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Pittsboro town board thumbs its nose at the people’s mandate

By Pittsboro Together
Posted Friday, August 24, 2007

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Pittsboro, NC - What happens in Pittsboro, does not stay in Pittsboro! And what is about to happen in Pittsboro is an affront to all Chatham citizens far and wide. Please read what follows, and respond with your presence.

Recall the recent back-to-back public hearings on “Pittsboro Place:

  • Over 500 citizens sign a petition against approving rezoning for “Pittsboro Place” Mega Mall because it would destroy Pittsboro as we know it.
  • Over 60 citizens speak out against turning the town’s only industrial site with the hope for decent high wage jobs into another super sized low wage retail ranch. This is a 4-1 landslide mandate of the populace against rezoning.
  • Citizens overwhelmingly warn that casting a quick vote for or against the rezoning request would be counterproductive to the $50,000 land use study now in process and would defeat the purpose and results of recent citizen input sessions to guide the shaping of Pittsboro’s future.
But how does this town board respond to the will of the people? It ignores the citizens’ mandate by quickly and recklessly deciding “on the fly” to cast its vote on Monday, August 27 at the 7 p.m. town hall meeting without informing the public. Citizens got a taste of the disdain of some board members for citizen input at the recent public hearings. Now this stealth move to cast their vote under citizen radar in the cozy confines of town hall leaves a bad taste in the public mouth and a sickening lump in the belly. Such disregard for the people must not be allowed to go unanswered. And such behavior on the part of public officials must be widely recognized as appalling and insulting to all the citizens they are called to serve.

This shadowy act begins a new chapter in the 220-year story of this small town, and serves as an omen of things to come if citizens fail to reclaim their destiny. It is a sad and frustrating story of oft times unseen forces at work and a body politic with members that appear to be anything but diplomatic or prudent. As ominous clouds gather on the eastern horizon, citizens throughout the county are faced with a perfect storm of antipathy (aversion) to their input through this untimely and unseemly (rude) vote.

All hands on deck! Monday 6:15 p.m. outside the Pittsboro town hall (across from Food Lion).

In the face of such a storm, it is critical for all hands to assemble on deck to peacefully confront this affront to participatory democracy, an act that defies public understanding. This is a time to rally together and empower one another for the continuing battle for the people’s right to shape the future of their community and county.

Therefore, you are asked once again to stand tall and play a part in writing this significant chapter through your physical presence at a citizen rally outside town hall at 6:15 Monday evening.

As there is only space for thirty people inside the town hall meeting room, please plan to sit outside. If it is taken at the Superior Courthouse we will reassemble there following the rally. Let your presence be the first step in the march toward a hopeful future that demands respect and honors citizen involvement in defining and shaping community issues.

Share this alert. Bring your family. Contact your friends and neighbors. Come from far and wide. Overcome intimidation. Restore hope. Build community. Reclaim a government of the people, by the people and for the people. This is our moment to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity!

How did this vote come to be held so quickly and so silently?

This is the story you won’t read in any newspaper.

It began most recently with the town board meeting of August 13. The approved agenda did NOT contain any mention of Pittsboro Place. However, just before the end of that regular Board meeting, the final minutes of the taped proceedings indicates that the topic is interjected. The audiotape, however, cannot reveal the presence at the meeting of Mr. John Anton (a representative of Pittsboro Place Partners, LLC) or of his conversations with key players. Nor can it reveal Mr. Anton buttonholing Board members in the parking lot following the formal meeting.

Here’s what the tape DOES reveal of the final moments of the meeting:

Mr. Messick: “Mr. Cotton has asked that the issue of Pittsboro Place be on the agenda for tonight…,” the tape reveals.
Mr. Messick then goes on to ask if the Board wouldn’t want to put it on the agenda for the meeting of the 27th.

Mr. Cotton jumps at the opportunity to respond to that offer.
Mr. Cotton: “I would like to see this resolved as quickly as possible.”
Mr. Walker: “I have no issue with that.”
There is some discussion as to how much transcribing the clerk still has to do…

Mayor Voller: “This speaks to your… in a zoning case there is no time limit Mr. Messick, is that correct?” (The Mayor’s question reinforces the fact that there is no need legally to move the vote for this request along quickly.)
Mr. Messick: “But for everybody’s concern… unless there is some good reason not to…” (Mr. Messick sees no reason NOT to push the process because of “everybody’s concern.”)

Mr. Walker then asks the Clerk about the number of pages remaining to be transcribed in order that he can get a feel for how long it would take, (he was not in attendance at the last public hearing) and Mr. Messick interjects: “Well you (Mr. Walker) can listen to the tape.” (Sidebar editorial comment: And fortunately, so can the public!)

Mr. Cotton: “One of the reasons I want this resolved is emails and phone calls. My temper span is getting sort of short on this question.”
Mr. Messick: “I think the developer would like to have it…” (the next few words are difficult to discern, but it is clear that “the developer” is part of the “everybody” on Mr. Messick’s list of “concerned parties”).

Mayor Voller: “My feeling is if we’re going to put it up for a vote we have to go back to the Superior Court room to do it because you’re going to have a lot of interested people and can’t do the vote in this place and have 50 people spilling out.”
Mr. Cotton: “You’re not going to have people speaking during that time; you’re not supposed to.”
Mayor Voller: “No, but I think the vote should be in front of the public and not have it in the parking lot.”
Mr. Cotton: “They can come stand in the hall as far as I’m concerned.”
Mayor Voller: “I don’t think that’s reasonable; we had 350 people there.”
Mr. Cotton: “After spending 7 hours listening to them I think that’s long enough.”
Mayor Voller: “Max, we’re elected officials; that’s what we’re elected to do.”
Mr. Cotton: “Elected officials have responsibility to enforce rules too. That’s all I’m going to say. I move we adjourn again.”
Mayor Voller: “Mr. Messick still has something to say here.”

Yeah, I'd say this town needs a change. And it's not Pittsboro Place.


Pittsboro Together is a grassroots political action committee supporting a diverse slate of candidates for Mayor and Town Board committed to the following platform for a sustainable community:

  • Use proactive, community planning so that our future is not being determined by big developers and our town engulfed by suburban/commercial sprawl
  • Make downtown revitalization our first development priority
  • Encourage diverse, locally owned-and-operated businesses and good jobs
  • Promote walkability to preserve and enhance our special small-town flavor
  • Support historic preservation, parks, arts, cultural and recreational opportunities
  • Invest in clean/ safe water and adequate sewage treatment
  • Foster open and inclusive government
Steering Committee:

Chris Hinkle, Chair
Bill Russell, Treasurer
Andrew Allden. Pamela Baldwin, John Hammond, Erich Kastner, Lesley Landis, Efrain Ramirez, Dee Reid, Jeffrey Starkweather, Anky Chau, Jan Nichols, Andrea Young, Karl Kachergis, Sonny Keisler

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