Chatham County Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the revised master plan for Chatham Park.
A rendering of Bluff Park inside Chatham Park.
PITTSBORO, N.C. -
Development on the long-discussed Chatham Park will move forward after Pittsboro commissioners voted Monday on the revised master plan for the RTP-style development.
Commissioners were not united on the vote, but the majority said they support economic development, and that is why they voted in favor of the revised master plan, which is expected to bring thousands of jobs and 55,000 new residents to a town that now only has about 4,000 residents.
The final vote was 4-1.
While the commissioners debated inside, protesters rallied outside the Chatham County Courthouse, saying they have concerns a lack of rules and regulations in the master plan.
"I think there's a lot more thought that needs to go through it so that we don't destroy this beautiful county that we have and this beautiful part of North Carolina," said Tammy Schwerin, who lives near the proposed site.
Critics of Chatham Park are calling to protect the Haw River with widened buffers and want more plans in place to protect the environment. But most of the commissioners were satisfied with the buffer limits already in place.
The project hit a road bump in November when commissioners sought an outside consultant to review the plan after some in the community complained commissioners were rushing the project through without thorough review.
Then in February, Charlotte-based Lawrence Group told commissioners the plan had "significant deficiencies" and "lacked a coherent vision."
The independent consultant presented the board with 42 separate changes to make before the project moves forward. Some of Chatham Park's biggest concerns were a lack of detail on new fire departments and schools, and a lack of east-west roads that might have decreased traffic to historic downtown.
"It was easy to get on the 64 bypass and drive into the newly-developed territory, but not so easy to come down and turn west into town," Pittsboro Mayor Bill Terry explained in March.
With a majority of Lawrence Group's recommendations addressed, Pittsboro Matters, which once fought to slow down Chatham Park said it was happy with the changes in the revised master plan.
"We're very happy that they've decided to bring in a consultant, accepted most of their recommendations and they're going to have the consultants involved throughout," said Jeffrey Starkweather, with the Pittsboro Matters steering committee.
The 7,120-acre project is the vision of Preston Development Company, which along with billionaire investor Jim Goodnight, have spent close to a decade buying up the land in the area that will make up the region's newest technology park.
"Chatham Park is more of a live, work, play model than has ever been done in the state," explained Preston Development co-founder Bubba Raul.
Although the project is being developed outside the Pittsboro city limits, the town retains control of the site because it's part of Pittsboro's extraterritorial jurisdiction.
That means is Pittsboro will still oversee things like zoning, planning and code enforcement.
"We will help the town out with their expenses on all the extra work we're going to cause the town," assured Tim Smith, co-founder of Preston Development.
Chatham Park will be developed as five small area plans and build out will take place over several decades. The first order of business for Preston Development is to begin construction on a 25,000 square-foot UNC medical facility on the site in August.