Here’s the smoking gun behind NCDOT’s proposal for STIP R-5930 / North Chatham Park Way

By Mark Pavao

Pittsboro, NC – In January 2021, NCDOT proposed to build STIP R-5930 / North Chatham Park Way through North Woods, a neighborhood established in the 1980s, that is now surrounded by land owned by Chatham Park Investors which will be developed into Chatham Park’s North Village. North Chatham Park Way will support the development of Chatham Park, so we asked: Why build the road through North Woods?

After months of digging and evasive answers from NCDOT, Chatham Park Investors (“we have nothing to do with North Chatham Park Way”) and Kimley-Horn (engineering consultant to both NCDOT and Chatham Park), we believe that the R-5930 evaluation process was corrupted, and we found the smoking gun. The smoking gun is the Chatham Park Land Use Concept Map, drafted in 2015, with the road alignment shifted from North Woods’ eastern property line into the neighborhoodAs you will see in the nearby photo, this concept map is a hand drawing, a draft developed before any real survey or engineering work, but it clearly shows Chatham Park’s intent.

By now you have guessed the punchline… the alignment for North Chatham Park Way in the 2015 concept map perfectly matches the “preferred alternative” developed by NCDOT between 2018-2020 and announced in January 2021. Chatham Park Investors appear to have used their influence to leverage NCDOT’s power of EMINENT DOMAIN to potentially take private land from the North Woods property owners for the primary benefit of Chatham Park Investors. Many people naturally suspect that developers influence and manipulate the system to their benefit, but it’s rare to see how they work their magic.

This is wrong and must be stopped.

To review, here are the key points in the timeline for North Chatham Park Way / STIP R-5930:

  • 2011: Pittsboro approved the Comprehensive Transportation Plan that proposed the “North-South Connector” that will eventually route north-south traffic east of Pittsboro. This road, which is now known as North Chatham Park Way, straddled the property line between North Woods and land owned by Chatham Park Investors.
  • 2015: Chatham Park Investors produced a land use concept map for their North Village with North Chatham Park Way shifted west through the middle of the North Village and the North Woods neighborhood.
  • 2018: NCDOT began working on North Chatham Park Way and hired Kimley-Horn, the same engineering firm already working for Preston Development on the overall road system for Chatham Park. Kimley-Horn’s work for Preston Development / Chatham Park Investors appears to be a clear conflict of interest.
  • 2018: Kimley-Horn started working with the NCDOT R-5930 project team and selected a “project area” for the alternative evaluation process that matched the 2015 Chatham Park concept map alignment for North Chatham Park Way, obviously benefiting Chatham Park Investors and effectively dooming North Woods to destruction.
  • 2021: NCDOT announced their preferred alternative for R-5930 that perfectly matched the 2015 Chatham Park concept map.

This outcome appears to be the result of a corrupted evaluation process at NCDOT. The evaluation process appears biased and dishonest, with the apparent goal of benefiting Chatham Park.  NCDOT seems to have been steered by Kimley-Horn towards only considering options within North Woods, instead of also considering options east of North Woods on land owned by Chatham Park Investors.

We talk with Mark Pavao at the 2021 Pittsboro Street Festival

On August 23, 2021, Mayor Nass and the Pittsboro Commissioners pushed back and asked NCDOT to evaluate an option east of North Woods. At that time, in the public meeting, NCDOT agreed to this request. Two months later, NCDOT has done nothing to evaluate this additional option. In fact, NCDOT appears to be developing excuses and obstacles to convince Pittsboro to back down from its request. 

I am an optimist by nature and hope that we can find ways for Pittsboro and Chatham County to work in harmony with Chatham Park Investors, but first, WE MUST STOP THE NORTH WOODS LAND GRAB.