Chatham Park, Chatham County

Throughout the watershed, large scale developments are occurring at a rapid rate. In some cases, development and growth are necessary, and it is not always done poorly. However, when developers place profit over human and environmental health, Haw River Assembly and our passionate members will take action.  The largest of all these is  Chatham Park, a new city the size of Burlington being built in Pittsboro’s ETJ (extra-territoral jurisdiction) adjacent to the Haw River and Jordan Lake. It will be the biggest master plan development ever built in NC. Read our concerns below.

                                 (aerial view of  muddy waters from Chatham Park construction, near Hwy 15-501)

Chatham Park will be bulldozing  a huge portion of their nearly 8000 acre development, which is now mostly forested land.  As trees are replaced by buildings and roads, those hard surfaces will increase the stormwater flowing off the land, which can increase flooding and pollution to streams, and to the Haw River and Jordan Lake.  Chatham Park’s approval by the Town of Pittsboro included a requirement to use “exceptional design” to protect the environment, which includes managing stormwater. HRA believes it will not be possible to adequately control stormwater flooding and pollution with the number of houses and commercial areas they plan to build in this new city for 55,000 residents. We’re urging the Town for more trees and natural areas to be saved in this environmentally important land near the Haw River and Jordan Lake.

A general overview of our environmental concerns regarding Chatham Park can be viewed in this slideshow from 2015,  ” Conservation of Critical Resources in Chatham Park” 

An article HRA wrote that was published in the Chatham County line in September 2016 discusses “Is Chatham Park Sustainable?”

Though the Master Plan has been submitted and approved, many aspects of Chatham Park are not set in stone, and we will continue to educate the public and our elected officials and advocate for the health of the Haw River and Jordan Lake. Chatham Park’s Additional Elements have not been approved by the Town of Pittsboro, and these elements could have devastating implications on the health of our river.

The  “Additional Element” for Stormwater, is analogous to Town’s Stormwater Ordinance, but applied just to Chatham Park PDD.  The Additional Element for Stormwater references a Stormwater Manual which describes a point system that is proposed to be used for subwatersheds within the PDD.  A draft of this manual can viewed here.  The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners has decided to hire a consultant to review the documents and to help them make a more informed decision about this important issue.
Despite Opposition, Pittsboro Approved the Stormwater Element for Chatham Park on Oct. 8
Despite public outcry against taking a vote while discussions that include stormwater are going on with the state, the Town approved the latest version of Chatham Park’s Stormwater Element and Design Manual The vote was 3-2, with John Bonitz and Bett Foley Wilson voting against it, and questioning the timing of the approval. Mayor Perry also cautioned the Board about passing it and possible consequences in dealings with the state.
We believe that this vote should have been delayed until the Town and Chatham Park have concluded their current discussions with state agencies about the need for greater protections for water and the environment, including stormwater (that Pittsboro committed to as mitigation strategies in their 2010 NPDES Permit for wastewater). Read the letter sent to the state by Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of HRA concerning this issue.
HRA has many concerns about what is being proposed.  We have compiled a list of QUESTIONS about Chatham Park’s Stormwater Manual and their “point system” which may actually reward contractors for doing what is already required by law.    Chatham Park’s response to all public comments (4/17) can be read at this link
In February 2018, we submitted additional comments to the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners on the latest version of the Stormwater Element and design manual. Read our comments here.

US Fish and Wildlife Concerns

In 2010, there was an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) turned in to NC DENR as part of the NPDES permit for an expanded  Wastewater Treatment Plant  permit for Pittsboro that would include a new discharges into  the Haw River. In that EIS, Pittsboro agrees that in regions of the Haw that  support the endangered Cape Fear Shiner , there will be larger riparian buffers and a zero percent change in the hydrograph after any development. This means that the water flow rate and quantity must be the same as pre-development levels, which is currently mostly forested land.The EIS can be found here.  The most recent letter from the US Fish and Wildlife Service  stating the implications of this agreement by Pittsboro to protect the Haw River can be found here.

Pittsboro and Chatham Park Oppose State’s Letter Telling them To Protect the Haw River (concerning the EIS is paragraph above).     Where is Public Transparency?

The Haw River Assembly (HRA) believes that the public deserves to know that the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham Park have brought contested cases before the Office of Administrative Hearing in regards to the May 3, 2018 letter from NC Division of Water Quality, and that there is a stay on the hearing while discussions take place between the parties.  All of us who will be impacted by Chatham Park development need to know what is being discussed, and how it will impact the protection of land and waters.

On May 3, 2018, the state Division of Water Resources sent a letter to the Town of Pittsboro saying that they needed to follow the mitigation strategies for new development (north of Hwy 64) for greater protections for the Haw River, especially wider stream buffers and enhanced stormwater management. Pittsboro had committed to these strategies in the EIS (environmental impact statement) that was part of their 2010 NPDES (wastewater) permit.  HRA asked the Town repeatedly if they had replied to the state’s letter but were not given an answer. We used Public Records Requests to find out the following:

     On June 4, both the Town of Pittsboro and Chatham Park sent petitions for a contested case hearing to challenge the Division of Water Resources (DWR) letter and to contest that Pittsboro needed to carry out the commitments it made in that EIS.   In July, the Town and Chatham Park asked (and were granted) a stay for the hearing so that they could have discussions with DWR.

These are the documents we received through Public Record Requests to the state: Park-Petition-for-Contested-Case-Filed-3.pdf

On September 8, Haw River Assembly sent a letter by email to the Pittsboro Town Board and Mayor apprising them of what we know and stating “… the Haw River Assembly believes that the public deserves to know what these discussions entail, since our air and water quality in the area surrounding Pittsboro will be greatly impacted by the development of Chatham Park, as well as the health of the aquatic ecosystem of the Haw River”  We believe the Town of Pittsboro should live up to their commitments to protect the Haw River made in 2010, and insist that Chatham Park take greater measures to protect water quality in their massive development, instead of contesting it.

On Tuesday, Sept. 18 the Southern Environmental Law Center sent a LETTER to the NC Dept. of Justice and DEQ on behalf of the Haw River Assembly, urging the state to hold Pittsboro and Chatham Park  responsible for protecting the Haw River and to hold them to the commitments made in the 2010 Environmental Impact Statement.

You can contact the Pittsboro Town Board to ask them to follow commitments made to protect the Haw River (see contact information below)  You can also contact Linda Culpepper, Interim Director at NC Division of Water Resources at

Contacts for Pittsboro Board of Commissioners
If you wish to share your thoughts with Pittsboro’s elected officials about requiring greater protection of our waters and forests as Chatham Park is built (and in the new town-wide Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), here is the contact info:
Cindy S. Perry
Pamela Baldwin (Mayor Pro Tem)
 Michael A. Fiocco
(919) 542-7079
 J. A. (Jay) Farrell
Bett Wilson Foley
 John Bonitz
(919) 360-2492