Thank you for covering the Town Meeting on November 25th. A healthy press that covers local meetings and issues in depth is vital to democracy. Please note the following few items plus my opening statement on the 25th. 1) Although it was long meeting it was neither a public hearing nor unique to Pittsboro. I have always encouraged public input and rarely if ever invoke a limit to public expression at town Board meetings. In fact the hearings on Pittsboro Place in 2007 had far more speakers, less in favor of the project and lasted longer. 2) Some members of the Town Board felt it the right time to move forward with Chatham Park and believed that the negotiated master plan revisions and agreement provided a framework that accounted for a substantial amount of the public input over the past seven months. 3) The project has been supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Chatham County Economic Development Corp., who passed a resolution of support on 11/26.
The following is my opening statement from last Monday:
Pittsboro is poised on the brink of history. We have an opportunity to constructively engage Chatham Park and ensure that the values of our community are at the core of its DNA. I will not support a bland, beige reproduction of past development in the region. Instead, after seven years of dialogue I see the opportunity to engage the future and build a project over the next thirty years that will incorporate our values and concepts, while embracing technology such as solar farms, reuse water networks, high speed fiber, LEED building, LED lighting, smart grids, smart homes, and other technologies that will create a broad based and sustainable prosperity for the town, county and region.
It will be important that Chatham Park honor and preserve the vitality and historic nature of downtown Pittsboro as well as its culture. An idea that has been best expressed in the words of local legend Tommy Edwards when he said “around here you can throw a rock at a tree and hit an artist who will fall out of the tree onto a musician.” We are certainly blessed with the human capital that we have in Chatham County---a remarkable situation that provides us with a competitive edge.
To that end, the Town has taken steps to hear all voices and safeguards are proposed with any approvals to ensure voices will continue to be heard in the future and that Chatham Park will be an honest broker and good partner with the community.
I understand the concerns of some in the community and I ask that you continue to engage the process through the new channels that will become open and help the Town and Chatham Park create a community that is the envy of the Southeast and a project that we can mutually embrace and take pride in.
This evening we have a number of stakeholders and citizens who want to speak about the proposed project and initial rezoning and master plan revisions. I ask that you be courteous and respectful of each speaker and refrain from cheers, jeers and other outbursts for or against a speaker and/or a position.
Finally, I want to address some of the concerns that have been raised:
1. The town has been engaged and knowledgeable about Chatham Park and its potential for at least seven years. It has been a part of numerous discussions and planning sessions locally and regionally through at least four election cycles and known to the various elected officials and staff who have served on the Town Board and served the Town of Pittsboro.
2. Although to some it may seem that the process is moving too fast, to others who have slogged through the numerous meetings with various elected boards and regional agencies it has been an incremental endeavor at best.
3. The proposed changes to the master plan, the agreement between the town and the applicant, the resolution to approve the rezoning and the supporting statements by the applicant will ensure that citizen experts and stakeholders will have a vehicle to shape the project and ensure that the outcomes that are achieved will have broad based support. In short, this will be the best vehicle to address issues and shape the project.
4. Upon approval the applicant will be able to invest in building the medical center on the north side of town and will spend the next two years working with its consultants, the town and the advisory committee to address the numerous areas delineated in the master plan revisions. The agreement stipulates that the Town can refuse to accept site plans and/or stop the project cold if the aforesaid items are not addressed and accepted by the Town.
5. The Town has on file a comprehensive environmental impact statement that was submitted to DEHNR in order to obtain the permit to raise its limit to 3.3 mgd and discharge into the Haw River. Although I supported the need to get the permit I do not support the discharge point and believe that we a strategy to create more reuse water, expand our current WWTP, and cooperate with Chatham County and Sanford on a regional solution that carries up to two mgd to a discharge at the new Sanford WWTP.
6. Finally, the project and the applicant will be supporting the “Main Street” program and downtown revitalization.
In closing, I have spent my entire career as Mayor trying to improve Pittsboro and the community at-large. Whether I fought for liquor-by-drink, against “fracking”, amendment one, supported Moral Mondays or pushed hard for grants to improve our town’s quality of drinking water, waste water or park system I have always considered the most important constituency in my actions: the future.
In my travels around the state I have had the opportunity to visit with leaders and citizens in towns, cities and counties that are not as blessed as Chatham County and Pittsboro. Many of their citizens, like ours, are struggling and are in need of local investment. And they envy our current position.
We have an opportunity to shape our future and move this project from political bickering to an arena that will allow for broad based input that will reflect a wide range of values that we can collectively endorse which will ultimately result in sustainable prosperity.
Governor Perdue's pardon of innocence for the "Wilmington Ten" is a clear and coherent act of redress from our State and it sends a positive signal to our neighboring states and the world at-large that North Carolina is still a beacon of justice. Her action has balanced the scales of justice and once again shown the world at-large that our state's legacy is firmly rooted with the beliefs and teachings of great Tar Heels like Frank Porter Graham, Terry Sanford and William Friday and with those whom they inspired. I applaud her giant step of redress, which in effect balances the State of North Carolina squarely with the scales of justice. The families and victims of this injustice have my empathy and those whom have never lost faith and continued to advocate for justice have my greatest respect. Governor Bev Perdue now belongs to the ages and Dr. Ben Chavis and the rest of the "Wilmington Ten" and their families have a restored legacy and a renewed hope and affirmation that however flawed and slow the system may be that fairness and justice can still prevail in the end. Happy New Year!
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