Notes from the Chatham Park presentation at the July 20 school board meeting

by Mia Munn

Pittsboro, NC – For the July 20 Chatham County school board meeting, Del Turner was on the phone. Jane Allen Wilson arrived a few minutes late, coming from an event for Judge Carl Fox. There were a number of community members in attendance, including Angela Millsaps, John Williamson, John Hunter (Chatham News), Michael Mansour, Bill Harper, Michael Fiocco (Pittsboro town commissioner), Karen Howard (Chatham County commissioner), Gina Harrison, George Gregor-Holt, and Mia Munn.

Thales Academy is the first planned school for Chatham Park.

Thales Academy is the first planned school for Chatham Park.

Tim Smith made a presentation on Chatham Park. The presentation was videotaped, and will be posted on the district website within a few days. The first slide said “Good Schools = Economic Growth” and “Economic Growth = Jobs.  The goal of Chatham Park is a Live Work Play community. Schools are bait to draw good jobs. Chatham Park will be presenting a small area plan to the town in August, but wanted to share the information on schools with the school board first. They worked with the district’s consultants Or/Ed) to develop projections of school needs as a result of the development. They expect that district schools, charters, and private schools will all be included in Chatham Park as it is built out. He played a video about 12 minutes long. Some highlights from the video:

  • Three miles of river frontage, 600 acres of parks, 50 miles of trails
  • Four to five village centers each about the size of Pittsboro
  • Info on some earlier planned developments (The Woodlands TX, Reston VA, )
  • Projections – 100K permanent jobs as a result of Chatham Park
  • Solar farm to power 2,400 homes
  • 10 year phases – current plans will only project details for first 10 years

Current construction –

o   Bridge being built across 64 bypass will connect North section (initial build) with South section (larger, later build). Includes a 10 foot bike and pedestrian path.
o   25,000 sq ft UNC medical building (specialty practices) behind Bojangles to open Dec 2015
o   Ten bed UNC Hospice (to expand to 20 bed when needed) just broke ground; to open Feb 2016; all donated money
o   Two 8,000 sq ft office buildings in front of UNC medical building almost leased. Chatham Park office and other businesses

  • Purchased additional 1,000 acres (Townsend Chicken/Pittsboro Moncure Rd).
  • North area will include 5k housing units; of that 1500 will be townhomes
  • Total (North and South) will include 22,000 housing units built out over 30-40 years. Mix of housing affects school population projections.

o   6,000 age-targeted (senior citizen?)
o   4,000 apartments (1400 1 bedroom; 2600 2-3 bedroom)
o   12,000 single family or town homes

Grade level – # of students – Size of school – # of schools

  • K-5 – 4,109 – 650 – 6.3
  • 6-8 – 1,142 – 850 – 1.3
  • 9-12 – 2,351 – 1500 – 1.5

(Math doesn’t seem to work. There should be more middle school students. I could have made a mistake with the total, but the number of schools agrees with the # of students. Fewer students per grade for high school than elementary makes sense, but I would expect, based on elementary and high school, that there would be more like 1,760 middle school students. Or the overall mix would be different.) Totals above are 7,602. Ending 2014/15 Chatham County Schools’ enrollment was 8,305.

  • The first planned school is a K-12 private school, Thales Academy (article in last week’s Chatham News). They have several Wake county campuses. School will be on Thompson Street, opening with elementary grades in 2 years (for 2015/18 school year). Total with all grades will be 950 students.
  • Also plan elementary site in north section.
  • Four elementary sites, one site with elementary and middle school in South section. Potential high school site where Townsends Chicken is
  • School sites co-located with parks.
  • Sites/sizes/locations can be changed based on school board direction and actual growth
  • YMCA in North Section


Melissa Hlavic: Source of projections?

From NC averages, work with Or/Ed, Wake County averages. Have not shown to town –  wanted school board to see first

MH: How describe character of Pittsboro?

Difficult to answer. Unique, small, rural. Don’t want to emulate, but fit in. High tech, open spaces, Live Work Play. Most common comment “Not Cary.”

Jane Allen Wilson: more about the consultants?

Developer has history of building large communities, so that was one input. Worked with Chatham County Schools’ consultants on school population, Or/Ed (out of NC State)  similar to previous numbers for students per household in Chatham. Wake County and Chatham County info on size of schools (population and acreage). Chatham currently has few one bedroom apartments. Millennials prefer 1 bedroom. Tracked other apartment projects for numbers of students per one bedroom unit – usually <0.1.

JAW: so focusing on Millennials?

No, mix of housing and ages.

David Hamm: explain difference between apartment, condo, townhouse.

  • Apartments – multi-family, rent
  • Condo – multi-family, own
  • Townhouse – smaller, grouped/attached, own
  • Single family, other models (patio homes).

Mixture. About 25% apartments.

DH: Affordable housing?

Not ready to speak to those plans yet, but there will be some percentage of affordable housing. Not sure of impact on school projections.

MH: work with us on locations?

Yes. Do want to co-locate with parks, Y, etc, unless board objects. So that is where plan shows them.

Del Turner: What kinds of schools?

Projections are for number of students. Mix of types of schools. Private school in place before any housing. Schools are a drawing point (bait for jobs). Chatham Park to pay $3,500 per house as built to cover services, including schools.

DT: Transportation to schools?

Chatham Park won’t specifically contribute to school transportation.. $3,500 fee. Locate schools near population in Chatham Park to minimize transportation needs

MH: Traffic plan

Working with consultant and NC Department of Transportation. Look at Chatham Park needs and volume, as well as Pittsboro and Chatham County, and movement through area. Road sizes in plan based on models.

DH: 15 years ago, DOT said the bypass would alleviate congestion in Pittsboro

Talk to DOT, but not just DOT. Multiple inputs into plans. Have to align with DOT plans

MH: Types of schools?

Not just one solution. Have talked to Catholic Diocese; interest in Catholic school, but long lead time.

MH: Is Thales Academy a national chain?

No, but have multiple schools in this area

JAW: Why Thales?

Their experience. Good feedback and successful schools. Not for everyone, but will be a marketing point (choice of schools). Experience working with Thales in development in Apex. Thales can fully fund (without fund-raising) building to open in two years. Chatham Park is looking for commitments from schools, businesses, retail. Things that will be built soon. There could be more than one private or charter school. They will work with anyone who will provide quality education. Chatham County Schools are excellent. Need to get the word out.

David Hamm: Loss to private schools outside of county now. Chatham County Schools hasn’t had direct competition. Looked into Thales. They are good. Game-changer for the district.

Not for everyone. No athletics, cafeterias. Competition is good. A rising tide lifts all boats.

JAW: Lots of people concerned about Chatham Park building on Piedmont forest. Elementary schools on plan are by parks. Is that a trade-off with green spaces?

Schools don’t count in open space or park requirements. one acre per 33 housing units open. Schools are in addition to this. When schools, parks, churches, etc are co-located, need fewer parking lots/less impervious surface. Schools don’t have to be near parks. Final locations are up to the board.

JAW: High school not by parks ” shouldn’t it be?

High school site is outside of Chatham Park (townsend chicken). Could move the location of the high school. Could provide park land.

Dr. Jordan: What is the financial impact to the county of co-locating schools and parks?

That is open for discussion. Chatham Park could donate land. But need a commitment that facilities will be built.

Gary Leonard: So you won’t donate for land banking, but you will for immediate needs.


MH: Prep land for schools?

Bring water, sewer, access road.

DJ: Some people say the district should have broken ground on a new high school two years ago.

Chatham Park won’t have an occupied house for two years. Won’t need a school for at least 4-5 years. Providing land for private school for immediate need, before new population. Chatham County Schools is not behind in building schools for Chatham Park. Locations are not fixed; can be moved. Planning document. Less detail on South sections. As building occurs (10 year plans) get more specific. North section first; more specifics now.

DJ: Location and size affected by types of schools

GL: People say you do a good job in development. What is your advice for the school board?

1.       Meet (CP and Board) every year. Communicate. Chatham Park not only development in the county. Regular meetings with administration/staff.

2.       Get the word out about the good schools here. Recent discussion with 400 person heaquarters for a company – first question was about the schools.

3.       Start working on layouts for schools and parks. Chatham Park will provide (free) help with site plans.

Communication: Chatham Park is really looking at schools to drive economic growth.

DH: Look at downtown Apex – positive impact of Preston developers

MH: Will you help us with marketing?

Yes. Already donated $5,000 of consulting. Work with realtors to tell story of schools. Chatham County Schools is part of Chatham Park’s marketing efforts.