5/20/14 Letter to Pittsboro Board of Commissioners
May 20, 2014
Dear Mayor Terry and Commissioners:
We are writing you to provide you with some additional information that we would request you seriously consider before making your decision concerning the proposed revised master plan and rezoning request from Chatham Park Investors.
But first we want to thank you for giving us an opportunity to present our slideshow presentation on the scientific basis for preserving critical environmental resources through a conservation plan. As Elaine Chiosso stated in our presentation, this conservation plan needs to be completed and evaluated through an environmental impact assessment before approval of the final master plan. This proposed condition is in line with the Lawrence Group recommendations concerning reducing residential density along the Haw River and setting aside at least 30% of the total land for a natural conservation area prior to the submission of any small area plans.
We have attached a copy of our position paper that we also mailed to you earlier, so you have this electronically for reference. You will notice that all recommended conditions can be made a part of the master plan at this time without in any way delaying approval of the Chatham Park master plan and rezoning their property. All of our proposed conditions concern the second phase of the approval process where the developer has two years to complete all the plan elements before approval of a final master plan.
We should also note that all of the proposed eight (8) conditions for approval of the master plan are based on the same sound planning principles articulated by the Lawrence Group and new planning board member Carolyn Elfland. Elfland, a retired UNC-Chapel Hill Facilities Director, represented UNC in its several year negotiation with the Town of Chapel Hill concerning the development agreement for the UNC North mega-project. The key principle these experts, as well as Pittsboro Matters, have repeatedly articulated is that conservation, transportation, water and sewer, and other major plan elements for Chatham Park, as well as impact analysis, are only effective in protecting the town and its residents if they are done at the master plan stage, not kicked down the road to small area plans as proposed by the Chatham Park Investors.
We also provided you with a hard copy of Community Guide to Development Impact Analysis by Mary M. Edwards, designed for local governments in Wisconsin. Edwards, an Assistant Professor in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, is one of the leading national experts on development impact analysis. She wrote this laymen’s guide to be easily understood and used by local government officials and citizens. As she states in her introduction, “Communities are increasingly aware that growth may also be accompanied by costs such as increased fiscal expenditures for necessary public services and infrastructure, traffic congestion, consumption of local natural resources, loss of open space and unique cultural features.” She points out that often major development decisions are made without sufficient understanding of long-term consequences on overall community well-being.
Development impact assessments are designed to provide the local government and its citizens a factual basis for assessing negative and positive impacts of a development, as well as alternative strategies for mitigating negative impacts. Approval of the final master plan and its key plan elements without this type of essential factual analysis is essentially gambling on the town’s future and trusting that self-interested developers will voluntarily mitigate negative impacts of their development. The experience of communities across the nation would indicate this is a recipe for disaster.
Two distinguished UNC City and Regional Planning Professors, David R. Goldschalk, Emeritus, and Emil Malizia, former department chair, write in their new book, Sustainable Development Projects: Integrating Design, Development and Regulation: “Usually environmental, traffic, fiscal and economic impact studies are completed during the review process. The results inform the final decision made by the local jurisdiction.”
Although the guide we provided you went into the details of how to conduct fiscal, traffic, socio-economic and environmental impact analyses, we are not necessarily asking you to study those details. But we would ask you to read the introductory section of the guide, as well as the introductory section of each specific impact analysis to see what type of questions they are asking and what type of impact information such analysis will provide the town. We believe you will see that there is important information that we need about the impacts of this mega development that we do not have now and that we need to adequately address potential negative impacts on our community.
Finally, at the recent planning board meeting that addressed the question of whether the revised master plan is consistent with the land use plan, planning board member Carolyn Elfland engaged in a knowledgeable cross-examination and dialogue with representative of Chatham Park Investors concerning such critical issues as the conservation area, master planning vs small area planning, transportation, water and sewer services, etc. Mayor Bill Terry and Commissioner Michael Fiocco were in attendance. However, we feel that this exchange should be listened to by all board members prior to you making a decision on the revised master plan submitted by Chatham Park Investors. To accommodate the board and citizens who did not have the privilege of listening to this exchange in person, we have converted the taped meeting into three digital audio files enclosed here:
Thanks again for your hard work and diligence in reviewing various revisions of the master plan submitted by Chatham Park, the recommendations of the Lawrence Group and citizen input. Nothing could be more important to our community at this time.
Pittsboro Matters Steering Committee Members