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Pittsboro mayor Randolph Voller and town board exhibit unfriendly business attitude

By Bill Crawford
Posted Monday, March 12, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - On Tuesday, February 27, the Pittsboro Board Of Commissioners unanimously approved the Haw River Christian Academy to open up in downtown. The business community joins the Board in welcoming them into our neighborhood. In the short run, the meeting was an object lesson in the power of the involved citizen. The uproar that followed the Academy’s treatment in the January meeting led to two overflow gatherings. This last one brought two television stations as well. In the face of that, the delays disappeared and the early and rapid vote of approval brought a loud cheer.

In the long run, the problem still exists. The Town of Pittsboro is hardly a business friendly community. In a world where the downtown area has as many vacancies as it does, we should be smoothing the path for anybody who wants to move their enterprise here, not holding out more hoops for them to jump through. Absent a compelling reason for them to be refused, the HRCS should have had an answer last year.

Dragging things out like this doesn’t help them, and it doesn’t help the Town. We have to debug and streamline this process, and be obvious about it, so it can be used going forward as a recruiting tool for inviting other businesses. A good model is the work the EDC has done in Chatham County for handling many items in a pre-licensing format to help work out the things that delay the process later on.

Pittsboro is in recovery mode right now. It is a small town with character and has much to offer. I think the Mayor and the Board of Commissioners are as concerned for the future here as I am. I just think that the Haw River Christian Academy episode shows that their methods don’t match that. They need to change the way they work.

They need to do it now. The people who have already invested their time and money into our downtown deserve better. We need to address the parking problems along Hillsborough Street. We need to increase the seating limitations for foodservice so that most chain restaurants (who demand 160-200 seats to open) will at least consider us. Applebee’s is a corporation that thrives on smaller communities like us, and we could have been considered for the unit they just opened in Durham.

We need to stop proposing unwieldy new business micromanagement, like architecture that breaks down larger buildings into small units with separations in electric and air circulation that would accommodate smaller tenants in case they left the site and the Town replaced them with smaller shops. Or asking for a “Demolition Bond”, in case they leave and we have to raze the building. These things cost tons of money, and can easily be deal breakers.

The Major Corridor Ordinance was worse than that. That one proposed that, along certain roads, businesses would be required to not to use the first quarter mile of streetfront property for anything but landscaping! Who wants to open a business that you can’t see from the street?

We all want Pittsboro to stay a small town, and keep it’s unique character. We also would like the downtown area to stop having so many unproductive buildings, and not have to spend the time and the gas money to drive to other counties for so many things we need.

There is a balance here, and Mayor Voller and the Board are on the wrong side of it. If we are going to finally recover the downtown, something is going to have to change.

Bill Crawford lives with his family in Pittsboro. He works in the foodservice industry. He ran for Mayor of Pittsboro in 2009.

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Pittsboro mayor Randolph Voller and town board exhibit unfriendly business attitude
An obstructionist mayor Randy Voller makes doing business in Pittsboro difficult for some.