June 12, 2014

Pittsboro takes a bold step with Chatham Park

Pittsboro commissioners are taking a big step, and, some residents say, a big chance in approving the Chatham Park development

When the “planned community” of Reston, Va., was founded outside Washington in the mid-1960s, it was revolutionary. A contained city, a walking city, with conveniences and short commutes.

Today the Triangle is getting ready for its Reston. Developers have been given a green light to build Chatham Park, a 7,500-acre Chatham County property that may be the largest single development plan in the history of North Carolina. Its backers say they’re going to create a community that will provide residents a chance to use their cars less and their legs more. It also might lead to a boom in business development and spur regional mass transit.

Some in Pittsboro questioned the wisdom of the development, fearing watershed infringement at Jordan Lake and the Haw River. Those are legitimate concerns, but Preston Development Co., owned by developers Tim Smith and Julian “Bubba” Rawl, vows that Chatham Park will be environmentally friendly. Indeed, the developers say, the massive project’s accord with nature will be one of its selling points for prospective buyers.

Many in rural Chatham County and Pittsboro, with 4,000 residents, are understandably wary of the mega development. Its construction and operation will need to be monitored closely to see that it improves the quality of life instead of simply burdening the area with more traffic and pollution. Chatham Park is a bold move by its developers that will open new possibilities for area residents there now and those to come. It will work best if both sides work together.

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