Posted September 9

On September 7th, the Chatham County Planning Board (PB) held a public hearing on an application from Congruus LLC to extend the boundaries of the compact community map to include all of their property. In effect, this would let them submit a development plan for Fearrington Preserve at a higher density than they could under their current zoning.

The hearing was held virtually. Two people from Fearrington Village spoke (Rose Krasnow and Vickie Shea) and many residents of FV had submitted testimony to the Planning Board prior to the meeting (Thank you, thank you, thank you). There were also several speakers from Stop Chatham North, the Briar Chapel HOA, and from areas close to the Fearrington Preserve property. At the end of the hearing, the commissioners voted 9 to 1 to table the motion, because they had concerns about the impacts on already overstressed infrastructure in this area, namely wastewater and roads. (The dissenting vote was ready to turn down the application right away).

Several interesting issues were brought up.

1) The Planning Board chair stated that a moratorium was not legal. He also expressed the view that only the state had jurisdiction over wastewater, so he did not think that the lack of a viable wastewater plan was relevant to their decision. Others spoke in favor of halting further approvals until a wastewater solution could be found.

2) It was also pointed out that the original boundaries of the CCO encompassed more land than just that needed for Briar Chapel, so it was clear that the intent had always been to allow other, more dense developments, nearby. However, if properties adjacent to the CCO could always apply for an expansion of the boundaries, the CCO would just keep growing and growing. According to one planning board member, the CCO already covers 31 square miles. For reference, the town of Chapel Hill covers a little over 21 square miles.

3) Several PB members said that enlarging the boundaries did not mean that the development plan for Fearrington Preserve would be approved, since that vote would come at a later date. However, a number of speakers pointed out that once you granted the extra density, you set the stage for ultimate approval.

4) Earlier in the same evening, the PB voted 7-4 to approve Vickers Village request for expansion of the CCO Map. This was a little different, however, because their entire property falls within the 2017 Land Use map’s compact residential area. Fearrington Preserve includes two parcels that do not fall within this revised map. The CC PB voted to table the request for their next meeting on October 5th, allowing time to gather additional information.

The Planning Board will meet again on Tuesday, October 5th. We assume they will vote at that time.

Whatever their vote ultimately is, they only make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners, who do not have to follow the Planning Board’s advice. So, stay tuned; our work is not done.

We hope you will let the Planning Board hear from you. At this stage in the game, the key issue is not density. The issue is wastewater. We do not believe more dense development should be allowed until the county has solved the wastewater problem.

Rose Krasnow, vp@fhaboard.org.