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Posted Friday, September 2, 2011
Pittsboro, NC - It is no surprise that a land use plan affecting the entire county for decades to come has stirred passions and strong feelings among our citizens. The process for a joint land use plan has been on-going for seven years. Draft plans and maps have been changed and updated many times over the years to incorporate citizen input.
Over the past couple of weeks we have received petitions from citizens who support a plan that includes a mixed use node and citizens who do not. We've heard from people who wish to have less density in the area and those who want the option for more density. Some land owners want utility services that would be provided by the Town of Cary and some want to bar Cary from Chatham forever. Many have said that this is a localized issue only affecting those who live in the area and others have expressed that this affects the entire county. There are other issues but I think you get the point that people have strong opinions and that those opinions are varied. No one side reflects the majority. One thing I'm sure of; all of these folks and each of the Chatham commissioners want what is best for Chatham County.
As I worked through the process, I have tried to keep my basic guiding principals that I've talked about for so long in mind; 1) Do what is best for the long term well being of Chatham County, 2) Protect Jordan Lake, 3) Respect the private property rights of land owners, 4) Create an environment that will foster economic growth, and 5) Maintain Chatham County control over Chatham County.
The plan that we will be presenting to the full boards in the next month or so accomplishes these things. As many of you know, former commissioner George Lucier and I don't agree on much. However, we do agree that a mixed use zone or employment center is important. This is an area where at some point in the future, if the land owners choose, can be zoned to include commercial use. The reality is that there will be job growth in the area whether it be in Chatham or Cary. Including a mixed use node in the plan for Chatham allows us to have the option to participate in this job growth or not. It gives us the option to capture future sales tax, property tax, and other fees that we would otherwise not have. The idea of including a jobs area in the plan has been around for a long time and originally advocated for by the former Chatham representatives on the sub-committee.
The plan does a great job of balancing the desires of the landowners and the need to restrict development near Jordan Lake. I've heard a rumor that the committee recently increased the allowable density around the lake, that is not the case. We all understand the need to protect the quality of the lake.
Very importantly, the plan allows Chatham to maintain control over the area. As much as some don't like the idea of Cary being able to annex into Chatham, State law allows it. This plan, along with special legislation that we were able to get passed in the general assembly this year ensures that Cary will not be able to annex into Chatham without being invited to do by the land owner. This is a protection not enjoyed by other counties and would not have been possible without the working relationship we have with the Town. In short, this means that NOBODY WILL EVER PAY CARY TAXES UNLESS THEY ASK TO DO SO! Having a plan restricts Cary much more than not having a plan.
I'll have more updates after the next meeting and as we move to the next phase.
Brian Bock is chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners.
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