Timeline shows Crawford, Hales & Howard ignoring public input from those impacted by zoning

By Raymond Gastwaite
Pittsboro, NC – Since zoning is such a hot issue in the county, here is a timeline (based on public records at chathamnc.org) of what has transpired to date.

March 2014: Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Bock asked county staff to explore creating a special zoning overlay, in response to mining near Goldston in the unzoned areas of the County.

April 2014: The existing Planning Board formed a Subcommittee to explore zoning options.

June 2014: The Planning Board Subcommittee produced four options to be presented to the Commissioners –

  • Option 1 – extend zoning with an open use district.
  • Option 2 – adopt a stand alone heavy industrial use ordinance
  • Option 3 – extend traditional zoning, with special consideration for long-term development
  • Option 4 – no action at this time (no generalized sentiment for zoning the unzoned portions of the county)

Records of this meeting are not available on the County website.

June 2014: Public input at the Commissioner’s meeting – several citizens complaining about a gun range near the Stray Cat Home (oops, I mean the Goathouse Refuge). Commissioner Petty remarked that zoning is all inclusive – either zoned or unzoned, and that zoning might have prevented the GoatHouse Refuge.

July 2014: The four subcommittee options presented to the Commissioners:

  • Option 1: Open Use District – everything as is but regulate certain items. Incremental / quick fix.
  • Option 2: Stand alone industrial ordinance. This would create a half-zoned county.
  • Option 3: Extension of traditional zoning. Effective; concern about land use or updated vision for the county.
  • Option 4: Do nothing at this time or get public input for the desire for zoning.

Commissioner Jim Elza stated ‘The County Has To Do Something about shooting ranges and quarries’. The shooting range comment was directed against a new public range called 2A. There was general agreement from Commissioners that the public needed to provide input.

October 2014: County staff recommended getting community input, implementing open use zoning, and begin work on a comprehensive land-use plan.

February 2015: Commissioners Karen Howard and Diana Hales moved to delay county meetings on zoning and ‘present an alternative direction’. Jim Crawford, Diana Hales, and Karen Howard voted to delay meetings and ignore the planning commission recommendation. Mike Cross and Walter Petty disagreed.

Chatham County commissioners Jim Crawford, Diana Hales, and Karen Howard

Chatham County commissioners Jim Crawford, Diana Hales, and Karen Howard voted to delay community meetings and ignore the planning commission recommendation

April – November 2015: Numerous petitions against zoning presented to the Chatham County Commission –  by the Chatham Co Livestock Association, Chatham Co Farm Bureau and many others. Many citizens spoke in favor of zoning.

October 2015: Noise ordinance discussed – not directed at Range 2A (of course not).

November 2015: The County Planning board (with several new members appointed by Crawford, Hales and Howard) presented five options to Commission (by a 6 to 5 vote of planning board members). Those were:

  • Option 1: Leave Chatham County Unzoned
  • Option 2: Apply Open Use Zoning to Unzoned Chatham County
  • Option 3: Apply Traditional Zoning to Unzoned Chatham County
  • Hybrid Option 4: Zoning in Some Areas of Unzoned Chatham County, and Open Use Zoning in Others
  • Hybrid Option 5: Combination of Zoning, Open Use Zoning, and Unzoned Areas
  • Option 6: High-Impact Use Ordinance

At the commissioner’s meeting a “Minority Report” was presented stating the zoning options as presented did not go far enough to control development in the county. After much discussion Commissioners Cross and Petty moved to accept the Planning Board’s recommendation to not zone west of 87. That motion failed on 3-2 vote. Commissioners Hales and Howard then moved to extend zoning to all portions of the county. The motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Hales, Howard and Crawford voting in favor; Cross and Petty voting against.

December 2015: Commissioners voted for R1 and R5 zoning during the 2:00 PM work session, NOT the normal 6:00 PM session.

March 2016: Commissioners set a date of June 6 for a public hearing on zoning.

No County Commission meeting minutes have been posted on the County’s website since the March 2016 meeting.

The bottom line is that I am not necessarily against zoning. Unconstrained growth is a problem – look at Chapel Hill and Cary as examples of that. We need a method to maintain the charming nature of Chatham County. I am against the one-size-fits-all, my-way-or-the-highway approach of certain Commissioners, and I am against their ignoring public input from those impacted by zoning.

This information and more is posted on Raymond Gastwaite’s blog at countrylivingpolitics.blogspot.com.