The changing face of real estate: Trends and challenges in Chatham County

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – Amid the rolling hills and burgeoning communities of Chatham County, the interplay between real estate development and community planning remains a focal point of local governance. At the heart of this dynamic is the Chatham County Planning Board, tasked with navigating the complex landscape of growth, environmental preservation, and community needs. In the last portion of my conversation with real estate agent Eric Andrews, we delved into the intricacies of planning and real estate in Chatham County, highlighting key challenges, significant players, and the ongoing debate about development practices.

The Legacy of George Lucier: Mentorship and Preparation

George Lucier, a former chairman of the Chatham County Planning Board, left an indelible mark on local governance. Known for his meticulous preparation and deep understanding of planning principles, Lucier served as a mentor to many current board members. “George taught me the importance of preparation,” recalls current board member, Eric Andrews. “You’re not going to be on that board making votes and decisions without studying the material and knowing the material. Nobody did it as well as he did.”

Lucier’s approach underscored the necessity of site surveys and thorough research, ensuring that every decision was informed and reflective of both community interests and technical feasibility. His legacy continues to influence the board’s operations, fostering a culture of diligence and comprehensive evaluation.

The Role of Developers on the Planning Board: A Contested Necessity

The inclusion of developers on the planning board often sparks debate. Some argue that having developers involved can lead to conflicts of interest, while others believe their expertise is crucial for informed decision-making. “Should we have a developer on the planning board? I would argue that you probably do need one,” Eric stated. “Their perspective is appreciated and provides another way of looking at things.”

This sentiment reflects a broader recognition of the value that diverse experiences bring to the planning process. Eric believes that developers understand market realities and logistical challenges, offering insights that can enhance the board’s deliberations. However, it remains essential to balance these perspectives with community interests to maintain trust and transparency.

Economic Impact of Jordan Lake: Balancing Recreation and Development

Jordan Lake, a centerpiece of Chatham County’s recreational offerings, attracts more visitors than any other public park in the state. This influx significantly boosts the local economy, presenting both opportunities and challenges for development. “Jordan Lake is really important to our economy. We get dollars from those visitors,” Andrews noted.

However, this popularity also necessitates careful planning to manage traffic, environmental impact, and infrastructure needs. One issue that has arisen is the location of boat storage facilities. While some argue for keeping these facilities along Highway 64 due to visibility and accessibility, the high cost of land in this area complicates such plans. The Chatham County planning board must navigate these competing interests to find practical and economically viable solutions.

Digital Transformation in Real Estate: A Paradigm Shift

The real estate industry in Chatham County, like elsewhere, has undergone a significant transformation driven by digital technologies. Online property searches have skyrocketed by 2,000% over the last decade, shifting the role of real estate agents from gatekeepers of information to facilitators of transactions. “Real estate is all about digital right now. People are searching for properties online more than ever,” explained Eric.

Agents now focus on providing value through market analysis, process guidance, and leveraging digital platforms for marketing. This shift has democratized access to information, empowering buyers and sellers while also raising the bar for service quality in the industry.

Challenges in Land Access: The Puzzle of Landlocked Parcels

One of the more unique challenges in Chatham County involves landlocked parcels—pieces of land without direct access to public roads. These situations often arise from informal agreements, known as “handshake easements,” which lack legal documentation. “A parcel of land without deed access can become very problematic,” explained Andrews.

Resolving these issues can be complex, involving negotiations with neighboring landowners and potential legal disputes. The prevalence of such parcels underscores the importance of thorough due diligence in land transactions and the need for clear, recorded agreements to ensure long-term usability and marketability of properties.

Expanding Horizons: Real Estate Development Beyond Chatham County

While Chatham County remains a central focus, local real estate professionals are increasingly engaging in projects across a broader geographic area. “I’m not just a Chatham County guy anymore. I’m working in Guilford, Randolph, Orange, Harnett, and Durham counties,” shared Eric andrews, who specializes in large land transactions.

This expansion reflects the interconnected nature of regional development and the growing demand for professional expertise in navigating complex entitlement contracts. These contracts, which hinge on securing approvals for specific development plans, represent a critical area of specialization that can significantly enhance property values.

The Planning Department: Backbone of Informed Decision-Making

The Chatham County Planning Department plays a pivotal role in supporting the planning board by providing comprehensive materials and analyses. “Our planning department does a great job of preparation. They supply us with a lot of material, ensuring we’re well-informed,” noted board member Eric Andrews.

This collaboration ensures that the board’s decisions are grounded in robust data and align with both county and state regulations. The department’s efforts are crucial in maintaining the integrity and effectiveness of the planning process, facilitating informed and balanced development across the county.

The Future of Real Estate and Planning in Chatham County

As Chatham County continues to grow, the planning board faces the ongoing challenge of balancing development with community needs and environmental preservation. The legacy of leaders like George Lucier, the inclusion of diverse perspectives, and the robust support from the planning department all contribute to a dynamic and effective planning process.

Looking ahead, the integration of digital technologies will continue to shape the landscape. The focus will remain on ensuring sustainable growth that enhances the quality of life for residents while preserving the natural beauty and resources that define Chatham County.

Watch on YouTube – Part 3 planning board and real estate in Chatham County – 5.17.24 by Merlin

00:13 Importance of preparation in the planning board

  • George Lucier emphasized the importance of studying and knowing the material before making decisions
  • Having a developer on the planning board can bring valuable insights and perspectives

01:58 Providing diverse perspectives on the Planning Board

  • Bringing in different viewpoints helps the board consider various angles and make informed decisions
  • Highlighting the economic importance of boat storage and visitors at Jordan Lake, impacting decisions on location and accessibility

03:52 Consider proximity to boat ramps for boat storage locations.

  • Boat storage near a boat ramp can reduce traffic compared to a distant location.
  • Planning board members must adhere to county and state guidelines and parameters.

05:36 Importance of digital transformation in real estate industry

  • Real estate industry shifting towards digital platforms for property searches
  • Increased online property searches by 2,000% in the last 10 years

07:27 Educational focus on land process and real estate in Chatham County

  • Content centered on providing information about land process and real estate, not individual properties
  • Explanation about landlock and deed access in real estate scenarios

09:11 Challenges of private road access in Chatham County

  • Many properties in Chatham County lack public road Frontage
  • Lack of recorded road agreements can lead to legal and financial issues

10:53 Specializing in entitlement contracts for real estate development

  • Represent large landholders to secure approval for desired density of lots
  • Expand client base to multiple counties for more opportunities

12:35 Real estate closing takes 15-24 months.

  • Former student is lucky to have family land and is a deer hunter.
  • Real estate in the southwest part of the county is cheaper but not for long.