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Why I support a "developer" for mayor?

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - I recently joined a progressive political action committee, Pittsboro Together, that has endorsed candidates in the upcoming November 8 Pittsboro town elections. These endorsements are based on candidates’ positions on issues such as open government; planned and smart growth; support for recreation, parks, and the arts; reliable and clean water and sewer services; downtown revitalization; and economic development promoting small business and well paying jobs. In addition to their stand on issues, the slate endorsed by Pittsboro Together also encapsulates the diversity of long-time and newer residents of our growing county seat: town commissioner candidate Pamela Baldwin is the first African American to run for Pittsboro office in 30 years; commissioner candidate Efrain Ramirez, outgoing president of ChathamArts, is the first Hispanic ever to seek office in Pittsboro; and Randy Voller, candidate for mayor, is a 36 year old developer of Chatham Forest, a diverse neighborhood in Pittsboro offering public recreation, sidewalks, walking trails and attractive homes at a wide range of prices.

I am writing to address concerns raised about Randy Voller’s status as a “developer.” Some of the majority of Chatham residents who agree with me that we need to put citizens back in charge of local government are concerned that electing a “developer” as the town’s Mayor would be like allowing the “fox to guard the hen house.” Let me assure you that with Randy Voller, nothing could be further from the truth, in my opinion based on what he has done in Pittsboro and his commitment as a candidate. Let me explain.

I am a strong advocate of planned growth or what is referred to as “smart growth,” which means encouraging concentrated, mix-use development where neighborhoods are close to shopping, work and school; designing walkable communities; building in existing communities where roads, water and sewer lines, schools, police, fire and other public services already exist; preserving green space and rural character and landscape; providing a variety of housing types, including affordable housing; offering transportation alternatives; insisting on citizens participation in land use decisions so that development decisions are consistent, fair and cost effective; and promoting energy efficient and green building.

Some of the organizations that I have been associated with, including the Chatham Coalition, Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities and Pittsboro Together, are often falsely accused of being against growth. Bunkey Morgan and his “sprawl lobby” friends would like to cast the planning and development debate in this county as “growth vs no growth.” That is because they cannot defend the actual dichotomies that they have forced on upon county residents, such as: “planned” growth vs. Bunkey Morgan’s “un planned” growth; “concentrated” growth vs his “sprawl,” “fiscally responsible” growth vs his “fiscally irresponsible” growth; controlling the pace of growth to keep it in line with our ability to pay for services for that growth vs. his opening the floodgates growth without consideration of its costs to taxpayers; citizen input into development decisions vs his behind-closed door deals with developers, and so on.

Bunkey Morgan and his supporters have unfortunately given a bad name to the “developer” and “realtor” professions`. In fact, there are many responsible local developers, builders, realtors who value and support planned and smart growth as critical ingredients for viable and, yes, profitable neighborhoods. Randy Voller is among them. Voller has not only committed himself to planned and smart growth principles as part of his campaign platform and endorsement of the Pittsboro Together platform [see ]], but he has begun to implement some of those principles in his own development in Pittsboro.

Randy located his residential development inside Pittsboro’s town limits and near downtown as part of his vision of building up the town from the inside out, which could help alleviate much of the demand for sprawl developments in the county that are despoiling our rural environment and resulting in increased property taxes and impact fees. He built a park and basketball court and opened it up for use by the entire community. He has attempted to put in an interconnected street system and created a pedestrian friendly neighborhood with sidewalks. He has left intact many trees and natural green spaces and is building walking/biking trials through the woods connecting his residential development to nearby shopping and entertainment facilities. He also went beyond minimum state stormwater and sedimentation control requirements by incorporating best management practices and sizing storm-water pipes for 100 year floods. Moreover, he is committed to using what he has learned in his present development and in getting input from green building and other sustainable advocates to make any further residential developments he pursues embrace the principles of smart and planned growth. Finally, Randy, and his wife, Lesley Landis, live in the Chatham Forest neighborhood he built, where they have many friends.

Randy is aware of potential conflicts of interest as a local developer and is committed to full public disclosure of all possible “appearances” of a conflict of interest. Additionally, he is a strong advocate of open and transparent government in general. Finally, Randy Voller, as well as Pamela Baldwin and Efrain Ramirez, are committed to enacting a tough Code of Ethics for all elected and appointed officials, something the current board has declined to adopt.

I hope that those who support responsible, planned development in Chatham that will protect our rural character and environment will also support Randy Voller, a local developer who is committed to these ideals and is willing to put his energy and reputation on the line in being a leader of such efforts as Mayor of our county seat.

Jeffrey Starkweather, Pittsboro [Writing on my own behalf and not as a spokesperson for Chatham Coalition, CCEC or Pittsboro Together]

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