Maybe Chatham County should have held out for a longer option on the megasite

By Doug Nicholas

Pittsboro, NC – I agree with Tarus Balog that bringing jobs to central Chatham County would be a good thing. And I’m also concerned about the process, the use of public funds and who benefits.

We can find some of the answers to his questions for ourselves.

I did a web search for “Chatham County Megasite” and found this page of the Chatham EDC.  It includes a lot of links to information about the megasite, including one link that has a map.

Looking at that map, I went on the Chatham GIS website to find the megasite parcels. It appears that the two owners of Megasite parcels are “Tim’s Farm & Forestry, LLC” which is owned by a Peter Timothy Booras, and David H. (or D.H.) Griffin. One of those links on the EDC website is to an article about D.H. Griffin who appears to be a Greensboro developer.

building plansIt does appear that the megasite parcels are all owned by these two entities. However, they do not own land fronting on US 421, or even Old US 421. This seems odd, because the EDC seems to be promoting the proximity to 421, as in the lead paragraph of its megasite webpage: “… is strategically located near Highway 421 and south of Interstate 85.” Marketing spin, kind of like the Triangle is “nestled between the mountains and the coast.” (25 miles south of US 85 is not a strategy, it’s just what it is.) If these guys are trying to spin access to 421, they may end up wanting to eminent domain their way to said access.

I agree with Tarus Balog that the $30K per acre cost seems too high. For example, the largest single tract in the megasite is 864 acres with a listed fair market value of $1,623,964, or $1,880 per acre (that tract was purchased in 2014). That’s a markup of 16X the purchase price two years ago. A 153 acre parcel has a fair market value of $380,902, or $2490 per acre ($30K is 12X the FMV.)

I also question how effective a one year option will be. It can take a long time to pull together a deal like bringing in an auto plant. Chatham County should have held out for a longer option – probably two years minimum, preferably three.

I agree with Tarus Balog about the lack of transparency, and would appreciate an explanation from the Commissioners.