Pittsboro Matters misbehaving in the civic arena

by Virginia Penley

Pittsboro, NC – On Monday night I attended the Pittsboro Town Board meeting and on Tuesday night I attended the Main Street update for the downtown at the Roadhouse.

The agenda on Monday included a public hearing for the third PDD rezoning of Chatham Park as well as information on the FY 2015-2016 budget and a presentation by the Wooten Company with the town’s engineer, Fred Royal, on waste water, the treatment plant and issues with storm water infiltration.

I was struck by the disconnect in the messages delivered to the Town Board by the two sides, Pittsboro Matters and Chatham Park. Each speaker was limited to a three minute address by the presiding officer Mayor Pro-Tem Pamela Baldwin. (Bill Terry, the Town’s mayor was absent.)

Chatham Park had their whole team in attendance, if needed, but only one person, Tim Smith, spoke for Chatham Park.

From what I could discern, Tim Smith promised to complete a detailed Small Area Plan by August which would be submitted for approval to the board for all areas of Chatham Park located north of Hwy 64. He also stated that some of these plans would be outlined later to the board in great detail, with numbers, facts and options, all detailed and described. Today’s Chatham Record has a summary of some his statements.

Former Mayor Randy Voller also spoke and entered into the public record the current economic profile of Chatham County from the Budget and Tax Center in Raleigh, which is connected to the NC Justice Center.

A few Pittsboro Matters people spoke for their allotted three minutes.

Many of the leaders and apparently primary donors to the group said directly to the board that since they (Pittsboro Matters) were so opposed to the board’s approval of Chatham Park, they could only assume four possible motives for the board members to have voted their approval in the past.

Many of their assumptions were extremely insulting and can be easily heard online by checking the audio of the meeting that Pittsboro posts on its website and likely from any videos local citizen Jack Stevens shot of the meeting.

The possible motives Pittsboro Matters assumed from the elected leaders was that 1) support was made under some sort of duress;  2) a complete failure to understand what was happening; 3) something was discussed behind closed doors, which is illegal; and/or 4) corruption.

This broadside attack on the Town Board members for their support of the Chatham Park PDD and rezoning in the past was directed at Mayor Pro-Tem, and Town Commissioners Pam Baldwin, Mike Fiocco, Beth Turner and Jay Farrell.

It was an attack short on facts and figures, but long on character assassination.

Chatham Coalition leader Jeff Starkweather

Jeff Starkweather attempts to browbeat his political opponents once again. Unsuccessfully.

In addition, both Mr. Jeff Starkweather and Ms. Reid ignored the presiding officer, Pamela Baldwin and spoke right over her when asked to finish their input. That can be heard on the town’s audio of the meeting, too.

What I found so striking was that after the verbal shanking at Ye Old Town Hall, the small Pittsboro Matters group decided to quaff a beverage at the City Tap and avoid actually listening to boring presentations that answered several of their questions and assertions.

On Tuesday I attended the lovely presentation at the Pittsboro Road House and hoped that in the spirit of community and working together I would see Jeff and others in the crowd learning about an exciting design through the Main Street program and asking questions, but my hopes were dashed. I did see a lot of business owners and citizens, a few town commissioners, and folks from Chatham Park, but other than Sonny Keisler I did not see any leaders of Pittsboro Matters.

In summary, I fail to see how name calling and defamation will move the needle and bring our community together for a common purpose and vision.

I don’t expect everyone to agree or even reach a mutual consensus, but civil behavior and willingness to listen and learn would make a good starting point.