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What is going on here? I am puzzled

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Monday, February 21, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - If you attended last week's public input session on the request of the Western Wake Partners (Apex, Cary and Morrisville) to run an 8.1 mile sewer discharge line across eastern Chatham, you would have heard the nearly unanimous opposition of the residents of southeastern and eastern Chatham. At the same hearing you would have heard representatives of these towns and other business leaders in Wake County tell Chatham residents that would be an economic boon to their communities. But you would not have heard any evidence of the benefits of this pipeline to Chatham County.

Yet, we hear that the three new Republican commissioners plan to approve this at Monday's commissioners meeting despite the strong opposition of the two commissioners representing this area of the county, Sally Kost and Mike Cross.

What is going on here? I'm puzzled. Chair Brian Bock changed his position on a landfill when residents of the area protested it. Why isn't he leading his majority in supporting the view of the residents affected by this proposed pipeline, as he did with the landfill issue? The landfill was designed to serve the needs of Chatham County, while the pipeline only serves the needs of the residents of Wake County towns.

What residents of every part of the county should be aware of is that approving this pipeline without negotiating concessions from these Wake county towns could eventually increases the property taxes for all homeowners in the county. I am referring to the fact that this expanded sewer capacity will encourage those town to undertake annexations into Chatham County, as has already occurred by Cary with the massive Amberly community. If these annexations includes residential developments with children, Chatham county (e.g. you) will have to pay to build schools for and educate these children, not Wake County.

Chairman Bock and his Republican majority respond that these towns have "promised" not to undertake "involuntary" annexations, as well as the fact that the new Republican state legislature plans to curb involuntary annexations. Those arguments are lame or irrelevant. The problem is with "voluntary" satellite annexations into Chatham, not involuntary. I call these "developer" annexations, where a developer purchases the land of a Chatham property owner (e.g. could be absentee owner by inheritance) within three miles of a Wake town's city limits and a developer makes annexation by Cary or Apex a condition of the purchase. The developer and property owner go together to obtain approval of the development. Neither the area neighbors, nor Chatham County, have any say in the design or approval of the proposed development. Moreover, none of affected residents can hold the officials of Cary or Apex accountable, because they cannot vote for or against these town officials.

Chairman Bock says this is a "property rights" issue. I agree, but we should not only protect the property rights of the potential sellers of these annexed properties, but also the property rights of adjacent and area property owners, as well as all Chatham property owners who will eventually pay for the education of the children moving into these development approved by and annexed into Wake County towns. As several cost of community services studies in Chatham County have demonstrated, residential development does not pay for itself. I believe you could call such annexations and their costs to all Chatham property owners what our Founding Fathers fought a revolution to prevent: "Taxation Without Representation" .

Western Wake Partners cannot easily proceed without Chatham's approval of this pipeline, despite what some county officials are suggesting. This gives our commissioners great bargaining power to obtain the best deal possible and protect Eastern and Southeastern Chatham, and all Chatham residents, from ugly and costly residential sprawl. Here is what I asked the Commissioners, in part, to negotiate for and what I would ask other concerned taxpayers to write to and demand of our new county board majority:

Promises from or even joint land use/annexation agreements signed with neighboring Wake municipalities is toothless. They can be rescinded by subsequent board majorities. The only enforceable protection against such unwanted and costlyvoluntary annexations is a local bill agreed to by Chatham and each of these Wake County municipalities that prevents those towns' annexations into Chatham without our approval. The only way we will get such a bill and other important concessions is through your (e.g. County Commissioners) refusing to agree to this pipeline unless and until such legislation is actually signed into law.

Please write Commissioners Brian Bock, Pamela Stewart and Walter Petty and demand that they represent the economic interests of Chatham residents and not those of Wake County

Jeffrey Starkweather is former chairman of the Chatham Coalition PAC.

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What is going on here? I am puzzled

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