INDY – Chatham County Commissioner Questionnaire
Name as it appears on the ballot: Mike Cross
Campaign website: www.cross4chatham.com
Years in Chatham: Sixth generation Chatham citizen
1. What are the three most important issues facing Chatham County?
R1-R5 Zoning, Coal Ash Storage Agreement and Jordan Lake Rules.
Note that planning for Chatham Park will be an important emerging topic as well. This project was approved by the Pittsboro board and is within their ETJ, so clearly they must take the lead on planning. The Chatham board will need to participate in the planning for schools and other county services. I discuss Chatham Park in question #8 below.
If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues? Please be specific. Zoning: Un-zoned areas allow anything without public input or BOC approval. That is good for property rights and bad when one’s neighbor does something that damages the area’s property values, quality of life or environment.
I supported the December 2014 BOC county-wide zoning plan for Open Zoning and was prepared to attend 5 work sessions throughout Chatham to talk about it. Open Zoning, with a specific list of excluded uses generated by the local communities, would provide some protection from things like Gas Fracking man camps, late-night night clubs, etc., while preserving many of the desirable aspects of un-zoned property. These meetings were cancelled in February 2015, with the board majority voting to eliminate direct citizen engagement, and instead handing the task to the Planning Board.
When the Planning Board provided its recommendations in November 2015, it became clear the BOC Majority was not going to support the PB Majority Report either. (It was in this meeting that my opponent and his PAC supporters claim I am against county-wide zoning, because I did not support their move, again). I then made the motion and voted for the Planning Dept. to proceed with developing the zoning ordinance with R1 in general and R5 in our watersheds. The motion passed by a vote of 4-1, with Commissioner Hales voting against. This zoning will be in conjunction with a new Comprehensive Land Use Plan that is currently being developed. This is not the last word on zoning or the new Land Use Plan. As we go forward, with citizen input, we will making specific decisions in the ordinance and Land Use Plan.
Coal Ash Storage: I don’t want coal ash. However we already have 5.7M tons sitting in 5 ponds right next to the Haw River and it is leaking. As you know, our NCGA removed all control from county government from this issue. Our BOC 12/5/14 Resolution Opposing Coal Ash Disposal in Chatham fell on deaf ears. We had a choice: (a) get the coal ash with no financial help from Duke Energy or (b) get the coal ash with financial help from Duke Energy. So to make the best out of a bad situation, Jim Crawford and I (as Chair & Vice-Chair) spent several months negotiating a nearly $19 million Coal Ash Agreement with Duke Energy, which the BOC approved on a 3-2 vote (Commissioners Hales and Howard voted against the funding). This gives us the funds to monitor Duke’s coal ash activity and make sure they are doing it safely and correctly. We’d rather they not do it at all, but given the reality of state power vs county power, this agreement is the best we can do to protect our citizens and environment. Plus, most importantly the agreement will make sure that 5.7M tons next to the Haw River will be part of the initial cleanup. It will be sealed, leachate will be collected and cleaned at Sanford Waste Water Treatment Plant. We are already monitoring Air and Water quality…including wells within 1 mile of the sites.
Jordan Lake Rules: This issue with the Jordan Lake Rules is really troublesome. The delay in enforcement appears to be a budget and political issue. The state legislature controls this topic. The status as I understand it is: (1) $1.5M to extend current remediation strategies until 10/15/18 plus 3 years. (2) The Solarbee project: monitoring stations upstream in Morgan Creek and the Haw River plus Solarbees downstream monitoring – 1st year. There has been little change in exceedance except some reduction at Morgan Creek. (3) We still have 1 more year on this monitoring…plus 3 more years to enforce…or decide to do something else. US Geological Survey reports indicate the problems are generally associated with natural sources of nitrate such as the nitrification of soil nitrogen and atmospheric deposition. This appears to be the case in Falls Lake also. We need to push for widening the scope of the search area and find sources that are not naturally occurring and work out a plan to address those problem areas.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners? (This might include career or community service. Be specific about its relevance to this office.)
I am serving in my 3rd Term / 12th year in this elected office. My commitment and work ethic have resulted in valuable experience and problem solving capabilities. As my voting record attests, I have been a proponent of affordable housing, economic growth, education, environmental protection, all while holding the tax rate steady. I spend a great deal of my time talking with the citizens of Chatham and listen to their concerns and issues. Although I am the Commissioner for District 2, I represent all of Chatham County.
I serve or have served on the following National, State, Regional & County Boards and Committees
• National Association of Counties: Voting delegate (2005-current) Headquartered on Capitol Hill, NACo is the only national organization representing counties in the United States.
• N. C. Joint Legislative Commission on Municipal Incorporations: Appointed by House Speaker Joe Hackney. Served three 2-year terms (’07 – ’12). Make recommendations to the General Assembly.
• N. C. Association of County Commissioners: all 100 Counties. Board of Directors (’05 – ’12), Co-Chair
• Legislative Goals Committee (’08 – ’12), Tax and Finance Steering Committee (’09 – current), Board of Delegates (’05 – current), Chatham Legislative Liaison (’05 – current), Speakers Bureau (’06 – current),
• District 9 Director (Chatham, Orange, Durham, Wake, Lee, Johnston, Moore, (’06 – ’07).
o Premier Legislative Advocacy Award
• North Carolina Joint Regional Forum : TJCOG Delegate ( ’12 – ’14). Advises and advocates for creative regional solutions to statewide issues. Each of the 16 NC COG’s assign one delegate.
• Research Triangle Regional Partnership: (Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake, Warren, Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson). A business-driven organization dedicated to keeping the Research Triangle competitive through business, government and educational collaboration. Board of Directors (’11- current).
• Triangle J Council of Governments: (Chatham, Orange, Durham, Wake, Lee, Moore and Johnston)
• Executive Committee (’05 – ’14), Immediate Past Chair (’11 – ‘12), Chairman (’10 -’11), Legislative Goals Committee (’08 – ’12), Vice Chair (’09 – ’10), Second Vice Chair (’07 – ‘09).
• Cape Fear River Assembly: Board of Directors (’12 – ’14), Provides for the highest quality of life possible for the residents of the Cape Fear River Basin through the proper management of the Cape Fear River, her tributaries and adjacent land uses.
• Sprott Youth Center, Moncure: Board of Directors (’11- ‘15). Liaison for 500K Rehabilitation Project.
• Metropolitan Planning Organization: (Chatham, Orange, Durham, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and NC Department of Transportation), Executive Committee (’05 – ’06).
• Regional Planning Organization: (Chatham, Orange, Lee and Moore counties) Chairman (’06- ’07), Executive Committee (’05 – ’07), Alternate Voter (’07 – ’12).
• Orange, Person, Chatham Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Authority: Executive Committee (’05 – ’06), Vice-Chairman (’05 – ’06).
• Regional Mental Health, LME: Vice-Chairman (’06), Executive Committee (’05 – ’06).
• Orange-Chatham Justice Partnership: Executive Committee (’05 – ’06), Co-Chairman (’05 – ’06).
• Chatham County Affordable Housing Task Force: BOC Liaison – Co-founder (’05 – ’06).
Habitat for Humanity Distinguished Service Award
• Home and Community Block Grant Committee: Executive Committee (’05 – ’06, ’11 – current).
• Affordable Housing Committee: BOC Liaison (’11 -’13).
• Solid Waste Advisory Committee: BOC Liaison (’11 – current).
• Chatham Alcohol and Beverage Control Board: BOC Liaison (’06 -’10, ’14-current).
• Chatham Board of Elections: BOC Liaison (’06 – ’10).
• Courts Operation/Security – Judicial District 15B: BOC Liaison (’06 – current).
• Enhanced 911 Committee: BOC Liaison (’06 – ’10).
3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am a Practical Progressive Democrat. Primarily I listen to all citizens of the County. I attribute my tenure on the board as a testament to that. You also will note through my actions and my votes that I firmly believe that the role of a County Commissioner is an engaged one. I have committed my life, practically, to this endeavor and am fully involved in the role. Through my committee work and consistent engagement, I have developed a strong network throughout the community, local, State, and regional governments that allow me to remain current on issues and use the network to the benefit of the County.
A commitment to service. As a retired U.S. Navy Commander, I know what it means to serve. As your Commissioner these past 11 years, I made it my job to show up every day for every meeting well prepared. I have spent hundreds of hours preparing for key decisions, meeting with citizens (in person, over email, and on the phone), working with town leaders, and participating in regional and state wide organizations and meetings.
A commitment to results. I have worked hard to serve all the people of Chatham County. I am particularly proud of holding the line on taxes while achieving and maintaining a Triple-A Bond Rating for Chatham; increasing school funding, teacher and county employee salaries; supporting the Historic Court House/Museum, new Library, Justice Center, Detention Center, and Agricultural Conference Center capital projects; engaging in joint initiatives with our towns and municipalities in gaining Certification for our Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site and in the progress seeking Certification for our Moncure-Merry Oaks Site.
In areas outside of the direct influence of the Chatham County Commissioner control, I have exercised my position to the betterment of Chatham County, including voting for the County Commissioner 2 year moratorium on fracking. With regard to the Duke Energy coal ash site, mandated by the State Legislature to be located in Chatham, I helped negotiate an $18+ million agreement with Duke Energy to include ongoing independent site monitoring and cleanup of the Moncure Cape Fear coal ash site. Chatham needs to be protected.
Why I want to continue. I am honored to serve you on the Board of County Commissioners. In my Oath of Office, I swore to conduct our business ”without fear or favor”. I have kept that promise. I love Chatham County and its people. I am a sixth generation resident of the Moncure community. I started my political life working to protect the residents of the Moncure area from a regional land fill – a facility that would have made Chatham the dump for the region. My results have made it clear that I can work effectively with people with similar or differing political positions. My primary focus has always been new jobs, education, new development, our farming community, our environment and County services. As we continue to grow, I will continue to be protective of our environment, be an advocate for our people, and preserve the special place that is Chatham County.
4. The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
As my record can attest, I have been an advocate for the citizens of Chatham County my entire political career, from affordable housing, quality education budgeting, environmental protection, support of economic growth, and the agrarian community. Chatham County is a vast county with essentially two cultures/economies; manufacturing/agrarian, and to the east, high tech/research. I recognize that Chatham is a not a one-size fits all community, and I govern with this in mind. I think that is why I have successfully remained on the board. The citizens of Chatham County recognize that I pay attention to all of it. My Reelection will allow me to continue what I have been doing for the past eleven plus years.
5. What is your vision for development of Chatham County?
As with our current Land Use Plan and likely with our new one when it’s finished, development will primarily occur in or near our municipalities…where the city/county water and other services are available. The protection of the rural areas is important as well. I am also focused on bringing new jobs to Chatham. More jobs…this is easy for a candidate to say, but my results, for example gaining Certification for our Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site, actually can bring jobs.
6. Countywide zoning has been controversial in Chatham. After hearing what citizens had to say, what arguments about the zoning question made the strongest impression on you? How would you prefer Chatham to proceed with zoning, if at all?
Zoning is covered above in question #1. I support it, preferably with the citizens engaged in the development of the plan. Again, Chatham is not a one-size fits all.
7. Tensions between Range 2A and many of its neighbors back in 2014 is credited with starting the current zoning discussion. Do you think there should be tighter regulations on future gun ranges in Chatham County?
Placement of gun ranges is certainly an important consideration. Our zoning changes along with our new Land Use Plan will consider this topic. As we consider this topic we need to consider gun rights as well as safety.
8. Are there any challenges ahead with the development of Chatham Park that particularly concern you? If so, what does the county government need to do to get ahead of those potential issues?
To this point the Chatham BOC had no official role in the Chatham Park approval process as it is under the Pittsboro ETJ jurisdiction. As we go forward and consider things like schools and other county service demands that will result from this large project, clearly the BOC will be involved. Members of the BOC have recently attended some informal meetings with Pittsboro and Chatham Park to get a feel for the challenges going forward. Future discussions will be held in our regular open BOC discussions. There is a significant deficient in water and waste water treatment requirements from what Pittsboro can provide and the developers of Chatham Park need. It seems to me that this topic (i.e. how water and waste will be provided and paid for) should have been part of the plan that was approved. The BOC is also working with the Board of Education and Chatham Park pertaining to a memorandum of understanding in reference to school properties being offered by Chatham Park. The county will be issuing building permits and providing Inspectors as required. Overall, the project has great potential, but it needs to be carefully planned, with citizen, local and county governments engaged throughout its development.
9. If elected, would you support more funding going to parks and greenways in Chatham County?
We have 2 Recreation Districts covering the county and the recreation funds are generated with rec exaction fees (developer has a choice to kick in 1/8 acres of land or the market value, in dollars). These funds can only be used for land purchase. We plan our parks / trails along with our Capital Improvement Plan and appropriate funds as necessary to meet the board’s goals.
10. What is your position on fracking in Chatham County? If opposed, how do you propose the county should fight it?
I certainly don’t consider fracking a safe or beneficial fit for Chatham County and our board unanimously approved a 2 year Moratorium on Gas and Oil Development on 17 August 2015.
It is important for us to be aware that this moratorium has been invalidated/repealed by the Governor and Legislature. Here are some excerpts from the Gen. Statutes, Chapter 113, Article 27. Subchapter V, Oil and Gas Conservation.
§ 113-415.1 . Local ordinances prohibiting oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities invalid; …. provisions of special, local, or private acts or resolutions are repealed that do the following: (1) Prohibit the siting of wells for oil and gas exploration, development, and production within any county… (2) Prohibit the use of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing for the purpose of oil or gas exploration or development within any county… (3) Place any restriction or condition not placed by this Article upon oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities and use of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing for that purpose within any county… (4) In any manner are in conflict or inconsistent with the provisions of this Article.
(c) When oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities would be prevented from construction or operation by a county, municipal, or other local ordinance, the operator of the proposed activities may petition the Mining and Energy Commission to review the matter. The party to the action files a written appeal (lawsuit)…decision of the Mining and Energy Commission shall be final.
An appeal (lawsuit) asking a court to reverse or modify a Mining and Energy Commission decision, with the law already in place, would be very time consuming and very expensive with little, if any, chance of success. So don’t be misled into thinking that we have resolved any fracking issues by passing this moratorium.