Why I Did Not Sign, Bill Terry editorial, Chapel Hill News
On Dec. 8, the Board of Commissioners of the Town of Pittsboro adopted a second ordinance approving the rezoning of about 7,100 acres plus an additional 46.6 acres in the Chatham Park Planned Development District (PDD). This second rezoning also included some minor edits in the text of a portion of the previously approved Chatham Park PDD Master Plan.
As a symbolic gesture to emphasize my disapproval of this second rezoning action, I declined to certify and sign the newly adopted ordinance, leaving that task to the mayor pro tempore, who expressed her willingness to sign and certify the document. Why would I do that, when my signature would only have certified that the document was, in fact, adopted by the Board of Commissioners and in no way communicated my approval or disapproval of the document?
The significant changes in this second rezoning application were not in the application or in the changes to the Chatham Park PDD Master Plan; they were in the wording of the ordinance approving the rezoning. I took exception to several statements in this ordinance regarding consistency with the Land Use Plan and the claim that adoption of this ordinance would advance the public health, safety, and welfare; however, those exceptions are differences of opinion and I could have and would have held my nose and signed the ordinance, as I have done in the past, where honorable people have disagreed honorably about one thing or another.
In this case; however, the ordinance made reference to consistency with the town’s comprehensive plan, a document that, in point of fact, does not exist. When I expressed my objections, Town Attorney Paul Messick tried to help me elevate my comfort level by explaining that this reference was to a comprehensive plan with a small “c.” I took him to mean that “comprehensive plan” (lower case) means a the comprehensive collection of all land use and planning documents of the town whereas, “The Comprehensive Plan” (upper case) would be a reference to a specific document common to medium to large municipalities that tend to do more elaborate and extensive long-range planning. This distinction diminished my comfort level rather than raising it.
Originally, this document struck me as one that was written in haste and full of inadvertently included erroneous information, subsequent to the upper case versus lower case explanation, I began to realize that the document was very carefully written with either the intent to deceive or by someone who lacked a basic knowledge of the inner workings of the government of the town of Pittsboro, such as, we don’t have an “adopted comprehensive plan” as claimed in Exhibit B of the ordinance. Subsequently, by looking at the properties of the Microsoft Word document that created this ordinance, I discovered that the original author was not a member of the town staff, but a Mr. Kenneth Eagle, an attorney for the developer.
I declined to sign this ordinance because I did not want to be complicit in a deception perpetrated upon the citizens of Pittsboro. Knowing what I now know, I am satisfied that I did the right thing, even if it was mostly a symbolic gesture of protest against the apparent abdication of our responsibility to govern.
William G. Terry