Randy Voller's last board of commissioners meeting as mayor of Pittsboro won't go down in the history books as the meeting that approved the rezoning of Chatham Park, but it could go down as one of the longest BOC meetings the town has ever had.
When protesters began rallying at the Chatham County Courthouse at 6 p.m. on Monday, they had no idea that they would still be at there after midnight. About 60 people huddled against the cold in groups circling the courthouse, which lies at the heart of their historic town, some picketing with signs urging the commissioners "Don't Vote Tonight" and "Don't Give Your Leverage Away."
Many opponents said that the public had not been adequately informed about the latest developments with Chatham Park, especially since the last revisions to its master plan were sent to the board only five days ago.
"To me, this is just a complete disruption of the process," Pittsboro resident Liz Collington said of the pending vote. She also noted that it is unclear how the newest revisions, which appear in a separate three-page document, are incorporated into the larger master plan document, and substantial errors and conflicts could exist between the two.
Many people, including Pittsboro Mayor-elect Bill Terry, are concerned about the apparent rush to approve the rezoning before he takes office on Dec. 9. Terry has publicly stated that the master plan needs to be carefully vetted before rezoning is approved.
"The only reason we're having this discussion tonight is that somebody's in a big hurry to get this approved," said area resident Dee Reid.
Terry said he asked the board to table the vote on rezoning until the town has had a chance to hire outside experts to evaluate the proposal. He also said that he met with Preston Development, Chatham Park's developer, Monday morning, urging the company to request the vote to be tabled. If the rezoning were approved, Terry said, it would result in "a hollow victory from a split board and an unhappy population of voters."
The developers, however, declined to make such a request.
Mayor Voller responded to public insinuations that he was trying to ram the rezoning approval through in his last days in office. "I did not want a new board, headed by a new mayor, to be battling the same argument for however long it takes," he said. "I thought we were at a place that allows for the safeguards that the public wanted."
At around 11 p.m., after four hours of public comment, the board began its discussion. Fiocco addressed several concerns that citizens brought forward about the new revisions before he gave the floor over to Voller, who held it until around midnight defending his record as a public servant.
Commissioners Jay Farrell, Bett Foley and Beth Turner voted to table the rezoning approval; Fiocco was the lone dissenting vote.
The board also voted to begin the search for a consultant to review the master plan.
This story incorrectly stated that Commissioner Michael Fiocco said there are errors and omissions in the development plan. He said that the errors and omissions are in the town's existing development ordinances.
This article appeared in print with the headline "A long night in Pittsboro."