Outgoing Chatham County commissioners voted 5-0 to opt out of the state’s one-year extension for all development permits. By doing so, the commission is requiring commercial and residential developers to reapply and submit to newer environmental regulations. In response to the housing market crash, the legislature passed the 2009 Permit Extension Act, which gave developers an extra year to comply with those laws.

Planning Board chairman Jim Elza clarified the meaning of the one-year extension act, noting that the 2010 extension would have allowed some developments to avoid the more stringent regulations for six years.
“I’m uncomfortable granting another year,” said Commissioner Sally Kost, “and some of these probably do need to expire.”

Janet Butcher, a developer representing builders in Wake and Chatham counties, asked the commissioners to allow the extension. “We’re putting infrastructure and dollars into land and their won’t be builders to build the developments if we don’t extend these permits,” she said.

Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, supported the commissioners’ vote. “During the housing boom and growth era of 2004-07 there were tremendous violations of sedimentation and erosion control,” she said, “and we now have some of the best ordinances in the state.”

Commissioner George Lucier pointed out that permit extensions could be granted on an individual basis, and that the board has done so in the past.

Equally important was the last item on the agenda regarding the Western Wake Partners request to acquire easements for a eight-mile pipeline from their controversial wastewater treatment plant in New Hill to the Cape Fear River. Many Moncure residents who will lose property to the easement oppose the plan.

The Town of Cary, which, with Morrisville and Apex, is part of Western Wake Partners, could annex significant acreage east of Jordan Lake in Chatham County if commissioners don’t grant the easement.

Lucier spoke out strongly on the issue saying, “We believe that the treated wastewater discharge line poses significant risks with little or no discernible benefits for our county and its residents. For these reasons, we recommend that Chatham County deny the WWP’s request to locate a discharge line through a section of the county until the Town of Cary agrees not to annex into the county without the county’s approval and this agreement is embodied in a local bill approved by the General Assembly.”

Lucier mentioned only Cary, but not Wake County, the bigger annexation threat. Kost added that the mayors of the towns making up the partnership have not responded to her numerous requests to schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.

Incoming commissioners Brian Bock, Pamela Stewart and Walter Petty ran platforms on protecting private property rights, and constituents in Moncure worry about the partners’ previous handing of eminent domain and its implications for their property values and rights.

Outgoing commissioners made recommendations for the new Republican majority that will take office next month, but left the final decision to them.

This was the final meeting for incumbent Chatham County Commissioners Lucier, Tom Vanderbeck, and Carl Thompson, whose term ends Dec. 6, when Bock, Stewart and Petty will be sworn in.