Folks in southeast Chatham will lose their homes, their farms, and their businesses

By Peyton Holland

Moncure, NC – The largest economic development project in NC history is coming to Chatham County. While this project will bring much-needed jobs to this area, many in our community are going to be negatively impacted. In all of the talks leading up to this development, there were no plans presented that showed current residents being forced from their homes to make way for “infrastructure improvements” to accommodate these new businesses. And now, one week before the community meeting, the maps are finally revealed that show who and what will be impacted. According to the website, the project is scheduled to start in September of 2022. That doesn’t seem like an adequate turnaround time to take into account community concerns and make adjustments.

Public Meeting – August 16 from 4pm-7pm at the Chatham County Ag Center regarding the changes that will take place on Pea Ridge Rd, New Elam Church Rd, and Old US 1.

Public Meeting Link.

The Triangle Innovation Point Roadway Network Improvements will be completed in two phases.

Phase 1  (Public Meeting Map for Phase 1)

Anticipated improvements include: 

  • modifying the U.S. 1 interchange with Old U.S. 1 (Exit 84)
  • adding a new U.S. 1 interchange with New Elam Church Road 
  • realigning New Elam Church Road between U.S. 1 and Old U.S. 1
    • upgrading this section of New Elam Church Road to a multi-lane facility
  • constructing interchange access from realigned New Elam Church Road to Old U.S. 1
    • spanning the railroad right of way with the interchange bridge
  • improving the Christian Chapel Church Road intersection with N.C. 42
  • improving the Pea Ridge Road intersection with Old U.S. 1

Phase 2  (Public Meeting Map for Phase 2)

Anticipated improvements include: 

  • revising the existing U.S. 1 interchange with Pea Ridge Road (Exit 81)
  • realigning Pea Ridge Road between U.S. 1 and Old U.S. 1
    • upgrading this section of Pea Ridge Road to a multi-lane facility
  • constructing interchange access from realigned Pea Ridge Road to Old U.S. 1
    • spanning the railroad right of way with the interchange bridge

There seems to be a common trend in Southeastern Chatham County…one in which prospective residents and businesses seem to have a higher value than those who currently live here. Many in this community have lived in and invested in this area for decades and even generations. Within the last few months, a 1,500+ home age-restricted compact community was approved under the guise of a “conservation subdivision.” Now, with an electric car manufacturer and shipping facility moving in, it is as if the community that currently exists here – the churches, the homes, the families…they are just small obstacles to “growth”.

These changes will impact numerous families. People will lose their homes, their farms, and their businesses.

While I am an advocate for bringing job opportunities to our area (70% of our residents travel outside of the county to work), I know there has to be a way to preserve the communities and spaces that make our county unique while welcoming in businesses. This doesn’t seem to be the way. Not to mention the other impacts that those of us who are not having our homes or land taken away will experience. The Chatham County Comprehensive Land Use Plan designates the areas around these employment centers as rural and agricultural areas. However, our rural areas are now going to be faced with significant traffic increases, light and noise pollution, increased property taxes, the inability of any local residents to afford any additional agricultural or farmland, and the continual erosion of our rural character (the number one thing that most citizens in the county are concerned about preserving).

Many families in this area remember what happened when Jordan Lake was built. Tens of thousands of acres, some of the best farmland in the state, were taken from families that had built their lives here. They lost their homes, their farms, their communities, and their way of life for a one-time payment of “market value” of $150-$350 per acre. My grandparents had 350 acres of their farms taken – a significant reduction when you rely on your land to generate income and food for your entire family (families were not small families of three back then and were often multigenerational working on one farm). Both then and now, residents will receive a one-time payment “market value” payment, while the county, state, and businesses the changes are being made for will receive ongoing revenue and benefit from acquiring the residents’ property.

There has got to be a better way to support businesses that want to provide employment opportunities for our community without pushing out the residents that have been contributors and supporters of the community long before it was ever a target for economic development. North Carolina’s largest economic investment doesn’t have to be a loss for those that already call this area home.