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HRA comments on "Homestead" development

By Elaine Chiosso
Posted Monday, January 5, 2004

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We strongly urge you to deny this re-zoning request.

The Haw River Assembly is adamantly opposed to re-zoning of Jordan Lake land for more intense development. These are our comments as presented at the public hearing on November 17, 2003

To: The Chatham County Board of Commissioners
The Chatham County Planning Board

Re: Comments on Request for Re-Zoning from RA-5 for "The Homestead at Jordan Lake"

The Haw River Assembly is a non-profit grassroots organization founded in 1982 to protect and restore the Haw River, its tributaries and Jordan Lake. We have approximately 1300 members and volunteers, with a strong base of support in Chatham County where our office is located.

We would like to offer the following comments on request for re-zoning land adjacent to Jordan Lake from RA-5 to a RA-40 Conditional Use District for "The Homestead at Jordan Lake", a proposed Planned Unit Development under a Conditional Use Permit.

We strongly urge you to deny this re-zoning request. It would mean reduced protection of the Watershed Supply Protected and Critical Areas of Jordan Lake at a time when all local governments have been called on by the state to find ways to increase its protection. It is vitally important that Chatham County maintain its current RA-5 zoning to protect lands that drain directly into Jordan Lake. The water supply intake that Chatham County uses is located in this part of the lake and should be protected as a high priority. We believe a change in re-zoning would have a negative impact on public health and would result in degradation of a public resource.

The proposed development of 457 houses and other facilities on 577 acres at "The Homestead " will cause increased pollution to Jordan Lake due to:

1. Run--off and leakage from the spray filed irrigation waste water system,

The proposed wastewater treatment system will require spray field irrigation of the treated effluent. Construction in rural areas that do not have sewer systems have come to rely on this as the technology of choice despite a growing record of problems from over saturated soils, failure during major storm events and leaking lines or holding ponds. We believe this technology can be appropriate under certain conditions. But the critical factors of suitable soil type, sufficient land for irrigation and low risk to public heath and water quality are not adequate in this case. There is too great a risk of nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) rich effluent run-off ending up in the streams that will be flowing into Jordan Lake.

I have included a copy of an article (see Attachment 1) from the "Charlotte Observer" (4/42002) about a study showing that recycled effluent water often contains infections microorganisms. This is not a risk to take with run-off that would impact a State Public Recreation Area that is used for drinking water, swimming boating and fishing.

2. Stormwater run-off due to the dramatic increase in impervious surfaces, with its accompanying load of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from landscaping, vehicular emissions, and other residential sources.

Allowing a build-out of the maximum impervious surface allowed by Chatham County in an RA-40 Conditional Use would be a tremendous increase over the existing forestland on this tract and the maximum build out that would be allowed under the current RA-5 zoning. Meeting current county and state regulations on storm water management will not be adequate to contain run-off and pollution from entering streams during storm events.

3. Sediment pollution to Jordan Lake will result from soil erosion during construction at the site for roads and buildings.

The Chatham County Land Use Development Plan states: "Sediment loading during and after development is an increasing water quality problem. Presently, the North Carolina Division of Land Resources administers and enforces sediment and erosion control regulations within the county. However the Division has limited resources available to implement the program"

The builders of the development adjacent to this proposed re-zoning request were not able to build "The Preserve" without violating the NC Sedimentation Pollution Control Ac, (notice of violation issued on September 4, 2001). During the construction of the site, adjacent and downstream neighbors voiced complaints to the state's Division of Land Resources about the mud they saw in the streams resulting from sediment run-off from the "The Preserve". We believe that much worse erosion problems would have occurred if construction had continued without the recent drought.

We do not believe that the state of North Carolina has the resources in place to protect its streams under these conditions. Sediment control plans are technology based in NC, and it is unofficially acknowledged that they only go so far in protecting streams from run-off - a condition that is often observed downstream from almost any construction site after a heavy rain.

The Troubled Status of Jordan Lake

Due to current pollution problems in Jordan Lake from too much nitrogen and phosphorus, the federal and state government listed sections of Jordan Lake as "Impaired Waters" and have initiated a "stakeholder process" to improve the water quality in the lake. (For complete information on the Jordan Lake Stakeholder Project see the website: )

The purpose of this project is to come up with a strategy to reduce the nutrient (nitrogen and phosphate) loads that are resulting in too much algae growing in the lake, particularly the New Hope section. These nutrients come from stormwater run-off and wastewater from the rapidly growing population in the Haw River and Jordan Lake watershed. About 70% of the total nutrient load that reaches Jordan Lake is from non-point sources (run-off from land). Chatham County contributes 13.2% of the total nitrogen load to the lake and 19.2% of the phosphorus load - almost all from non-point sources. (See Attachment #2 - "Distribution of Loading by Jurisdiction" from the Jordan Lake Watershed Model Development Draft") What is the expected nutrient load increase expected to be to Jordan Lake as a result of this proposed development?

Jordan Lake faces an uncertain future as a source of recreation, water supply and aquatic habitat if steps are not taken soon to reduce the point and non-point sources of nutrients in the Lake. All municipalities and counties will need to move towards greater protection of water and the land surrounding it.

Chatham County has an excellent tool in place with its RA-5 zoning of lands around Jordan Lake in the Watershed Supply Protected and Critical Areas. This type of low-density land use means much less impervious surface run-off, land disturbance, and greater protection of small streams that feed Jordan Lake. It would be a mistake to allow any changes in that zoning so that higher density housing could be built in the protected watershed of Jordan Lake as "The Homestead at Jordan Lake" proposes to do on these 577 acres. We believe it would be harmful to public health and welfare.

We hope you will consider the serious problems facing Jordan Lake today and protect the water quality by upholding the existing RA-5 zoning. We hope Chatham County will join with all local governments to protect this resource so important to its citizens and the region as a whole.

Elaine Chiosso
Executive Director

HRA comments on "Homestead" development

Related info:
Haw River Assembly

Jordan Lake Water Quality

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