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Prevent 15-501 from becoming just be one long strip mall

By Rita K. Spina
Posted Sunday, September 11, 2005

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To: Board of Commissioners
Re: Commercial Corridor Ordinance

September 6, 2005


The Board of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities is raising the request for consideration of a Commercial Corridor Ordinance to be planned as a prerequisite to any further consideration of retail/commercial development along the arterials of 15-501, 64 and 421 in Chatham County.

Attached is 23 months of the HISTORY RELATED TO COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR ORDINANCE REQUEST to the Board of Commissioners and
the Planning Board.

It is CCEC's view that good planning can be a handmaiden to good, strong, sensible growth and that good planning must be done proactively. CCEC and the 3,500 citizens in the county represented by us are expecting this planning so as to avoid the potential for 15-501 and the other arterials from becoming strip malls along these corridors.

With the density of growth to come in the next 10 years, it is incumbent upon you to provide us with assurances that the beauty of this county can be preserved from this type of sprawl. We wish to preserve Chatham's visual uniqueness ALONG ITS MOST VISIBLE CORRIDORS that sets it apart from many of the surrounding counties as they have furthered their growth.

Thank you.

Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities
Rita K. Spina, Vice President

[u]History related to commercial corridor ordinance request[/u]

1. In the Land Use Plan for Chatham County, there is a stipulation of specific nodes designated for commercial/retail development along the 15-501 Corridor. There has been no mention of this related to any commercial/retail development coming into the county.

2. On October 7, 2003 a formal request , in writing, to the Chatham County Planning Board was made by the Board of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC), asking for consideration of a Commercial Corridor Ordinance for 15-501, 64 and 421. It was to 1)prevent commercial sprawl; 2)offer guidelines to potential developers; 3)reduce the amount of time, money and effort that goes into individual requests; 4)provide an opportunity for proactive consideration of this type of growth. CCEC offered to work with the Planning Board to accomplish this.

3. On December 10, 2003 in a discussion about Chatham Downs,
Commissioner Morgan stated (paraphrased)…"We (the BOC) have not done the planning we should have for the 15-501 Corridor, but the developer should not be penalized for our sins of omission in the past".

4. On December 11, 2003, (12:31 pm) in an email to Commissioner
Emerson and others, George Lucier, (Chair of the Planning Board) asked to have a Public Hearing on "planning for the 15-501 corridor and then to ask the Planning Board to develop a recommendation for the BOC to consider." In another email on the 11th to Commissioner Emerson, "Can we look to you to take the lead in having the BOC promptly establish a devopment plan for the 15-501 corridor from the Haw River to the Orange County line?…With such a plan in place developers would know where commercial developments could be placed and under what guidelines. Otherwise, I fear we face repetitive requests for zoning variances on 15-501, all of which will be decided on an incremental basis."

4. On December 11, 2003 (5:11 pm) in an email to Commissioner Emerson, Keith Megginson , the other Commissioners, and others, including Jeff Austin, Jennifer Andrews, Cecil Wilson, Larry Hicks, Charles Eliason expressed his ideas and ended with, "I am confident that if first given the charge to proceed with such an effort by the Board of Commissioners that the planning board under consensus will accomplish the task quite successfully."

5.On December 12, 2003 (3:29 pm) George Lucier in an email to Charles Eliason , the Commissioners and others, he said, "I think that your comments are right on target. We need to keep the whole county in m[nd as we embark on any planning activity. As we've discussed before, 64 and 421 Corridors along with our southern section of 15-501 are ripe for development and we could hopefully get ahead of the curve and prevent some problems rather than just reacting to them."

6. On December 12, 2003 (5:32 pm) Charles Eliason in an email to George Lucier, Keith Megginson, the BOC and some members of the Planning Board, significant positive comments were made inlcuding the following: "My earlier post contains not my thoughts but strong suggestions for action and initiative by the Planning Board and is intended to begin a discussion among the Planning Board members as well as the BOC
as how to best develop long range planning goals for the county as well as short range planning guidelines for areas such as the 15-501 corridor. Growth is coming and the planning community as defined by the BOC, planning staff, and planning board are the entities that need to successfully address the issues of growth for the needs of the county. ....We have in place a strong and active method of input by the public for review of our efforts, we have the objectivity to utilize public opinion and suggestion as well….the Siler City planning board has solicited outside expertise in these areas and recently conducted a workshop for its members proctored by an agency with the professional expertise to do so…I think that this is a good opportunity for us to initiate an active, strong and sustainable planning process. I also think that we should include as a function of the planning board long and short range county wide planning initiatives…" And Mr. Eliason went on with other issues and concluded with, "It would help if CCEC initiate a workable design guideline for our roadway corridors." And then, "It would help if CCEC perform an accurate audit of school children within sub-communities within the county." "It is important to decide, it is important to act, it is important to generate achievement by our actions."

7. On December 16, 2003, the CCEC Board responded to Charles Eliason with the following: "The CCEC Board met last night and we discussed your suggestions with regard to working together on projects with the Commissioners and the Planning Board. We think your ideas are good ones and we are interested in being involved. We feel it would be necessary for the BOC to formally assign us to work in this capacity. We are available to meet with whomever the Commissioners designate as the responsible person or persons for the project."

8. On February 16, 2004, the Board of Commissioners was asked about the status of a Commercial Corridor Ordinance. In response, Commissioner Emerson asked that the matter be put in writing to him.

9. On February 17, 2004 an email was sent to Commissioner Emerson with
all of the previous information and another request was made to have this issue…" be placed on the Agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Commissioners and parameters for development of such an ordinance" be developed. It was requested to do so as soon as possible for several reasons: "1)DOT is nearing the conclusion of its construction that will impact traffic and would require reconstruction later for every new area that is to be developed; 2)a reduction in redundancy of time, money and effort that goes to each individual request for commercial land development along the corridor; 3)it can offer guidelines to potential developers; 4)a more comprehensive picture could be taken to the see the interconnectedness of both residential and commercial needs along the corridor; and 5)it would be a useful tool to the county in helping to maintain its rural vision in the face of high density."

10. On February 18, 2003, Commissioner Emerson wrote in an email, "…if you could bear with us for a little while on your request, I will appreciate it. I have spoken with both Dr. Lucier and Charles Eliason concerning
this matter. If we can get the Compact Community Ordinance behind us, I feel comfortable that this will probably be our next major project."

11. On May 5, 2004 at the Planning Board Meeting, a preliminary planning meeting was established to meet on a Commercial Corridor for 15-501 with Charles Eliason as Chair. George Lucier, Caroline Siverson and Mark McBee volunteered to meet with him. Keith agreed to attend and it was to be an open meeting.

12. On May 20, 2004 an email was sent to the Committee of the Planning Board with some ideas/suggestions…"in an effort to assist the committee in preparing an all encompassing plan which will maintain the positive aspects of the Land Use Plan and yet provide for the continued directed growth of the County."

13. On December 3, 2004, Charles Eliason asked about the status of a Commercial Corridor, responded that the Planning Board would take care of this issue. It is interesting to note that no further half hour information sessions were available for citizen input after that time.

Prepared by CCEC

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Prevent 15-501 from becoming just be one long strip mall

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Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities

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