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One woman's battle won

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While a debate about growth in Chatham County has been brewing in public arenas like commissioners meetings, Jo Hill has waged a private battle of her own with one of the largest developers in the county. The conflict, which lasted the better part of three years, finally ended last month. (See "In the Crosshairs of Progress," June 18, 2003. www.indyweek.com/durham/2003-06-18/triangles.html)

In 2001, Wake County's Tommy Fonville bought a 17-acre parcel of land along N.C. 87 northwest of Pittsboro from the Lafata family, the heirs of Hill's long-time boyfriend Peter Lafata, who died in 1994. In probate court prior to that, Hill had won the right to keep the house she shared with Lafata and two of the acres it sat on. Fonville, amassing nearly 2,000 acres in the vicinity for residential development, fought with Hill over property lines in a lawsuit that settled in a joint agreement.

"I got my deed, which is what I've been begging for all these years," says Hill, whose land abuts the future entrance of Buck Mountain, Fonville's 700-home golf course community.

During the legal wranglings, Hill alleged that Fonville tried to push her off her land by shutting off her drinking well, which sat on his land. Fonville denies that charge and asserts that he was willing to settle the dispute fairly all along.

In the settlement, Hill received a deed to the two acres left to her by Peter Lafata, permission to use the well for six more months and $3,000 towards construction of a new well on her own land.

She's watched the wave of development headed toward Chatham with dismay.

"This kind of predation degrades everything from the biosphere to the atmosphere," says Hill, noting that the county commissioners will be campaigning later this year. "Whup it up, let's make it an election issue, because I done had a belly full."

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