Development plans cause controversy in Pittsboro


A development that could bring more than 55,000 people to Chatham County is at the center of a battle between Pittsboro's current mayor and the mayor-elect.

Fear of an unforeseeable future is fueling passionate protest over a plan they say was quietly slipped onto Monday night's agenda.

"Friday, late after five, the agenda was actually posted and that's when learned about it," said Amanda Robertson, with Pittsboro Matters.

Pittsboro Matters says more time is needed before the town votes on the Chatham Park master plan. It's a project that could catapult the town's population from 4,000 to more than 60,000 people.

"We have been trying to get the town to slow down, not vote because we don't think they've got the information for this," said Pittsboro resident Elaine Chiosso.

The 50 people protesting before the meeting Monday night evidently represent a fraction of those who have a problem with the plan. At least 150 more squeezed inside the commissioner's regular meeting.

"It's the largest mixed used development in the history of the state of North Carolina," said Pittsboro resident Dee Reed.

"The idea that this has been unknown --  It's something we've all know about, and it's something we need to wrap our head around," said Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller.

Preston Development Company has bought more than 7,000 acres across town in the last seven years. It's land to construct business hubs, trails and homes that would make up Chatham Park.

"I'm speaking for African-Americans who are not here and also for poor whites who are not here," said civil rights activist Dr. Ben Chavis.

Chavis, a former national executive director for the NAACP and an environmental activist, says the park can create opportunities for people who need it most.

"We need more jobs in this community," said Chavis. "We need better housing in this community."

Others also question the timing saying Mayor Randy Voller is trying to fast track the plan since Monday was his last meeting as Pittsboro's elected mayor.

However, he really doesn't have a vote in the matter because only the commissioners will be voting.

Late Monday night, the commissioners voted 4-1 to table the decision.

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