Chatham County Board of Commissioners Actions
--April thru July, 2016 from Commissioner Diana Hales
Affordable Housing: The budget includes several affordable housing initiatives, including a clearinghouse for home repair that will be housed in the Council on Aging; a collaborative effort with the Triangle Community Foundation and United Way; a partnership with Triangle J Council of Government; and a commitment to work with private sector on a development for senior or workforce rental housing using tax credits.
Briar Chapel: Public hearing (June) on request from Briar Chapel to AMEND the Chatham County Compact Communities Ordinance (only applies to Briar Chapel) to remove their 2,500 dwelling unit cap so they can add additional property and housing units...under the 2005 regulations in effect at that time. Residents organized in opposition to this request and the Planning Board will take up the matter at their September 6 meeting.
Budget Highlights: $107 million total budget for FY2016-2017. Tax rate is $0.6338 per $100 valuation, and reflects a slightly more than one-cent tax increase (first time in 7 years) in order to fund the capital improvements program that includes a Health Sciences Building for CCCC, a new elementary school, and a new high school. In addition to fully funding Chatham schools and salary increases for teachers and personnel, and we were able to move up construction of our new animal shelter by one year. We also provided some funding (based on population) to Pittsboro, Siler City, Goldston for their recreation facilities and programs that also benefit county residents. Walter Petty spoke against this funding because the assistance had been withdrawn under the previous Republican majority BOC.
Coal Ash: Neighbors in Moncure who live around the Cape Fear coal ash ponds and Brickhaven coal ash dump were notified they were eligible to hook up to county water (May). The County continues to take air samples on a regular basis around Brickhaven. The coal ash is being transported daily by trains from Wilmington and Charlotte areas, and there are now (August) 10 tanker trucks of liquid leachate traveling every day to Sanford’s wastewater treatment plant.
Climate Change Committee: Presentation on using Natural Capital as a methodology for including economic benefits of natural environment as an integral component in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (July).
Comprehensive Land Use Plan: Phase 1 completed, which included a survey of existing policy documents, formation of steering committees, setting goals, interviews with stakeholders, and drafting a report, which the BOC accepted (April). Phase 2 is underway and involves community outreach to assess current land use, demographics, the 15/501 corridor, employment, suitability analysis for conservation, economic development and infrastructure, commercial areas, protecting agriculture and open space, as well as transportation. This is a 25-year view of what WE WANT Chatham to be in the future, and work should be completed in 2017. (April)
Goldston: County will support Town’s application for a federal grant and state loan for a new water storage tank; old one is 50 years old. (May)
Fracking: A requirement of our Natural Gas (Fracking) moratorium is to use the two years to review County ordinances, create an environmental profile and complete the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. To that end, the BOC approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan to add a “Natural Gas Impacts Study” to the scope of the plan. The work begins now. (July)
House Bill 2: Resolution in support of OVERTURNING this bill and to reinstate court protections for anyone bringing a discrimination law suit in state Superior court. Walter Petty voted against. (April)
Hispanic Liaison in Siler City: Approved $20,000 in emergency funds for them to re-open the door, under new leadership, to serve the Hispanic population (May).
Human Relations Commission: Community members spoke during Public Input to revive the Human Relations Commission that ceased to exist in 2011, after the Executive Director’s position was eliminated by the Republican board of commissioners. BOC asked staff to review the past mission, goals, board composition, and documents, whether the body “officially” disbanded, and report back to BOC for discussion. We want to have an effective Commission with tasks, procedures, and goals. (July, Walter Petty was absent).
Jordan Lake: Resolution urging state action to improve Jordan Lake Water Quality (May). This was related to Solar Bees fiasco that couldn’t correct excessive algae because of too much nutrient pollution. State Legislature continues to BLOCK implementation of Jordan Lake rules, but Chatham will continue our 100-ft buffers until Attorney General’s office rules otherwise. HOWEVER, the new law did REQUIRE Chatham (July) to remove language relating to “nutrient management” in our watershed ordinance.
Legislative request (June) to REPEAL the required 400-ft. undisturbed buffer IF public utilities are used in any development adjacent to Army Corps of Engineers property at Jordan Lake. This buffer was established in the Chatham County-Town of Cary Joint Land Use Plan but only applied to parcels in a small area off Lewter Shop Rd and Marthas Chapel Rd. The Planning Board was split on this request because the 400-ft seemed arbitrary in how it was applied. The June vote to REPEAL was 3 to 2 (Karen Howard and Diana Hales voted NO). The Chatham-Cary Joint Land Use Plan will be revisited in 2017, with BOC members from District 1 and District 2 at the table.
Megasite: Chatham Advanced Manufacturing megasite is 1,800 acres off Hwy 64, west of Siler City and runs north by the stockyards toward Hwy 421. In April there was a public comment on whether the County should approve a $540,000 “option” for land acquisition (potentially costing taxpayers up to $60 million) “if” an auto manufacturer selects this site. There are reasons to support the megasite option, including the creation of potentially a thousand jobs. But, the “option” presented in April was only for one-year. Many speakers were concerned about the cost and whether the county would be “stuck” with the undeveloped acreage.
Mountaire Farms: Major poultry process to rebuild former Townsend’s chicken processing plant in Siler City. This is a complete overhaul and expansion with up-to-date water and wastewater handling processes. Mountaire (based in Delaware) has several large plants in North Carolina and expects to invest $160 million and hire 600+ employees.
Sheriff: Sheriff Richard Webster resigned and the BOC appointed his Chief, Mike Roberson to replace him. Mike will stand for election in 2018. (May)
Solar Farms: Request for text AMENDMENT in Chatham Watershed Protection Ordinance to add Solar Farms to list of permitted uses. APPROVED with conditions that only certain type of photovoltaic cells are OK, and tree removal is LIMITED to same percentage allowed in each classified watershed, eg. 24% in WS-IV, and 12% in WS-III. (July)
Transportation: Chatham participates in two transportation planning organizations: TARPO, which includes 4 rural counties (Lee, Moore, Chatham, Orange), and Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, which covers a northern sliver of Chatham bordering those communities. Many projects are vetted and assigned points through a committee and DOT process. Some are major projects, and some are road widening, pedestrian, and bike trails, and many are safety related. BOC accepted our Transportation Advisory Committee’s 2016-2019 Strategic Plan, and the 2015 annual report. (July).
Zoning: Public Hearing on June 6 to apply R-1 (one acre per residence) and R-5 (five acres per residence) to the 388 square miles of Chatham that are currently unzoned. This process has been ongoing for 18 months through the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners. The Public Hearing was to hear the recommendation of the Planning Department and give the community an opportunity to comment. The “for” and “against” zoning comments were split, and some of the anti-zoning were concerned with rural businesses being classified as R-1 (all “non-conforming” uses will be grandfathered and continue to exist, nothing changes), and the perceived threat of subdivisions, even though subdivisions are regulated by state law EXACTLY the same in both zoned or unzoned areas. More than 300 actual businesses were identified out of 1,000 responses to Planning Department letters (the majority were home occupations, not businesses).
Because of zoning the entire county, the Board also needed to add “sexually oriented businesses” to the Table of Permitted Uses in heavy industrial areas. This classification was not needed before because sex businesses could set up shop ANYWHERE in the unzoned portion of the county, even next to a church or school.
****BOC FINAL VOTE ON ADOPTING R1 and R5 zoning on Monday, AUGUST 15, 6 pm Chatham Central High School. Vote was to zone, 3 to 2.