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Chatham Park meets the standards of smart growth as outlined by Jeff Starkweather of Pittsboro Matters?

January 29th, 2014 · No Comments

Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2014 19:14:41 -0500
From: samantha capitol
Subject: Chatham Park: Does it meet the standards of smart growth?

I have continued to do research on Chatham Park, smart growth and development issues in Chatham County and Pittsboro.

I found this answer below on the INDY website from Mr. Starkweather when he was a candidate for County Commissioner in 2008.

His reply to the question is quite compelling and informative.

What I am trying to understand in January of 2014 is how/why the Chatham Park proposal to the Town of Pittsboro fails to meet the standards he sets out in his answer to the INDY:

6. Define “economic development.” What does that term mean to you? Given the state of the national economy and local job losses such as the closing of the Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant, what specifically can you do as a county leader to strengthen and support Chatham’s economy?

Economic development should enhance all aspects of community life, including decent wages and benefits, excellent education and job training opportunities, practical transportation, affordable housing, arts, entertainment/recreation, and protection/preservation of farms and natural areas.

It should provide opportunities for all citizens to prosper and enjoy a good quality of life. I believe Chatham can benefit from a “place-based” economic development strategies that seek to complement and promote its
existing strengths (arts, farms, forests and rivers) with new opportunities (green/clean industry, small businesses and downtown shops, entrepreneurship, job training).

Chatham has a tradition of relying too heavily on low-wage industries that eventually move on to places where they can pay even lower wages. First it was textiles, furniture and dog food, most recently it has been chicken processing. The loss of the chicken plant in Siler City will be devastating for that community because the plant was the town’s largest water and sewer customer, and because so many workers and farmers relied on it for their income, and those workers and farmers shop locally for their family needs. The “quick fix” solution would be to find another chicken plant or comparable industry, which I am not opposed to if similar industries that do not pollute can be found; but that won’t solve the area’s long-term economic development needs.

Chatham has also become a bedroom community for the Triangle, but relying primarily on building and selling homes is not a viable, long-term economic development strategy for the community, because residential and retail developments don’t provide enough tax revenues to support the services (schools, water, sewer, police, etc.) that they require. The consequence of massive residential and commercial development is that land and housing prices, and property taxes, will soar, making Chatham unaffordable to working people.

Chatham County needs to provide more decent jobs, job training, clean green industry and business opportunities for people living in Chatham, both to expand our tax base and keep more of our sales tax in Chatham, but also to enhance the quality of life for local residents who would rather work near home than commute. We also need to enact policies that provide incentives for protecting farmland and forests, for the benefit of farmers, as well as other residents who enjoy the open space of rural life. All of this needs to be done strategically in concert with a comprehensive land use plan.

Unlike the incumbents running for re-election, I do not believe that water and sewer are the only or even necessarily the most important infrastructure needed to promote value-added economic development. Quality
education is, by far, the most important form of county-supported infrastructure. High speed internet access is also crucial for the 21st century economy. Almost as important as infrastructure needed for a place-based strategy are arts and cultural facilities and programs, active recreation facilities, such as gyms, tennis courts, and ball fields, authentic and revitalized downtowns, and outdoor recreation amenities such as biking and hiking trails, canoeing, sailing, etc.

Tags: 27312 · Development · Environment · Growth · Pittsboro · Politics

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