1. Central Carolina Community College’s Small Business Center report. Jon Spoon is the director of the center. Conducts seminars and training as well as consults with business owners. He serves as part of the County’s pre-application permit team when a business is involved. Provides connections to local services. Budget of $215,000 is shared between CCCC and Chatham Economic Development Corp.
2. Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center. Opened in March 2017, the conference center provides the largest exhibit and meeting space in Chatham County. In this report covering 2018 there were 912 events booked and $135,269 was generated in revenue. Most Saturdays are booked for events with a few exceptions in January, July, and August. Most scheduled events are for government (non-paying) and non-profit functions, however, 22% of bookings are for private events. Policies allow for internal government events to be scheduled up to 90 days in advance, and non-profit bookings can be scheduled up to 6 months in advance.
3. Oil and Gas Exploration (fracking). A requirement of the Chatham County Moratorium on Oil and Gas Exploration was to “…update its current land use ordinances without being required to approve such development under its current, inadequate ordinances.” To that end, our attorney, working with the Planning Department and Planning Board proposed amendments to our County ordinance in several sections to incorporate standards for high impact land use activities, “including oil and gas exploration.” The specific Sections include: Section 10.13 Table of Permitted Uses; 11.2 Specific Requirements; 11.3 Environmental Impact Assessment; and 17.9 Additional Information for Certain Conditional Use Permits.
The NC General Statutes limit local government authority on oil and gas; prohibit special treatment of oil and gas operations; and give any operator the right to challenge local law before the Oil and Gas Commission, which can grant a preemption. The best path forward was to include Oil and Gas Exploration and Production in ALL zoning categories (remember state says CAN’T RESTRICT BY ZONING), but require a Conditional Use Permit AND special study. Since we can’t single out Oil and Gas industry, the revisions to our ordinance specify 18 industries in Section 10.13* that must have Conditional Use Permits AND must comply with the new Section 17.9 that allows for further study by a consultant. The parameters of the Special Studies are being developed by County staff and will be reviewed by the Environmental Review Advisory Committee. The vote to amend the ordinance was four to one (Karen Howard opposed).
*NOTE: Those 18 heavy industrial uses include: asphalt manufacture; cement, lime, plaster manufacturer; coal or coke yards; electric light and power generation; flammable liquids; foundries (2 types); garbage and waste incinerators; gas and petroleum processing; industrial chemical manufacturer; mining; natural gas compressor station; oil and gas exploration; rodenticide; sanitary landfill; tannery and tanning operations; tar and waterproofing materials; textile manufacture.
(Walter Petty and Jim Crawford absent)
1. Formed a Collaborative Human Relations Partnership. An organizing task force was to create an interim leadership team to help launch the new collaborative entity and form a steering committee (12 to 15 members, drawn from non-profits and other interested people/groups). This body would host several community forums to gage interest on issues, and suggest performance measures for a staff coordinator (in County Manager’s office) as well as organize subcommittees. Once the body is appointed, the committee will develop a strategic plan with goals, based on needs assessment, and subcommittees will be formed. This is getting off to a slow start.
2. 10-year Chatham County Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Master Plan. This is first master plan that considers entire county and open space needs for anticipated future population. Plan calls for addition of 392 acres of park/open space by 2028 (assumes 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 population), and 85.3 miles of trails (we currently have 7 miles). The Plan looks at recreation services and policies, as well as adding staff. Commissioners had already committed to shared gym resources at all new schools with County parks programs.
3. Reciprocal parking easement release and 1,000 gallons/day wastewater treatment allocation at Briar Chapel to serve County’s new Emergency Management/First Health building at the County’s former water tower site in Briar Chapel-west (close to new CCCC Health Sciences Bldg.).
4. Denied a citizen request for a zoning text amendment that would require a conditional use permit for new churches. Per county lawyer, state law prohibits singling out “churches” since any change must apply to all places of assembly. This issue returns in another form in June.
5. County Wireless Telecommunication Facilities Ordinance was amended to add an exception to tower heights for public safety providers, from current allowed height of 299-ft, and not-to-exceed 400-ft.
(Walter Petty and Karen Howard absent)
1. NC Carolina Core. This is an economic development idea to market/promote Hwy 421 (divided highway from Greensboro to Sanford) as an industrial corridor linking all the megasites from Greensboro, Liberty, Siler City, Moncure, and Lee County. Chatham adopted a resolution in support of this effort and another in support of a future interstate along Hwy 421 (thinking hurricane evacuation, too).
2. Appearance Commission wants a visual (drone?) record of the existing 15/501 corridor because of anticipated commercial growth. This item was referred to staff to work with Appearance Commission and County geographic information systems (GIS) services.
3. County received Community Development Block Grant-NR to purchase a Siler City property for a domestic violence shelter.
4. Incentives awarded to EG-Gilero, a medical devices manufacturer locating in Pittsboro and employing 60 people, beginning in 2022. The incentive will refund 70% of paid county taxes in first year, then 60% in second year, then 50% in third year, then 40% in fourth year, then 30% in fifth and final year of the incentive.
5. Dan LaMontagne was appointed as Chatham County Manager, replacing Renee Paschal.
(Walter Petty resigned at end of this meeting, held at the Agriculture and Conference Center)
1. Amended County contract for Chatham Promise program that awards two-year free tuition for Chatham public high school students who attend Central Carolina Community College. This amendment allows qualified homeschooled students and private school students into the 5-year pilot program that begins the fall of 2019. Including homeschool and private school students is projected to add $40,000 to the approved budget. Lee and Harnett counties are also funding this CCCC program for their resident graduates. Because the requirements require high school students to complete 12 CCCC credit hours (while in high school) in order to qualify for the Chatham Promise free tuition/fees, the Commissioners waived the requirements for students entering CCCC full time in 2019, and only require completion of 6 CCCC credit hours for 2020 high school graduates. Passed unanimously.
2. Local Option 1/4-cent Sales Tax. This sales tax option (Article 46) was discussed in February and was on the April agenda for a vote to place a voter referendum on the March 2020 primary ballot. Currently, 42 counties (including 5 neighboring counties) have passed this 1/4-cent tax. It would generate $1.6 million/year in Chatham, and is NOT applied to groceries or gas. Current sales tax at stores in Chatham (state and local) is 6.75 percent. Passed unanimously.
3. Resolution to borrow $50 million to construct a new School Central Services Building, Emergency Operations Center, and the Emergency Communications Radio System (towers, equipment). Passed unanimously.
4. Presentation from Hispanic Liaison’s Youth Leadership Latinx Program. Very proud to see and hear these young people who all attend Jordan-Matthews High School in Siler City. This program helps the students have life experiences beyond their neighborhoods.
5. Resolution in favor of expanding North Carolina Medicaid Coverage. Passed unanimously.
6. Confederate Monument #1, presentation by four speakers from “Chatham for All” who made a legal and historic case for returning the monument to the owners, the Winnie Davis Chapter in Pittsboro of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Full house at the Convention and Ag Center with Public Input speakers on both sides (my count): 18 or so, keep it since it is our history; 25, remove the statue because of what it actually represents. Commissioner Howard commented at the end that she was excluded because of her race and was not part of the Confederate “we.” She was insulted by one of the keep-the-statue male speakers who commented that he didn’t know why she was sitting on stage with the Commissioners. Last vote of Commissioner Petty: Four to one (Petty) to refer the matter to the county attorney to investigate legal authority to move the monument.
May 6, 2019
(Four Commissioners, Republican Andy Wilkie appointed at END of this meeting)
1. Recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020. The budget presented by the Manager showed an increase of 4.19-cents over last year, giving a tax rate of $0.67/per $100 of property valuation. In this $125-million budget; 1-cent of tax generates $1.1 million. There was little expansion in this budget, but school supplements for teachers was awarded, and a 3% raise for county employees who meet or exceed performance, as well as instituting the Chatham Promise to fund two-years of Community College for high school graduates (see April). County is experiencing recruiting difficulties for some job classifications, such as inspections and public safety, and we are trying strategies to help Chatham compete in the Triangle job market. Another compelling reason for the rate adjustment is the borrowing we authorized to build new radio towers for emergency operations (Sheriff, Fire, EMS) to provide FULL coverage across Chatham, as well as a new Emergency Operations Center to house expanding staff because of population growth. A new Central Services building for Chatham County Schools will also be built with that borrowing.
2. Confederate Monument #2, presentation by historian Gene Brooks who spoke for an hour about the settlement of Chatham, agriculture, grist mills, no public education, Chatham citizen response in the Civil War, and the monument. Another shorter presentation in support of the monument who brought in a petition with 3012 signatures to keep the monument at the courthouse. Public input after the presentations was (my count) 27 speakers for removal of the monument; 16 speakers wanting it to remain.
3. Commissioners unanimously appointed Ernie Andrew (Andy) Wilkie, as recommended by the Chatham Republican Party, to Walter Petty’s District 5 seat. State law requires that a vacancy be filled with someone from the same political party; however Wilkie will have to run in the 2020 election for a two-year term, and again (if successful) in 2022 when the District 3, 4, and 5 seats will be elected.
Special joint meeting with Town of Pittsboro Commissioners
1. Pittsboro Town Hall. Expect to have design by end of this year, bidding in early 2020. The cost of 42,000 sq. ft. building with 145 parking spaces (2-story deck) expected to cost $15-16 million at LEED gold standard. The County paid a 10-year lease for office space in advance to help with initial purchase. County expects to house Board of Elections in the Town Hall and conduct early voting at this site.
2. Traffic circle improvements. Expect utility work (electrical) in 2019 then DOT begins road work in January to October 2020. Lots of traffic disruption and thru-trucks will be re-routed up Hwy 87, avoiding traffic circle.
3. Chatham Park. Jeff Jones, Pittsboro Planner said that Chatham Park expects to build homes early 2020. All construction will be between East Street (Business 64) and the Hwy 64 bypass. They expect to develop 550 lots in the Vineyard subdivision, another subdivision is Thompson Street with 29 lots, and a cottage group of 30 homes 1,000 sq. ft. At this meeting the tree protection element and the affordable housing element were still under discussion with Pittsboro Town Board. Small area plans are on hold until the elements are finished. Chatham Park is held to a 5% to 15% rule (commercial and residential build out) until the small area plans are approved by Town Board.
4. Future meeting topics: Parks and Greenways, and the County/Town infrastructure Master Plan.
May 20 (Pittsboro) May 21 (Siler City)
1. Public Hearing to receive comments on Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget. Three speakers on this issue, one wanting taxes lowered, one questioning the radio tower plan. Chatham has $1.55 billion in appraised property value. Proposed tax rate is $0.67/per $100 of property valuation. A $100,000 property paid $628.10 last year in tax and will pay $670.00 this year at the higher tax rate.
May 30 (Final Budget Work Session)
1. There was a late request from Siler City asking the County to add $0.03 to the Siler City Fire District tax rate for the surrounding county area they also serve. Siler was raising its municipal tax by $0.03 just for fire service, because of the need for replacing the 1973 engine with a new one as well as hiring 3 full-time equivalent staff. The county action would add a full-time Deputy Chief. Like many small towns, Siler City is faced with fewer volunteers and needs more paid staff. Currently there are 25 volunteers in Siler City, but only 6 are in town, which makes it difficult for response to road accidents and fires. The average age of Siler City fire fighters is 55. This item was approved and the final budget adopted.
1. Child Protection and Fatality Prevention, annual County report. The Chatham County team includes Public Health and Dept. of Social Services. There were 7 child fatalities (in womb or premature birth), and 8 cases resulting from domestic or substance abuse. The county tracks adverse childhood experiences, but said there is no central state reporting, and counties have various programs.
2. North Chatham Fire Department celebrated 50th anniversary. The fire district has 7 stations that serve 200 sq. miles. The main fire station is on Hwy 15/501 across from Fearrington Village. Chief Strowd said when the fire district began in 1968, there was no Jordan Lake, no Carolina Meadows, Jack Bennett was a dirt road, and there were mostly farms in the area. Today, they manage 2000 calls/year.
3. Appoint members of county committees and approve annual contract expenditures. Every June, the Consent Agenda has numerous items for appointments to advisory committees and must authorize contract payments to numerous organizations for July 1 start of fiscal year.
4. Chatham County Schools Health, Physical Education and Wellness Instructional Program report. Trying to help students deal with mental, emotional, health and stress; conducted 8 trainings, increased resources for teachers. Next emphasis, develop substance abuse prevention curriculum.
5. See February, (item 4). After BOC rejection of the citizen request for zoning ordinance text amendment requiring churches to get a conditional use permit (can’t single churches out) in residential zoned districts, the Planning Board discussed other options. One option was a conditional use permit for all public assembly occupancies, and/or creating some general standards (many towns have them) in the Unified Development Ordinance that could be used to make sure there was adequate parking, ingress/egress, and noise abatement for future facilities. The public hearing was on June 17. No one spoke. Referred to Planning Board.
6. Public Hearing and adoption of resolution so County will save $1 million by refinancing 2009 Installment Financing Contract. This resolution to approve a contract and deed of trust relates to the 2009 borrowing to build the Community Library, Sustainable Technology Building on the CCCC Pittsboro Campus, and build CCCC’s Siler City campus. By refinancing, the interest rate has dropped to 2.16%.
7. Adopted resolution in Support of Juneteenth Community Remembrance and Celebration. Held June 22, 2019 at the Agriculture and Conference Center, great turnout. Commissioner Jim Crawford was one of the main speakers.
8. Confederate Monument #3: The BOC approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Chatham County. This is a framework for opening discussions. The Chair, Mike Dasher, will contact Barbara Pugh, and start the conversation.
9. Sheriff’s Office assumes responsibility for the Chatham County Animal Shelter and Animal Control on July 1. The Shelter was formerly under Chatham County Public Health. NOTE: In many counties, animal control is under the Sheriff.