There were lots of dollar signs at the Chatham Board of Commissioners’ meeting Monday night, with the board officially approving the county’s 2021-2022 budget and accepting a proposal for a limited commitment bond worth $ 85 million.
The board also listened to public discourse on several development projects, including two subdivision platforms and a rezoning for a proposed 55-year-old community near US Hwy. 15-501.
Debate on proposed development
Travis Blake, a developer representing Herndon Farms One LLC, submitted an application to the board of directors to rezoning for a 161-unit development on US Hwy. 15-501 for adults aged 55 and over. In addition to 92 single-family homes, 16 maisonettes, 34 detached townhouses and 19 townhouses, the 97.86 hectare planned project would include both indoor and outdoor event spaces, community gardens, a pasture and community care facility.
Area Manager Angela Plummer’s planners, speaking for the county staff, expressed reservations about several aspects of the Herndon Farms plan. The location of a bus stop and the lack of street parking, as noted in the plans for the project, were just as much a concern as the availability of affordable housing.
“The applicant is proposing payment in lieu of affordable housing,” Plummer told commissioners. “This is still required, and the county never really sees affordable housing made available to its citizens.”
In a Fiscal Impact Analysis document accompanying his presentation, Herndon Farms listed a “payment replacement” contribution of $ 80,500 and categorized it under “one-time income.” That figure equates to a $ 500 affordable housing charge per unit in the 161 unit development.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the meeting stemmed from Blake’s proposal to rededicate an acre lot separated from the settlement’s residential area by the hwy. 15-501. The purpose of the proposed reallocation, which would reclassify the land as “IL Light Industrial”, was to build a sewage treatment plant in the area.
âThe system itself will consist of two devices that will be 15 m long, 5 m wide and 3 m high. That’s it. That’s all the space they take up, âBlake said.
Chatham residents took the podium to express concern about the sewage treatment plant’s proximity to the Briar Chapel development.
“The planned site of the sewage treatment plant is between the Oak Island community and Briar Chapel, north of the power line near the Briar Chapel porch and public walking trails,” said Liz Rolison of Chatham to the board. “I think most of us would agree that having a regional sewage treatment plant just 150 to 700 feet from open air restaurants is just not a good plan.”
Addressing concerns, Blake stated that the project âis not intended to be a regional sewage treatment plant,â and told community members, âYou will not see the facility. … You won’t hear it, you won’t smell it. “
However, speakers at the meeting appeared unsure, citing previous difficulties with wastewater management at Briar Chapel and urging the board to act.
“Problems with the Briar Chapel sewage treatment plant have been widely publicized despite the fact that it is expanding to double capacity …” said Patricia Van Hoy, Briar Chapel resident. “[Herndon Farms has] The plant and spray fields are conveniently located away from their development at the front of the Briar Chapel and next to restaurants and neighboring subdivisions. “
The board finally decided to extend the public hearing on the construction project – and the sewage treatment plant – until its next meeting on July 19.
The board also unanimously approved a proposal for a limited bond issue. The funding, which would amount to approximately $ 85 million, would be used to build and equip the Chatham County Schools central service building and an emergency response center.
Some of the funding would also be used to refinance some of the county’s existing debt, but the new interest rate after the refinance is not yet known.
The board voted unanimously in the meeting on Monday evening for the approval of the district’s budget for 2021-2022.
Estimated spending in the budget is approximately $ 55 million for Chatham County Schools, $ 17 million for the Sheriff’s Department, and $ 11 million for Social Services. The budget also includes a 3 percent increase in salaries for the county manager, Register of Deeds, sheriff, and board of commissioners, noting that the increase âis in line with the increases received by county employees become”.
Still, the economic gap between Chatham’s east side and west side seemed obvious to the newly elected District Commissioner Franklin Gomez.
âI want to support the board in their endeavors … They all also help in the growth efforts and future developments in the [western part of the county]”Said Gomez. ââ¦ I know that this entire board has devoted time to the West, be it as a mentor or as a volunteer for nonprofits that serve the West. I am very grateful to all of you, and I hope that we can continue these efforts here in Chatham County to address growth not just in the east, but potentially future growth in the west. “
Commissioner Karen Howard also addressed the county’s economic disparities.
“Sometimes it’s hard to accept that a lot of money goes where a lot of people are when it means that part of a community that doesn’t have that many people looks like it’s not getting enough,” she said. âBut we have certainly made ourselves very aware of this … [county staff] took great care … you don’t have to have the same playing field, but the playing field should be fair and fair. “
Howard also suggested that the board recognize June 19 as “Juneteenth” and designate it as an official holiday within Chatham County. All three commissioners at the meeting – Howard, Gomez, and Chairman Mike Dasher – voted in favor of the resolution.
The resolution stated in part: “Residents and staff are encouraged to use the day to reflect and take action to advance freedom and equality.”
In addition, the board approved several fireworks – including one at the Governor’s Club on July 4th – and approved a variety of appointments to local committees such as the Libraries Advisory Committee, the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, and the Transportation Advisory Committee.