The Western Wake Gravy Train IS coming to Chatham! The only job now is to clear the tracks and see what leftovers can be scraped together for those living on the other side of the tracks.
Those aren't the words, but that was the crux of the somber message conveyed by three commissioners during the BOC's Monday afternoon work session. It was no surprise, therefore, that later that evening on a 3-2 split, the new BOC majority voted to ditch the opposition and allow Western Wake Partners (WWP) to bury their waste water effluent pipeline in Chatham soil.
- In the end it didn't matter whether you were FOR the pipeline or AGAINST it.
(The vast majority of local speakers at the recent pubic hearing spoke against it, and all affected property owners in the Moncure area were against it, according to Commissioner Cross).
- In the end, based on their personal meetings and negotiations with powers east of Chatham, the three new BOC members (there are still five BOC members, right?) determined that Chatham was powerless to affect its own future.
- In the end, the message from the new BOC chair expressed his certainty that Wake County now has the political clout to get what they want… and they (WWP) want 8.1 miles of Chatham soil. So much for the old Chatham County Vision statement: "Chatham County will be a place that cooperatively controls its own destiny to assure the state of well-being desired by all of our people…"
So, if we are to accept this assessment of reality and live with this decision, what are the leftovers to be scraped together from the gravy train's dining car? According to the press release from the County, the County will get:
1. $500,000 to refurbish or rebuild Moncure's Sprott Christian Youth Center.
(That appears to be the WWP standard formula for payoff, as New Hill, the site of the waste water treatment plant, got the same deal to drop its lawsuit in exchange for a new community center.)
2. Permission to tap into the pipeline at no cost, should that need arise in the future.
(Admittedly, that need is remote, but why not? Let's realize, however, that it is uncertain who would pay for the line running from any development to the pipeline. However, such a "tap in" to the treated wastewater line requires that the water, before utilizing this the line, must be treated to the same standards as the effluent coming from the New Hill plant. So, this part of the agreement would require a new or existing industry to treat their wastewater to the more costly standards, including nutrient reduction, that exceed the current standards for the customary treatment plant with land spray application. For residential development to utilize the tap in, their sewage would also have to be piped to and treated by a public or private wastewater treatment plant that reduces the amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen to the levels accepted by the state for the New Hill plant.)
3. A bill introduced into the General Assembly and supported by Cary and Apex to disallow initiation of involuntary annexation into Chatham, and an agreement not to do so until said bill passes.
(Sounds good at first take, but what's the difference between "involuntary" and "voluntary" annexation, and what does it matter? The reality is that the problem all along has been one of voluntary annexation. This occurs when a developer purchases land on the condition that the municipality will annex the property. Such voluntary annexation does not allow the surrounding property owners, who are not being annexed, to comment or otherwise have any say in what is being planned as their next door neighbor since development plans in an annexed area of Chatham do not require Chatham County approval. As a result, Chatham County residents have no opportunity to seek modifications or oppose them. Yet their property values are affected by the surrounding areas.
So, what could have been a better deal for Chatham? The state bill should not be a request to ban annexation (involuntary or voluntary), but rather require that any annexation should require prior approval of both Chatham County and the municipality.
Potential future issues depend on the type of development this new wastewater treatment plant will bring to this area of Chatham. Annexation and subsequent dense residential development brings with it the need to provide schools for any children moving into Chatham. This is a tax burden on all Chatham tax payers.
The BOC majority also stated that their greatest concern was for the individual property rights of the landowners affected by the pipeline. The assurance that they could negotiate a fair compensation for any loss of income or value was also a determining factor. Unfortunately, they failed to protect these landowners from the threat of eminent domain, leaving them in a vulnerable position in their negotiations. The affected landowners can only hope that Western Wake Partners will act in good faith.
An article in the February 22, 2011 issue of the Cary News expresses the same economic concerns about obtaining fair market value that we've heard from those being asked to grant easements during this economic downturn where property values are difficult to determine.
So, depending on which side of the tracks you are on, this deal could leave you satisfied or wanting more… and wondering when the next westbound locomotive will arrive.
Think of the word "soup." What name (Campbell's) do we naturally put in front of it? To catch a sneeze, do I ask for a "facial tissue," or do I call for a Kleenex? In the business world, successful companies are the ones that sear their brand into the minds of the consumer. Winning corporations stand by their brand, and create loyal and confident customers that will settle for nothing less than the best.
So, why would Chatham County settle for anything less than the best as it seeks to establish its place as THE leader in one of the hottest markets of the future, Green Building? Why would Chatham County bet its future on a model T Ford when it could choose a plug-in Prius or a Chevy Volt to get us there? That was exactly the kind of nitty-gritty question posed by architect Alicia Ravetto to BOC members considering doing away with "LEED" certification for building energy efficiency in Chatham.
[Note: LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. The LEED green building certification program encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through a suite of rating systems that recognize projects that implement strategies for better environmental and health performance.]
Ms. Ravetto, along with Paul Konove and another member of Chatham's Green Building Task Force, Tom Foster, explained the history of LEED in Chatham and stated that if we are serious about energy efficient building, using LEED standards is the way to prove that. When LEED is implemented from the beginning of a project with critical early planning, and when there is an integrated approach, LEED certification offers long term energy and fiscal savings. Verification is critical in green building, and LEED is the best verification program, stated Ms. Ravetto.
The fate and future of LEED will be voted on at the next BOC meeting. The Board Chair states his concern about maintaining "flexibility," and the newly elected Board members are ever mindful that they ran on a promise of protecting tax payers' dollars. As BOC members strive for "flexibility," we ask that they not become contortionists bending over backwards so far that they send Chatham backwards rather than forward as the leader in green building efficiency that leads us all to a more sustainable and profitable future. In the frenzy to cut and whittle ("streamline") to save a penny, let's not kill the goose and toss the baby out with the bath water. In the real world where brands are critical, the LEED brand is the payoff and the smart investment in Chatham's future.
If you agree, please take time now to contact your new commissioners and urge them to lead by growing LEED in Chatham rather than cutting it off at its green trunk:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about the history of LEED in Chatham and why we need it for our future, you can read the presentations by Paul Konove and Alicia Ravetto.
At the BOC public input session of 2/21, a Chatham citizen asked why Commissioner Kost is not representing her district on the Cary Chatham Land Use plan and asked that she be instated as a non-voting member. Because of the direct impact to her district, and because of her past involvement and experience, Commissioner Kost, herself, has requested of her fellow Commissioners to be included in BOC deliberations on the Cary/Chatham Land Use Plan as a non-voting member. As of this time, she remains on the outside looking in.
The following is an editorial on this issue by CCEC President, Loyse Hurley:
An elected official is not just an "ordinary citizen." He or she represents the people, who elected him or her and is entitled to respect and courtesies because of that position. That is one reason why they are entitled to use the word "Honorable" before their names. Treating that elected official as an ordinary citizen can be seen as a direct insult not only to the respective elected official but also to the citizens that placed that person in office. By preventing comments by Commissioner Kost at the recent Joint Cary/Chatham Land Use Planning meeting, the powers in charge demeaned not only the Commissioner, but her constituents and all other Chatham citizens as well.
Whether one agrees with her politically or philosophically or not, by virtue of her elected position alone, she should have been allowed to speak at the meeting and actually sit at the table. Since she is not a voting member of the subcommittee, she is prevented from voting. Stifling her voice and barring her from speaking out is especially alarming when one considers that Commissioner Kost represents the district most affected by these negotiations.