PM Seeks Court’s Help to STOP the Bulldozing!
Pittsboro Matters’ attorney Robert Hornik filed a motion in Superior Court Friday, April 10, seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the construction of a Chatham Park roadway and overpass just north of the US 64 bypass. The motion also seeks to stop all future Chatham Park development until legal challenges to the validity of the project’s Master Plan and rezoning, and the town’s Planned Development Ordinance, have been resolved by the court.
The motion for a temporary injunction was triggered when Chatham Park developers failed to submit detailed site plans for the roadwork, a key requirement of the PDD ordinance and this Master Plan for the largest mixed-use development proposal in North Carolina history.
When it became clear that Town officials would neither enforce the Master Plan nor address the concerns raised by Pittsboro Matters’ lawsuit, the nonprofit citizens’ group decided to seek a temporary injunction against all future development at the site until the lawsuit is resolved to protect public and environmental resources. (The injunction would not stop construction of the UNC Medical Clinic and Hospice Center now underway, which were reviewed separately for approval prior to the zoning approval for Chatham Park and their inclusion within that development.)
“Twice our elected officials ignored the concerns and questions of the majority of residents of Pittsboro and approved a deeply flawed master plan for Chatham Park.” said Pittsboro Matters Chair Amanda Robertson, who owns property adjacent to the development site. “Now they have demonstrated that their pledge not to allow any development until site plans are approved was just an empty promise. Clearly, when it comes to this outside development corporation, the current town board majority is either unwilling or unable to enforce the requirements of its planning ordinances in order to protect our community. Thus, we had no choice but to seek this injunction to stop the bulldozers before they destroy more of our pristine forests.”
Pittsboro Matters expects to argue the motion in Superior Court later this month.
Hornik, the Pittsboro Matters attorney with the Brough Law Firm in Chapel Hill, had informed Town officials in writing on March 27 that he would seek an injunction if they did not issue a “stop work order” by April 6. When Town Attorney Paul Messick responded that the Town had no intention to stop the construction, Hornik filed the motion for an injunction on behalf of Pittsboro Matters and six individual plaintiffs.
In his letter to Town officials, Hornik had noted that the public had been repeatedly assured during the development review process that “the unprecedented flexibility”’ granted Chatham Park “should not be of concern because every single aspect of the proposed development – including detailed infrastructure and small area plans – would have to be submitted to the Town as part of detailed site plans, subject to public hearings and staff review, and approved by the Town Board.”
“This building of the proposed US 64 bypass and parkway connected to the proposed North Village violates those assurances and raises serious questions about the Town’s ability and willingness to enforce the terms of the PDD master plan,” he added.
On December 23, 2014 Pittsboro Matters and six adjacent property owners filed a second lawsuit challenging a new Chatham Park Master Plan that was approved by the Town board on December 9. The new master plan superseded the earlier master plan approved on June 9, 2014 that had also been subject to a legal challenge by the same plaintiffs.
Hornik, in his letter to the Town, pointed out that none of the PDD Master Plan requirements for starting roadway construction on a section of the proposed development have been met by the developers, including: submitting site plans and a proposed development agreement, setting up a Development Committee, or obtaining final transportation plan approvals that include transit.
This was not the first time that Hornik raised concerns about Chatham Park Investors’ (CPI) intention to commence construction of the highway and US 64 overpass. On October 29, 2014 Hornik wrote to Town Planner Stuart Bass asking for a formal, written determination about whether the town considers that this construction requires site plan approval. He also asked to be notified of any application for or grant approval by the Town regarding this overpass and highway construction. He did not receive a response from the town.
Pittsboro Matters contends they were forced to file a lawsuit challenging Chatham Park because the Town Board refused to include in the Master Plan reasonable protections for Pittsboro’s quality of life, and environment. Pittsboro Matters has recommended that a master plan for Chatham Park should include a comprehensive plan and design for the entire development; environmental, socio-economic, transportation and fiscal impact assessments of the overall plan; donated land for the necessary new public schools; affordable housing; true buffer protections, more parks and recreation land; setting aside at least 30% of the areas near the Haw River and Jordan Lake as natural areas; and robust citizen engagement in the overall design and in the small area plans.
The second lawsuit filed by Pittsboro Matters includes the following claims: the Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance and PDD Master Plan did not meet the requirements for approval; the PDD Master Plan violated the PDD ordinance; the Master Plan is not consistent with the Town’s land use ordinance; both the PDD ordinance and Master Plan are unconstitutionally vague; and, the Master Plan and rezoning violated plaintiff’s equal protection and substantive due process rights under the North Carolina Constitution, as well as the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution by acting for the sole benefit of Chatham Park Investors.