Controversial “501 Landing” shopping center coming to Northeast Chatham on 15-501

Pittsboro, NC – BOLD Development Group has announced that construction of the 501 Landing shopping center is underway and is on target to open for business this summer.

(source: Bold Development Group brochure)

The shopping center is located 10329 US Hwy 15-501 across from the Harris Teeter Chatham Downs Shopping Center. The center consists of two buildings, each 7,200 square feet. The end units have a shared, partially-covered outdoor patio area. The property is for retail, office and/or medical use.

As construction wraps up on the building shell, 501 Landing is already halfway leased. Seeds of Wonder Spanish Immersion Daycare, Mi’s Nail Spa, and Ignite Wellness Chiropractic Center are working on their fit-ups and expect to open later this year.

(source: Bold Development Group brochure)

In 2019, the owners and developers of “501 Landing” submitted an application to rezone this 5 acre property from Residential to Neighborhood Business. This property was located next to a piece of property a Publix grocery store tried to locate in two years earlier in 2017.

Public hearing on rezoning residential property to commercial on 15-501 next to the “501 Landing” site.

Working under the name “Pitt Hill X,” the developer submitted a plan and an application for a zoning change to the Chatham County Planning Department on September 30, 2019. Former Pittsboro Town Commissioner Michael Fiocco represented the developers, which included Chapelboro and Chatham News & Record co-owner Chris Ehrenfeld.

The application went before the Chatham County planning board. There were numerous public comments from Polk’s Landing neighborhood residents asking them to vote “no” on the change in zoning. Many expressed concerns over the alteration of the area from a wooded lot to a commercial lot. Some cited concerns about too much development in a residential area.

The Chatham County Planning Board, a group made up by citizens, voted 8-3 against the rezoning request. In the end, Chatham County Commissioner Chairman Karen Howard and Vice Chairman Diana Hales voted against the move, while Commissioners Jim Crawford, Mike Dasher and Andy Wilkie voted in favor.

Chatham County Planning Board Minutes – January 7, 2020

A Legislative public hearing request by Pitt Hill X, LLC for a conditional district rezoning from R-1 Residential to CD-NB for retail shopping center, Parcel No. 2721, located at 10329 US 15-501 N, Baldwin Township on approximately 5.01 acres.

* Mr. Steve Gongemi of 523 Redbud stated he is a Chiropractor on the adjoining property and is in opposition to this development due to the scope of the project on a small lot. He stated when he was
before the Planning Board two years ago, two Board members voted against his project because of traffic
concerns, his traffic is 25 cars per week and this project will have much more. He is not opposed to
commercial development, but not in this size lot. He stated all the different uses for this development
which will be on an unknown septic system. He also mention all of the commercial land already rezoned
not being used. Mr. Gongemi thanked the Planning Board for their time.
* Mr. Paul Mele of 104 Creeks Edge stated he lives in Polks Village and stated there is a lot of commercial
areas available now without having to rezone more residential areas. Mr. Mele mentioned concerns for
the lighting, noise, and increased traffic for his neighborhood. He also stated there are three corners of
this area already commercial and asked is there really a need for all four corners to be rezoned to
commercial. Mr. Mele thanked the Planning Board for their time.
* Mr. John Midyette of 102 Hidden Valley Drive stated he is concerned for the environment impacts that
this project would have on the Pokeberry Creek watershed and the downstream neighborhoods that go
all the way down Pokeberry Creek watershed as it drains into the Haw River. He stated the impervious
surface and light pollution of this project is a problem for the neighborhood, but also the septic system.
The trees currently on that parcel of property absorb all of the water preventing it from flowing into the
neighborhood and pushing into Pokeberry Creek watershed. Mr. Midyette stated he believes this project
although smaller, will still have the same impact as the Publix project from a couple years ago. He is also
concerned that the parcels to the north of this property will become commercial property as well if this is
rezoned to commercial. Mr. Midyette does agree that Chatham County needs to pull in more commercial
tax revenue, but it would be highly irresponsible to allow commercial development simply because of the
impact on the watershed, loss of the trees, and loss of property value. Mr. Midyette thanked the Planning
* Mr. Pablo Hock of 100 Hidden Valle Drive stated he is an adjacent property owner and purchased his
home three years ago. He enjoys the wooded area and the feeling of being away from the city, if this
project is approved there will be a parking lot out of his bedroom window. The privacy and joy of living
near nature will be removed when the area is clear cut. Mr. Hock stated he is concern that the waste from
the septic will drain into their properties and Pokeberry Creek because of the topography of the land. Mr.
Hock stated he grew up in a large city and is not against progress, but there are still two empty commercial lots in Polks Landing just walking distance from this parcel that has not been developed in years. He stated this is not a development this area needs and makes you think if this project is just for profit without measuring the consequences for the environment, wildlife, and adjacent land owners. Mr. Hock stated the developers communicated during the community meeting that the soils on the property are great, but during the public hearing, they said they have not had the soils tested yet or how many trees will need to be removed. Mr. Hock asked the Planning Board to vote no towards this rezoning and thanked the Board.

Board Discussion followed and some items discussed were as follows:
* Mr. Galin stated this project is on a smaller lot, but the size of the impervious surface by ratio is larger
than the proposed Publix project. There was some Board discussion about the size of the lot and the
size of the built upon area.
* Mr. Arthur stated he believes this is exactly the type of development that is a real problem for the
County. Although it is in the community center node, there is nothing stated how big these community node should be. If this item is approved then the parcels north of this property will not be residential
anymore, but commercial and they may be commercial one day, but doesn’t feel the County is ready for
it yet. The fact is, Williams Corner, Polks Landing, and Briar Chapel are commercial properties and
looking for commercial business. Mr. Arthur stated this project will increase traffic problems and it will
only get worse as more commercial businesses move in. There needs to be a limit on this development
and will vote no on this project. Mr. Arthur stated he is not against what the developers want to do, the
County needs this development just not where they proposed to put it.
* Mr. Michael Fiocco stated as a developer, they would not have chosen this parcel if it not been in the
community center node and what the County is saying to all land owners and all citizens is this is the
place to put commercial business. The County is zoned R-1 and there are very few nodes that have
been identified for commercial areas and this node is one of them. Mr. Fiocco stated these two building
will have local small business owners as tenants, not large franchises or national chair restaurants. He
stated they purposely designed this site to be up against the road to move it as far away from the
neighborhood as possible and they are trying to be highly respectable to the neighborhood. Mr. Fiocco
stated they do know the capability of the septic field they just have not proceeded with the expense of
permitting the system. There is no interest in removing all of the trees and only remove the trees
required for the septic system to function.
Mr. Fiocco stated as far as the traffic concerns, they have the same concerns, and met with DOT about
them. There will be a deceleration lane and cars will have the ability to get out of the through traffic lane
and pull into this property. They have also pushed the parking lot 100 feet back to allow the car to keep
moving at a safe speed without having to stop and make a decision causing backups into the highway.
This site has been designed specifically for public health and welfare. He also stated there is a need for
tax base and jobs in the County and this center will help achieve those obligations.
* Chair Lucier asked the developer to respond to the issue that was raised about the County already has
a lot of commercial areas that are currently vacant. Chair Lucier listed out several areas that are
commercial with vacant property. Mr. Fiocco stated the market is an interesting dynamic and the
properties mentioned, rezoned 15 years have gone through a very rough time and they may not have
fully recovered. He does not know what their price points are, but cost is always an issue and this is an
affordable project.
* Mr. Spoon asked if the building were one story buildings. Mr. Fiocco stated yes.
* Mr. Chris Ehrenfeld stated the other projects discussed such as Williams Corner and Briar Chapel are
significantly larger projects and are suited for significantly larger occupants and there are no small
properties available on the 15/501 corridor. This project will target small business owners like insurance
agents, real estate office, attorney office, and maybe some type of food service where there is nowhere
else for them to locate. The reason for this project is for the opportunity and the demand that small
businesses want to have some place to open and the Comp Plan states this is the place desired by the
Ms. Hager asked the developer what is the issue with developing in an already commercial zoned area
such as Williams Corner. Mr. Ehrenfeld stated the commercial area is zoned commercial, but it is not
developed and would cost millions of dollars to complete. He stated this project is a much smaller scale project and will allow for small businesses to occupy. With Williams Corner, if it were to be developed it
is still years away and there is demand now for small business owners. There was some discussion
about some empty lots in the Polks Landing commercial area.
Mr. Ehrenfeld stated there are approved properties that have not been developed yet, but there are not
any inventory where a small business can be a tenant currently. Mr. Ehrenfeld stated he is a
commercial real estate broker and he has a lot of small business clients who can’t find space to lease
for their business anywhere on the 15/501 corridor. We want to put two 7000 sqft building on 15/501
and they would not be pursuing it if they didn’t already know the high demand from small business
owners that will provide services that are needed in our County. Mr. Ehrenfeld listed the statistics of
how many Chatham County residents commute out of the County for work and resources to spend their
money in surrounding counties and not Chatham County.
* Mr. Galin asked the developers what is their timeline if this property were to be approved for rezoning.
Mr. Ehrenfeld stated they would start construction as soon as they have permits.
* Mr. Sullivan stated Mr. Ehrenfeld has been looking for property on 15/501 for several years and during
the pre-application meetings with him and all other developers the first thing we start out with is the
Comprehensive Plan and looking at the map. If they propose a parcel not in a designated area, we
inform them they can apply, but the likelihood of approval is diminished if it is not in one of the
designated nodes. Mr. Sullivan stated the Planning staff sees a lot of developers not apply for rezoning
because of the cost involved and the chances of the property not passing the rezoning process. Mr.
Sullivan stated with this project and other rezoning cases, we are seeing them more targeted to the
nodes and how they fit in to the overall Comp Plan.
Chair Lucier stated he understands, but his concern is the traffic with all of the development that is to
come in the already approved commercial areas such as Williams Corner which might be as much as
250,000 sqft of commercial space. Chair Lucier also feels that not all four corners of the community
center node needs to be zoned commercial. Mr. Arthur stated his concern is that all the residential
areas will be rezoned into commercial zoning.
* There was some Board discussion as to what makes up a community center node and how they are
identified in Chatham County. Vice-Chair Siverson stated the Comp Plan goal is to have commercial
development in the towns and have some nodes between them.
* Mr. Fiocco stated a key component of the Comp Plan is the preservation of the rural character of the
County and it was recognized to balance that with the need for a mix of tax revenue base and not place
all the revenue burden on the residential tax base. The Comp Plan focuses development in the
municipalities and three nodes, this is one of those nodes.
* Mr. Spoon stated if the Comprehensive Plan is to work then we need to stick with it and the Comp Plan
states this is one of the places commercial development is allowed. Business people need to know
there is somewhere in the County for their business. Also, being respectful to the adjacent property
owners is very important and this project is as good as it gets.
* Mr. Fiocco stated the design for this project is for small local business owners and not large chair
franchises. There are twelve different bays, six per building with only 1200 sqft per bay.
* Ms. Moose stated this project looks like an appropriate place on paper and there will be more pressure
for development in this area in the future. She recognizes the need for tax income for the County,
however the priority is for the residents who already live in this area and it does not seem that the
concerns of the neighbors have been resolved. Mr. Arthur stated the County needs and wants
commercial business and suggested several places that are already zoned commercial.
Vice-Chair Siverson raised her concern that this is too much development on too small of a parcel with
the potential runoff into adjoining properties. Mr. Arthur stated one day this area might all be
commercial, but the pressure for more commercial property is not there now.
* Mr. Fiocco stated there was a tremendous amount of time and expenditure put in the Land Use Plan
and the Land Use Plan identifies this area, one of very few, as the place for commercial. If this location
is deemed inappropriate then that calls into question the investment of the Land Use Plan and the value
that the Land Use Plan brought to the County. Chair Lucier pointed out the different nodes in the
County. Mr. Ehrenfeld stated there are only two nodes in the County that are community centers that is
the highest density for commercial concentration.
Mr. Spoon stated the Comp Plan is a good plan and we need to let businesses be where we
designated them to be located. Chair Lucier stated the Comp Plan is also explicit that it is not
necessary to fill up all four corners of a node. Mr. Spoon stated businesses need to have certainty and
plan for the future and this just puts a question mark on everything.
* There was some Board discussion about the property buffers and the distance the parking lot and
buildings are from the adjoining property owners. There was also discussion about light pollution on the
* Chair Lucier asked the Planning Board if they wanted to vote on the item tonight or table the item to
next meeting. Mr. Arthur made a motion to not approve this item; second by Mr. Flores. Mr. Frazier
asked to hear the consistency statement first. There was some Board discussion about the consistency
* Mr. Wilson asked if this items was denied, how long before they can reapply. Mr. Sullivan stated
because this is conditional district rezoning they cannot reapply for 12 months.
* Ms. Hager asked if they could rework the site plan and scale down the project. Mr. Fiocco stated that is
not a possibility because the project has to make short term and long term economic sense and
reducing the square footage reduces the lease payment. Mr. Fiocco stated the conditional zoning
classification is an interesting tool for the County and there are 68 permitted uses in the neighborhood
business district and we have removed 21 of those uses in an effort to acknowledge the fact they there
are in proximity to a residential area on a major corridor within this node. Mr. Fiocco stated they are
trying very hard to be respectful to the neighbors and reduced 30% of the uses that would otherwise be
allowed while also trying to fulfill the vision of the County as expressed in the Land Use Plan. Mr. Galin
stated there can be amendments made to Plans.Chatham County Planning Board Minutes
January 7, 2020 Page | 17
* Ms. Weakley asked about stormwater treatment for the parking lot. Mr. Fiocco stated the plan has
sheet flow from the parking lot into the bio-retention pond.
* Chair Lucier reminded the Board that there is a motion and there needs to be a vote. Mr. Frazier
requested a vote on the consistency statement first.
* Mr. Ehrenfeld stated he volunteers on a lot of different items such as economic development and
working with small businesses within the County. As Mr. Sullivan has said I have come to him time and
time again with properties and I finally got behind the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The only way our
community is going to survive in the long run is we have to have some development somewhere in
order to preserve everything else. In all the rules we keep making and enforcing in the County are
causing sprawl rather than dense development which is the most environmentally friendly development,
not sprawl. Mr. Ehrenfeld stated the Comp Plan is calling for dense development and preservation, but
if the County won’t allow the dense development where they said they want the dense development,
then he doesn’t understand. Mr. Arthur stated they want dense development, but where it is already
zoned for it.
* Chair Lucier provided a consistency statement for the Planning Board that this project is not consistent
with the Comprehensive Plan. Chair Lucier suggested, there is a variation and flexibility of uses in the
community centers and the proposal is in close proximity to existing residential development and is
therefore inconsistent.
Motion made by Mr. Arthur to approve the inconsistency statement; there is a variation and flexibility of
uses in the community centers and the proposal is in close proximity to existing residential
development and is therefore inconsistent; second by Mr. Flores. Motion passed, 8-3. Opposed by Mr.
Spoon, Ms. Hager, and Mr. Frazier.
Motion made by Mr. Arthur to not approve this item; second by Mr. Flores. Motion passed, 8-3. Opposed by Mr. Spoon, Ms. Hager, and Mr. Frazier.