The last stand: A Chatham County resident speaks out against HB 906

By John Alderman
This is a letter to the Chatham County Commissioners

Pittsboro, NC – Thank you for representing all Chatham County citizens.

Last year, my wife and I moved out of north Chatham County after living there for almost fifty years. We chose to remain in our beautiful county but now live deeper in what is left of the countryside. We moved for numerous reasons, including accelerating development, increasingly deadly traffic and congestion on our roads and highways, and rapid environmental quality declines.

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Before buying our land in rural Chatham County, we checked on zoning with the Planning Department. I don’t think the Planning Department knew about the potential effects of Pittsboro’s ability to satellite zone, but, if they had told me, we would have bought land in some other rural county with projected “low growth during the foreseeable future.” Such counties still exist in North Carolina.

Why should our BOC object to HB 906?

1.Voters must have a voice in the direction of their government. Citizens have a most direct and meaningful voice by voting. If approved, HB 906 and its associated statute eliminate Chatham County citizens’ ability to direct the fate of their community, especially around Pittsboro, Goldston, and Siler City. Rural folks and others not living within the borders of these towns cannot vote the town politicians in or out of office. To me, that seems un-American. As an example of what is coming at us if Pittsboro is added to the exempt list as proposed in HB 906, think of Goldston. It was added to the list of exempt towns two years ago. Since then, Goldston has entertained annexing over 1,100 acres for a landfill, a massive housing development, a high-density development, and a new rock quarry. Rural affected citizens around these potential projects are irate but have no political voice in Goldston. Given its proximity to the Triangle and its location at the intersection of two major highways, think about what Pittsboro will rapidly do with this kind of authority and the effects on county citizens.

2. HB 906 and its associated satellite zoning statute essentially support urban sprawl, which is contrary to county planning and zoning documents that have taken years to develop. HB 906 and its associated satellite zoning statute alter the rules for development in Chatham County and ultimately allow towns and cities to eventually transform Chatham County into an urban metropolitan area.

3. Also, consider the eminent domain cases that will arise when infrastructures cross private rural citizens’ properties to service satellite annexed properties. Such nightmares are playing out in Apex associated with sewer lines (i.e., Apex vs. Rubin). Although similar cases will be challenged in court here in Chatham County, citizens will be burdened with legal costs and emotional stress. In addition to eminent domain issues, we may well see North Carolina’s first case questioning whether satellite zoning is illegal spot zoning. Do not let these legal nightmares happen in Chatham County; please ask Representative Reives to pull HB 906. Further, please request that he spearhead removal of Goldston and Siler City from the associated satellite zoning statute.

4. I’ve worked in the environmental field for more than forty years and have seen much that is concerning, including the effects of a changing climate. As Chatham County leaders, you should prepare for the future your citizens will face. Encourage and find ways to support our three towns to grow wisely, increase their densities, and grow up, not out. Protect our highly productive agricultural and silvicultural landscapes for ourselves and future generations. Passage of HB 906 and its associated satellite zoning statute will ensure we fail with these efforts.

5. Finally, I try very hard to stay abreast of Chatham County news but only learned about HB 906 about ten days ago from a short news segment on Google News. The bill at the state legislature was available online about four days later. Given the potentially significant effects of this bill on all citizens, it would have been helpful for Chatham County BOC to have held a public hearing to explain the bill and listen attentively to citizens’ comments for and against the bill. Given that this did not occur, I respectfully request that you ask Representative Reives to pull HB 906.

John M. Alderman
Hickory Mountain Township