Info for Public Hearing on “New” Planned Development District
The Pittsboro Town Board is holding a public hearing tomorrow, Monday April 27, at 7 pm in the regular Town Hall meeting room (across from Food Lion) to consider a “new” Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance. This is essentially the same PDD ordinance (approved in April 2013) that was crafted by Chatham Park Investors (CPI) to provide the standards, approval process, and implementation procedures for their proposed 55,000 resident development outside Pittsboro. As Town Commissioner Michael Fiocco stated when he proposed this public hearing at the tail end of the March 23 board meeting (following a closed door session with the town attorney), its purpose is to “cure deficiencies” alleged by Pittsboro Matters in its lawsuit challenging the validity of the PDD ordinance and Chatham Park PDD Master Plan and Rezoning.
We encourage you to attend the public hearing on Monday and consider speaking out on any of your concerns about Chatham Park. If it’s helpful, feel free to use any of the information we have included below for your oral or written comments, which can be mailed to the Town Board via Town Clerk Alice Lloyd at email@example.com.
We plan to address what was wrong with the original PDD process – mostly that it was crafted by the developers and the public was not given an opportunity to have input. Second, we address what is wrong with the PDD ordinance itself, including that it focuses more on developers’ interests rather than the public’s interests, and it fails to require impact assessments. Third, we provide an alternative – using the citizen-friendly Development Agreement District ordinance planned for Chapel Hill and being used successfully for three large mixed-use developments.
The Pittsboro Town Board could choose one of two alternatives if they want to improve its PDD ordinance to responsibly guide the development of Chatham Park. We recommend that the Town hire consultant Roger Waldon of Clarion Associates to help; he is already helping Pittsboro develop its new Unified Development Ordinance, which a PDD or its alternative would be incorporated into and which will apply to Chatham Park. The two choices include having a consultant revise the existing PDD to eliminate its obvious shortcomings or better yet, take the Chapel Hill Development Agreement District and recraft it to work here in Pittsboro.
What was wrong about the design and approval of the original PDD ordinance?
- Ordinance crafted by the developers and passed essentially as they wrote it with virtually no changes. This is a clear conflict of interest and a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse.
- Town failed to hire a consulting planning firm in presenting town board with alternative best practice ordinances for similar large scale developments.
- Advertising for the 2013 public hearing on the original PDD ordinance failed to meet legal standards for such notices, nor did they provide any press release or seek a story in the local newspaper about this public hearing. Result – no citizens spoke at the 2013 public hearing. The only speaker was Chapel Hill resident Phillip Culpepper, speaking for the developer.
- Ordinance was passed on April 8, 2013 without any analysis by the town planner or attorney or discussion among the board members. It was also not on the public agenda for that meeting.
What is wrong with the existing and proposed PDD ordinance?
- Fails to require environmental, traffic, fiscal and socio-economic impact assessments for the overall design of the development. This is extremely forgiving for this one developer, since the town can require impact assessments for any subdivision, planned unit development or master planned unit develop over 50 dwelling units. Chatham Park has locked in 22,000 dwelling units, the largest-ever mixed use development in North Carolina’s history.
- It is not consistent with the land use plan, passed in October 2012, that specifically provides that the town will “work with the developers of Chatham Park to develop an area plan with a public process and design charrette that builds on the Southwestern Shore Assessment (October 2008).” Instead, the PDD has no public process for designing the development, nor does it indicate that this process should include utilizing an environmental assessment of the development area to guide its design.
- It is unconstitutionally vague. For an example, it does not even define its terms, such as what are the standards for determining the adequacy of utility, stormwater, public service, multi-modal transportation, recreation and open space, boundary buffers and phasing plans. The resulting approved PDD master plan provided extremely general and undefined plans.
- It does not require design standards.
- It does not require landscaping, affordable housing, tree protection, public arts and other similar plans for approval of the master plan. Instead the developers were given two years to get such “additional elements” approved and incorporated in a Development Agreement. As a result, there is little or no information yet available about potential impacts and their mitigation plans.
- There was no requirement for a Development Agreement and no provisions for obtaining citizen input in crafting that agreement.
- This ordinance provides maximum flexibility to the developer, while not requiring the developer to give back to the town substantial benefits in return. As planning board member Karl Shaffer said in voting against recommending approval of this ordinance in 2013, it is “too loose, open ended, lack of control, too broad.” This has enabled CPI to make all kinds of utopian promises without requiring to put those promises into writing.
Why would modeling a new ordinance on the Chapel Hill Development Agreement District (AGD) work better for Pittsboro than the PDD?
- It would not be crafted by the developers, and, instead would be overseen by an unbiased outside professional planning consultant, who can make sure Pittsboro’s public interests are paramount.
- Chapel Hill’s AGD requires environmental, fiscal, socio-economic, and traffic impact assessment for the overall development, including developing a mitigation plan with clear enforcement standards.
- It allows for development and approval of a conceptual master plan following significant citizen input before the town commits to proceed to a detailed plan and development agreement.
- Substantial citizen input throughout the process leading up the development agreement.
- No construction until final master plan and Development Agreement approved.
- Flexibility is balanced to address the needs of the developer for innovative design and the citizens for community concerns.
- Design guidelines, that including building, landscape, signage and sustainability designs.