Chatham County Board Of Commissioners Meeting Notes and Information
Chatham’s (continuing?) participation in Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metro Planning Org.; FY 2014 budget presentation and jail update; “temporary” sign regulations; Senate bill 612 strips local government ordinances that exceed minimal state rules; proposed costs and financing of County Agriculture and Civic Center.
Regular Session (all present)
1. Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metro Planning Org (MPO). Small slice of northeast Chatham County is included in this metropolitan planning area. The MPO asked Chatham to share in the local match to this federal grant. Durham had been paying the entire match for years, but now wants all other partners to pay their fair share...Chatham’s would be about $14,000 based on population in the area served. Most Chatham transportation projects are funded by NC DOT, very little D-CH-C MPO money comes into that slice of Chatham, and the MPO is currently focusing on bike paths. BOC waiting on draft Memorandum of Understanding before making a decision to pay, or not participate.
2. FY2014 Budget. Yea, Renee Paschal has returned to Chatham County as Budget Director after a brief flirtation with Wake County. The next budget increased by $3.95 million but is covered by increasing fees (more construction), sales tax, and no tax hike. Some highlights include spending $500,000 for K-8 teacher laptops because of new State testing software that won’t work on the older laptops; four new telecommunicator positions, more electronic monitoring on pretrial release (saves jail space); new jail at old County Landfill will open in summer of 2014 with new hires; $1.5 million for Capital Improvements that will fund some renovations in Annex (the County office building). The new high school (delayed 2 years) is expected to cost $49 million when it is constructed, and a special countywide election this fall to fill a School District vacancy will cost $50,000 from fund balance. Renee said the non-profit panels completed their work and allocated 55% (as directed by the BOC) of the $221,500 total available to agencies focusing on basic hunger, housing and health issues. The County Manager recommended against awarding the $5,000 allocated to Chatham Arts, and instead add it to the BOC’s discretionary $10,000 to augment some of the grant awards.
- Written by Diana Hales
More feasibility studies for highway improvements in Chatham; financial disclosure required to serve on committees; why property revaluation for taxes is a good thing; who does NOT own their mineral rights in Chatham; renting Old Courthouse for events; Chatham County BOC annual report
Work Session (all present)
1. NC DOT discussion about pending 2013 corridor study, 15/501 Pittsboro bypass, north to NC 54 (Orange Co). Darius Sturdivant (DOT, Div. 8) said the 13-mile study would determine deficiencies along this stretch related to increasing traffic flow and how to address it (traffic circles, managed lanes, park & ride, etc). DOT working with Triangle Area Regional Planning Organization (TARPO) and DCHC-MPO (see #2) to form steering committee on project scope. DOT also beginning a Hwy 751 feasibility study.
2. DCHC-MPO (Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization) wants Chatham money. This transportation planning group just includes a small northeast slice of Chatham bordering Orange and Durham counties. Marcia Brown said Chatham has been a member of this body for 20 years and the City of Durham provided the entire 20% match for federal dollars. Now Durham wants all members to contribute a pro-rata share for 2014. The Federal money for 2014 is $1,262,102 and using a population breakdown for the area covered (14,160 folks in the northeast Chatham area), they asked for $11,201 from Chatham BOC. This group’s planning activities include the metropolitan transportation plan, comprehensive transportation plan, congestion plans, special studies, and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that actually funds road improvement projects [Chatham doesn’t get much $ attention]. The existing 1994 Memoranda of Understanding is being revised. No one made a motion to pay Chatham’s share.
3. Statement of Economic Interest required by Ethics Law. Sally Kost stated that financial disclosure of spouses (and other relatives) is now required if a Commissioner or staff is appointed to a regional planning organization because of provisions in the ethics law. She found that objectionable and a reason not to become an “official” member.
4. Revaluation pros and cons. Michael Brown, NC Department of Revenue, said state law requires every county to conduct a revaluation of real property every 8 years. Chatham’s last revaluation was 2009. However, the Chatham Co. tax office will complete property revaluation in 2014 and notify owners of new valuation on January 1, 2015. The purpose of the revaluation is to reflect the current housing market. Brown said 40 counties are on a 4-year reappraisal cycle [think urban counties with lots of growth], and the revaluation is a “snapshot” that reflects buyers/sellers...and realigns values to the market. He said the Dept. of Revenue does a random sampling every year in all 100 counties to compare the sales price of properties to the tax assessed valuation, to achieve a ratio. Chatham’s ratio is 1:04 which means the market value of homes is somewhat below assessed value.
5. Split estates in Chatham County. More than 4,000 acres of land in Chatham County have mineral rights severed (by deed). Sally Kost asked the Register of Deeds to find information on the specific boundaries involved in these split estates, and map them as an overlay to parcels. Numerous surface owners are affected because property may have been inherited, or otherwise subdivided, and it is difficult to track back through deed history because deed language is not consistent. [Note: Title searches only investigate prior 40 years and these split estates go back much further.] This is an issue for property owners because of the potential for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in southern Chatham County. The County collects ad valorum taxes from the mineral rights owners (if they listed the property), so the Register of Deeds can attempt to identify the property boundaries. Kost pointed out that Lee County’s GIS researched and mapped 76 split estates.
6. Rental of Old Courthouse. The old Courthouse in the circle will be dedicated Saturday, April 20. County Manager Charlie Horne drafted guidelines on rental policy: $400 deposit (refundable); a $35/hour charge for custodial service (2 hr. minimum); 60-day reservation; no food or drink on the second floor courtroom. The BOC approved these guidelines. The first use of the refurbished Courthouse will be the Chatham Democratic Party Convention on Saturday, April 27.
7. Chatham stays with Triangle J Council of Government. Mike Cross is working with NC Legislative Forum regarding the proposed re-alignment of counties into various regional patterns. The DOT regional reorganization would have moved Chatham into the Mecklenburg sphere, but we will now stay with Triangle grouping.
Regular Session (all present)
8. State of County report, 2013. No property tax increase; 958 new jobs in last year; spending for general operations is down, but spending for schools is up (a one-time payment of $458,000 for charter schools in 2011 contributed to this increase); mandated services are 72% of the County budget, balance is facility maintenance and computer systems; fewer staff working hard to deliver great service; new buildings include the Justice Center that houses all courtrooms and court officials; the historic courthouse reconstruction...grand reopening April 20; a new backup 9-1-1 center in Siler City; and new 62-acre park in northeast Chatham on land donated by Brian Chapel; fabulous staff that win top state awards; new permitting efficiencies for businesses; electronics recycling; assisted 75 pullet and broiler farms to secure new contracts after closure of Townsends; connecting to City of Durham’s water system to supply water for Northeast Water District; Chatham had NC’s highest percentage voter turnout in November 2012.
- Written by Diana Hales
More cellphone towers in our future; American Tobacco Trailhead parking on New Hope Church Rd; another bad legislative bill, S127, puts Chatham and Charlotte in same transportation region; update to last week’s BOC sale (vote 3 to 2) of 188 acres in Siler City’s business park.
Regular Session (Walter Petty absent, Brian Bock chaired the meeting)
1. Annual public hearing to review telecommunication tower search rings. Good news, about 10 proposed cell towers will be built (AT&T plans to build 6, co-locations with other vendors) for underserved areas in Chatham. There will still be holes in coverage in some rural areas. Discussion about county’s 199-ft height limit (above 200-ft must have strobe light on top), but Planning Dept. will review ordinance.
2. New Hope Church Rd. parking for American Tobacco Trail. Chatham Co. is responsible for design, maintenance and parking for its 4.6 mile section of American Tobacco Trail. Through the Interlocal Agreement with Town of Cary, a Congestion, Mitigation, Air Quality (CMAQ) 2009 grant application was successful for federal funds managed by NC DOT to construct a 12-acre trailhead park on New Hope Church Rd. The grant will include water, sewer (bathrooms) and stormwater features as well as a future playground area. Construction begins in 2014 and will be complete in 2015. This will replace the sidewalk along New Hope Church Rd. Parking area will be open 24 hours, but patrolled by Cary police.
3. S127 to Establish Uniform Regional Districts for all state services. Sally Kost said this proposed bill would take Chatham out of Triangle transportation and economic planning organizations and place Chatham in the Mecklenburg region for all services. The bill actually assigned counties that make up the larger triangle metropolitan area to different regions. The BOC agreed to send a letter to Senator Ellie Kinnaird and Representative Deb McManus to ask to defeat this bill.
4. Sale of 188 acres in Siler City’s business park to private individual. Last week at the “special” BOC meeting, the vote was 3 to 2 (Kost, Cross opposed) to sell this county acreage that touches the Rocky River in the Central Carolina Business Park (Hwy 64 and Wal-Mart in Siler City). Mike Cross and Sally Kost, as well as several citizens, opposed this sale because it permanently removes this site from any future commercial development that would benefit Siler City and Chatham County taxpayers, and it did not recoup the County investment in the property ($21,000/acre) at the sale price of $6,000/acre. Additionally, a two-year Siler City citizen-led project to create a concept plan for a nature trail along the Rocky River was ready for presentation to the Chatham Co. Board of Commissioners, but the quick sale squashed that opportunity. Brian Bock said that he and Walter Petty met with the buyer (130 of Chatham LLC) after the March 11 meeting, and there was the possibility of talks between Siler City and the new owner about the nature trail.
- Written by Diana Hales
Special Meeting: Consider request by Board of Education for Special Election; consider need for building Northeast area high school; and consider sale of county property along Rocky River in Central Carolina business park (Siler City). Regular meeting of Chatham Co BOC will be Monday, March 18, 6:00 pm
Work Session (all present)
1. Mega Site Certification. From consent agenda, the BOC supported a resolution to promote future industrial use of a 1,625 acre non-residential site, currently owned by Tim Booras and D.H. Griffin, Sr., through application to NC’s Certified Sites Program. The acreage borders western Chatham and eastern Randolph counties and is along the Norfolk Southern rail line between Old US 421 and US 64.
2. Special Election, Bd. of Education vacancy. The BOE (District 4) seat vacated by Deb McManus is in contention. The current 4-member Board of Education is deadlocked on an appointment, and has requested an election. The county submits a Resolution to the General Assembly requesting this election. Sally Kost said since the BOE election is county-wide it could be combined this November with a bond referendum for construction of a new Agricultural Building. The three Chatham towns are holding municipal elections this November, so everything could be accommodated in one election. The Board of Elections is figuring the cost of holding the countywide election. Chair Walter Petty says the BOC has not “officially” decided to more forward with the bond issue. Question on whether the cost of this election should be split between County and Bd. of Education. Motion to adopt a revised resolution requesting the Special Election, passed.
3. Need a northeast High School? Probably not, per Superintendent Robert Logan. This school, slated to be built 2015-16 on county-owned land off Jack Bennett Rd., many not be needed based on projected enrollment patterns, which he expects could be accommodated (with student reassignment) until 2020. Delay has a financing cost, but an operational school has on-going costs. Logan argued that when the County acquired the Jack Bennett land, the growth was expected in the northeast area. Now, the larger Chatham Park development southeast of Pittsboro would shift the optimal school location closer to Hwy 64 around Lake Jordan. He said two smaller schools cost more than one larger school to operate. If the Jack Bennett Rd. site is built, it would split Northwood High School student population (1,100) into two schools resulting in loss of some of the 14 current AP programs, and numerous student activities: 30 clubs and honor societies, 38 sports teams, and all arts--band, dance, visual, choral, theatre. Logan mentioned Chatham Central HS low enrollment (now at 380) is of great concern because it could lose some state funding and the smaller student population reduces course offerings and student opportunities; there will be another attempt to redistrict students. [Note: Jordan-Matthews HS in Siler City has 720 students]. Sally Kost was concerned about current lengthy school bus commutes from the northeast corner of the county to Northwood HS and wanted some express routes considered. She said the Bd. of Education should have brought this up sooner in the Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process and agree on a cost for the business model. Walter Petty said if numbers don’t support building new high school, should delay construction, and try to rotate more students to Chatham Central. Brian Bock said numbers do not justify keeping the Jack Bennett high school in the CIP, and said the Bd of Education should actively search for a new school site of at least 65 acres. Discussion about safety of Jack Bennett road and problems with that site; perhaps it was not a wise purchase. Staff said it is more favorable to delay the school, but they are collecting financial information about the cost of a construction delay. Motion to accept the BOE recommendation to delay northeast high school for 2 years and make assumptions on a debt model of $55 million, passed 4 to 1 (Sally Kost, no).
4. County Sells Property along Rocky River. The Central Carolina Business Park, on Hwy 64 next to Wal-Mart in Siler City, was purchased by the County in 2000 to provide a business park setting for commercial development in Siler City. Currently UNC Chatham Hospital, a medical center, a dialysis center, the CCCC Siler City Campus and a juvenile detention facility are the only facilities in the 469-acre park. A private buyer, 130 Chatham LLC, has contracted to purchase 188 acres in the lots that touch the Rocky River for a price of $6,000/acre, or $1.128 million. This private buyer indicates that he wants to conserve the Rocky River corridor, will not grant public access, and will not develop the land per the covenant. Three speakers spoke against this sale. From an economic standpoint the County has invested $21,062/per acre in the initial purchase and infrastructure development of this property and loses ALL potential tax benefits that could accrue from any development on those 188 acres; therefore this is NOT a benefit to taxpayers. Additional points were that the property was not adequately marketed, had no web-presence for years, compounded by the recession, and should remain for sale as economy improves. Asked for a delay in the sale.
- Written by Diana Hales
Energy audits of county buildings; oppose proposed NC law on local vehicle tax collection; new agricultural center for Pittsboro; riled-up second amendment gun supporters speak; new cell tower off O’Kelly Chapel Rd.; Westfall (Booth Mt) conditional use and First Plat approved; BOC goals refined; First Responders memorial site approved; BOC to send letter AGAINST Compulsory Pooling for natural gas drilling—fracking.
- Written by Diana Hales