The latest stand: A Chatham County resident speaks out against HB 906

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By Jan Wethouder
This is a letter to the Chatham County Commissioners

Pittsboro, NC – Thank you for representing all the citizens of Chatham County.

Last year my wife and I moved from northern Chatham County after living there for almost fifty years. We chose to stay in our beautiful province, but now live deeper in what is left of the countryside. We moved for many reasons, including accelerated development, increasingly deadly traffic and congestion on our roads and highways, and the rapid decline in environmental quality.

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Before purchasing our land in rural Chatham County, we checked the zoning regulations with the Planning Department. I don’t think the Planning Department was aware of the potential impacts of Pittsboro’s ability to create a satellite zone, but if they had told me, we would have purchased land in another rural county with a projected ‘low growth in the near future’. Such counties still exist in North Carolina.

Why should our BOC object to HB 906?

1. Voters should have a voice in the direction of their government. Citizens have a very direct and meaningful voice by voting. If approved, HB 906 and its statute will eliminate the ability of Chatham County citizens to determine the fate of their community, especially around Pittsboro, Goldston and Siler City. Rural people and others who do not live within the boundaries of these cities cannot vote city politicians into or out of office. That seems un-American to me. As an example of what lies ahead if Pittsboro is added to the exempt list proposed in HB 906, consider Goldston. It was added to the list of exempt cities two years ago. Since then, Goldston has gone on to annex more than 1,100 acres for a landfill, a massive housing development, a high-density development and a new quarry. Rural citizens around these potential projects are outraged, but have no political voice in Goldston. Given its proximity to the Triangle and its location at the intersection of two major highways, think about what Pittsboro will soon do with this kind of authority and the impact on county residents.

2. HB 906 and its satellite zoning statute essentially support urban sprawl, which conflicts with county planning and zoning documents that have taken years to develop. HB 906 and its associated satellite zoning statute will change the rules for development in Chatham County and ultimately allow cities and towns to transform Chatham County into an urban metropolitan area.

3. Consider also the eminent domain cases that will arise when infrastructure crosses the properties of private rural citizens to serve satellite-annexed properties. Such nightmares take place in Apex related to sewer lines (i.e. Apex vs. Rubin). While similar cases will be fought in court here in Chatham County, citizens will be burdened with legal fees and emotional distress. In addition to eminent domain issues, we may be able to ask whether satellite zoning is illegal spot zoning in North Carolina’s first case. Don’t let these legal nightmares happen in Chatham County; please ask Representative Reives to withdraw HB 906. Further, request that he direct the removal of Goldston and Siler City from the associated satellite zoning statute.

4. I have worked in the environmental field for more than forty years and have seen many things of concern, including the effects of a changing climate. As leaders of Chatham County, you must prepare for the future that your citizens will face. Encourage and find ways to support our three cities to grow wisely, increase their density and grow up, not outgrow. Protect our highly productive agricultural and forestry landscapes for ourselves and future generations. The passage of HB 906 and its satellite zoning statute will set us up for failure in these efforts.

5. Finally, I try very hard to stay on top of Chatham County news, but I only learned about HB 906 about ten days ago through a short news segment on Google News. The bill in the state legislature was available online about four days later. Given the potentially significant impact of this bill on all citizens, it would have been helpful if Chatham County BOC had held a public hearing to explain the bill and listen carefully to citizen comments for and against the bill. Since this has not happened, I respectfully ask that Representative Reives withdraw HB 906.

John M. Alderman
Hickory Mountain Township