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Chatham Park moves closer to development

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A rendering of Bluff Park inside Chatham Park. A rendering of Bluff Park inside Chatham Park.
PITTSBORO, N.C. -

After months of lengthy debate, those who once called for slowing down a huge new development that would transform rural Chatham County into a major tech hub are starting to come around.

Chatham Park is a planned development on the edge of Pittsboro that could bring thousands of jobs and 55,000 new residents to a town that now only has about 4,000 residents. Some have called the plans similar to the Research Triangle Park, where people can live and work in the same community.

Critics of Chatham Park have said development was happening too quickly, and that more studies needed to be completed on the economic and ecological impact of such a massive undertaking.

However on Monday, a group dedicated to preserving historic Pittsboro is now singing the praises of those working to bring the project to life.

Inside a packed board room, Chatham County commissioners took a series of votes on even the smallest of changes to Chatham Park's master plan.

"We've moved the ball forward here and the ball's back in the court of the developer to take those recommendations and incorporate them into the master plan," Pittsboro Mayor Bill Terry said Monday.

Last month, Charlotte-based Lawrence Group said the plan had "significant deficiencies" and "lacked a coherent vision."

The independent consultant presented the board with 42 separate changes to make before the project moves forward. Some of Chatham Park's biggest concerns were a lack of detail on new fire departments and schools, and a lack of east-west roads that might have decreased traffic to historic downtown.

"It was easy to get on the 64 bypass and drive into the newly-developed territory, but not so easy to come down and turn west into town," Terry explained.

With a majority of Lawrence Group's recommendations addressed, the group that once fought to slow down Chatham Park, Pittsboro Matters, is happy with the changes.

"We're very happy that they've decided to bring in a consultant, accepted most of their recommendations and they're going to have the consultants involved throughout," said Jeffrey Starkweather, with the Pittsboro Matters steering committee.

Starkweather said he still would like to see more dialogue with developers beyond another planned public hearing.

"Public hearing is not deliberation," Starkweather said. "We've never had a discussion with the developer. We've never been able to ask them questions."

The project is still far from groundbreaking and another public hearing will be held at a later date.

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Derick Waller

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