Chatham Park: The view from 50,000 feet
On reading the Chatham Park Investors’ (CPI) Master Plan, one of the first questions for many East Pittsboro residents is… “just what would our surroundings look like when built out for 55,000 new residents?”.
Since that 55,000 number is based simply on the North Carolina average of 2.5 people/household, the real question becomes… “what would it look like with 22,000 homes on it?”.
Google Earth offers one way to gain a reasonably realistic perspective.
You’d have to fly up to over 50,000 ft (almost 10 miles high and 10,000-15,000 ft. higher than the average Jetliner cruising altitude) to fit the entire Chatham Park area into a normal, page-sized view.
An outline of the Chatham Park boundaries was overlaid on this view to help put things in perspective
At this altitude, obviously, a significant level of detail is lost. Nevertheless, almost regardless of altitude, the Pittsboro ETJ continues to look like what it is – green! Farm land, large acreage homes, lots and lots of trees.
But the question was how would it look when built out for 22,000 dwelling units (DUs)?
This is the view from precisely the same altitude (51,874 ft.) above Cary – centered above the Preston neighborhood, home turf for Chatham Park Investors.
Again, for comparison purposes, the Chatham Park boundaries were overlaid.
Compared to the Pittsboro ETJ, it naturally looks more heavily developed but from this altitude it’s difficult to tell what’s really down there.
A clearer perspective requires a closer view. A smaller, representative window (the yellow rectangle) was needed to zoom down to 10,000 ft.
Hmmm…, certainly doesn’t seem like an awful lot of space left down there – other than the golf course – so one could possibly assume it to be a fairly dense development?
But how many homes are there? Is this representative of the proposed build-out for Chatham Park?
While the NSA may have a way to count the houses here, a simpler approach was required to determine just how densely this area is actually developed. Fortunately, zip code demographics offer a reasonable “rule-of-thumb” mechanism for comparison.
The zip codes were mapped to the 50,000 ft. view (the black rectangle below) and the Chatham Park boundaries again overlaid for a consistent perspective.
Based on the zip code demographics mentioned above, a simple comparison of density was developed for the illustrated area. The table below captures the results.
The most surprising conclusion, however, is that nowhere across the entire illustrated area – not the Preston neighborhood itself, not Cary, Morrisville nor Apex – comes even close to the proposed population density for the Eastern ETJ of Pittsboro in the Chatham Park Master Plan. In fact, setting aside commercial areas and open space (net land area), Los Angeles is the closest density (approx. 7,670 people/sq. mile) to Chatham Park.
For a perspective closer to home, it would be the same as squeezing the entire population of Chapel Hill into literally half its space.
Even with the inclusion of those 2,513 acres set aside for commercial use, stream buffers, steep slopes, and parkland, Chatham Park remains more than twice the density of Cary, fourteen times the current density of Pittsboro, and on par with Pittsburgh or Baltimore.
How could they achieve such a massive population in such a small space? Is their intent to build up rather than out? High rise development? Multi-family dwellings – apartment complexes, etc…?
Perhaps the developers are simply overstating the required density so that the real requirement appears more reasonable? Maybe they are more interested in appealing to other developers to whom they could hand over the build out? Who knows?
The Chatham Park proposal raises many more questions like this but, in its current form, offers few detailed answers. Given all of this, Chatham Park Investors continue to insist they will preserve the character of Pittsboro. Just how would you imagine they propose to do that?
For more on population density see: “Preserving the character of Pittsboro”
Estimated Zip Code Demographics (for illustrated area):
Note: 1 Sq. Mile = 640 acres
Zip Code Demographics Source: Wolfram Mathematica: http://www.wolframalpha.com/