TCC Coffee Chat with Chatham County

The Triangle Community Coalition had another successful Coffee Chat with Chatham County on Wednesday, March 1, 2017!

Joining our members in an informal chat were County Manager Renee Paschal, Assistant County Manager Dan LaMontagne, Planning Director Jason Sullivan, EDC President Kyle Touchstone, Central Permitting & Inspections Director Jenny Williams, Parks & Rec Director Tracy Burnett and CSS Chief Operations Officer Chris Blice.

We provided the county with a better perspective of the Triangle Community Coalition's goal to be a proactive partner in growth and land use issues and to work with senior staff and elected officials to develop policies, regulations, and procedures to encourage economic development, produce predictable (yet flexible) outcomes for all stakeholders, and protect the community's interests. 

Chatham County staff appreciated the TCC’s ability to offer objective facts and information in efforts to improve public policy debates and create effective working relationships between the business community and local government.  We had some great interaction with the TCC membership in attendance and had opportunity to talk about the following:

Kyle Touchstone, EDC President – Business Development

  •  55% of Chatham County residents commute out of the county to work.
  •  There are only  two apartment complexes on the east side of the county - very limited supply.
  •  Sales tax leakage (residents spending money outside the county) - $9MM annually (typical for a bedroom community).
  • The Moncure and Siler City mega sites will have the major workforce impact in the county.
  • The Moncure mega site consists of 2,285 acres, is serviced by high speed fiber, is located on Old US Highway 1 and has railroad access.  The site has recently drawn more interest:
  1. both sites received $4MM for infrastructure from the Golden Leaf Fund
  • The County’s largest manufacturer is in Siler City – old Purdue poultry plant - all due diligence is being done now, plant has gone through quite a bit of demolition and in April the re construction will begin.  The Kelwood Textile facility has also been purchased - $70 MM investment and 700 jobs (new).
  • The county is focused on providing adequate infrastructure for these new commercial enterprises, focusing on:
  1. DENR - I&I work, through the mount aire project, looking for additional investments but there is too much wealth and employment status on the East side of the county which hinder the County’s ability to leverage financial aid on the State and Federal level.
  • Chatham Park – over 8,000 acres in size.
  1. 2200 acres in the first phase
  2. 5,000,000 SF of total office proposed
  3. 400-500 multi-family development
  4. The rest of first phase is residential
  • HWY 15-501 corridor - becoming more interesting for outside developers.
  1. More concentration of population, but there are a lot of infrastructure issues (private wastewater systems, community wells, etc.)
  2. There are no public utility systems extended this far up from Pittsboro and the County system
  • HWY 751/US HWY 64 intersection is a mixed use node for the County - working with the Town of Apex on infrastructure.
  • High-speed internetis a huge issue for the entire county.

Renee Paschal, County Manager 

  • Chatham - fastest growing North Carolina County in 2015.
  • Currently developing a Comprehensive Plan – it is in the final stages.
  1. Focused on the fringes of the County and places like Chatham Park
  • Public input last week, survey out now.
  1. Seeking a balanced plan - conservation and development potential, commercial and industrial growth
  • Currently the county receives 90% of its tax base from residential.
  • 2 new schools are being designed.
  • Health and Sciences building at Briar Chapel is new and expanding.
  • Chatham Park - broken ground on commercial and office buildings near Northwood High School:
  1. Residential to start in 2018
  2. The county will be providing building inspections
  3. Will be balanced with not too much residential, commercial breaking ground first
  • Preston Development is seeking legislation to allow a special assessment district for Chatham Park – future land users will be assessed to pay for major infrastructure. 
  1. How this works - owners must petition the government to get this in the works
  2. Process involves public hearings
  3. County gives the framework for what will be taxed and reimbursed (infrastructure - roads, water/sewer, sidewalk)
  4. Based on the benefit
  • Most staff members live in other counties, cannot afford Chatham County.  County is focused on how to make housing affordable.

Tracy Burnett - Parks and Rec

  • 2009 parks master plan -- one district park planned for each of the 4 quadrants of the county.

Jenny Williams - Inspections and Permitting

  • Inspectors are increasing their certifications - level 3 required.
  • Currently need 3 inspectors.  Level 2are highly marketable - so poaching is a concern.
  • Working to get to electronic plan review, a mobile app, and an expedited review process.
  • 14 day turnaround for building permits (commercial) and similar for residential, but due to staffing and work volume these are sliding.
  • There is a 5 day express option, but staffing level is limiting this.
  • County developed an online portal to point to online permit status, but high speed internet is limiting this implementation fully.
  • Mobile will allow email for inspection status (pass/fail).

Jason Sullivan - Planning Director

  • Comp plan has been worked on since Jan last year:
  1. Community meetings last week
  2. Public input through March 24th
  3. Finalize document in April - May/June for public hearing
  4. End of summer adoption
  • Up until last year there were over 380 square miles of unzoned property in the county, now the whole county is zoned.
  • Why was this comp plan updated done?
  1. A shooting range was built in an area without zoning and citizens complained – without zoning in place, the county could do nothing and it went into litigation.
  2. In western part of the county, there was a land owner that submitted for mining permits through the state, but there was nothing that the County could do -- most of those properties are in conservation easements
  3. Majority of the county west of I-87 was unzoned, so this 388 square miles was the target.  2 zoning densities put in place:
        R-1 - one unit per acre
        R-5 - one unit per 5
  • Joint Land Use Plan with Cary:
  1. Revisit the plan with Cary - 5 years
  2. Is the plan working?  Lengthy plan to get this in place, took 7 years instead of the 9 month envisioned
  3. Plan has been in place for 5 years and provides clarity
  4. Growth pressures in this area?  4 DU/AC is dramatic changes - look at development patterns in Wake County
  5. Old property owners are selling or thinking or selling out, and seems like a hot market/area
  • Looking at economic development, land use planning, looking at interconnection between tracts/development nodes.
  • Working with Land Design out of Charlotte.

Dan LeMontagne - Assistant County Manager/County Engineer

  • Water supply – regional demand for water:
  1. OWASA/Durham County connections, Sanford - Lee County, Siler City & Town of Pittsboro
  • Looking for interconnectivity.
  • Working with Pittsboro/OWASA - application to the state for additional allocation and a treatment plant on the west side of Jordan Lake.
  1. No inter-basin transfer issues
  2. Feasibility study for the western intake for the regional plant is being done by Hazen & Sawyer
  • Generational solution for the county to implement a regional plant of the scale being sought.
  • 35 MGD plant, which is a significant sized water treatment facility – is going to be phased - Durham is base loaded 16.5 MGD (majority of plant capacity), Chatham County is 10 MGD, and Pittsboro is smallest at 2 MGD.
  • County has 3 systems:
  1. North - Moncure - Beaver Creek Road - 3 MGD capacity and there is a 3 MGD interconnection with Durham, so a total of 6 MGD available at the current time
  • Current capacity is good for 10yr based on current growth, but other partners (east side of the county experiencing higher than projected growth rates) may result in a shorter duration.

Chris Bice - Chatham County Schools

  • 8,600 students this year.
  • Chatham Park is proposing 11 school sites - seems adequate for 700/students per elementary and middle schools and a high school with 1200/1400 students.  Chatham Park is attracting schools other than traditional schools (Thales Academy).  On the Chatham Park master plan there are 11 sites, but 3 are in one location for Thales Academy. Town of Pittsboro is working with Chatham Park to commit to provide what is needed to build the schools for all the children that Chatham Park will generate. The 30 year buildout for Chatham Park will double the school capacity of Chatham County as a whole.
  • Northern Village of Chatham Park will need about 4 of the school sites.
  • The county currently has 17 schools and 2 new ones under construction, one of which is high school.
  • Most buyers in Amberley ask about a school.  The area of Chatham County on the eastern side of Lake Jordan won't be ready for school until the population grows.
  • The new Seaforth Road High School will be 7 miles closer to Amberley than is Northwood High School.