I would also like to see the parties involved in this process come together and define the data bases of information that currently seem in conflict.

5. PUBLIC RELATIONS Although I believe strongly in Chatham Park, I also believe that the Preston has done a very poor job of public relations. The video on Preston's website about Chatham is professional, but it was done a while ago. The revised Master Plan is a great improvement, but is only available on the Pittsboro web site. The largest project in NC history that will impact the economic well being and future of this region deserves the same transparency as the original Research Triangle Park.

Outside of the filings and meetings, I have found little public information about Chatham Park. Sadly Pittsboro Matters raises many valid questions that seem to go answered. Preston has done little to gain the broad public support that could have made this approval process much easier. So many people I have talked to want to support Chatham Park but are afraid, because they have heard from the opposition but have not seen answers from Preston. Most of the questions people are looking for answers, were raised in the Lawrence Group report.

As of today, I cannot find any web site prepared by Preston, dedicated to Chatham Park. Preston's own web site, outside of the one video, is almost consciously absent in any discussion about Chatham Park. I have repeatedly expressed that I have never seen a project of this size and importance that has moved this far "under the radar." In this age, this lack of transparency about many mundane and basic questions, is a concern to me.

In Conclusion, I admire the efforts from both sides that have gone into defining Chatham Park. There is much to do to insure Chatham Park's promise and its legacy. I believe that this process has served our democracy well. Now is the time to move forward.

 
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