Wal-Mart at the gates

Starpoint The closest you can get to Chapel Hill and Carrboro while still being in Chatham County is Starpoint. The intersection of Smith Level Road and 15-501 is at the county line. Starpoint is also the proposed location of a new Wal-Mart.

Elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have already asked Chatham County to allow them to conduct a courtesy review. This would allow them to formally have input, although it is not binding. According to the News & Observer "This is the first I've heard about that," Morgan said when asked about Chapel Hill's plans to request a review. "I didn't know they did that type of stuff."

Which is exactly why we should be very worried.

OP reader WillR shared the contact info of the company that proposes to build this "retail development... big enough for a Wal-Mart." You may also want to drop a line to good old Bunkey Morgan and let him know about this new-fangled democracy that may be coming his way.

Lee-Moore Oil Company
PO Drawer 9
Sanford, NC 27331
(919) 775-2301
(919) 774-6967


Its that evil UNC at work again! Talk about snide remarks Alex Zaffron:

" As well, (as Terri points out above)UNC appears to be intimately involved in that it appears that access across university property may be necessary for this thing to fly. An assessment needs to be made of the potential impacts on the operations of their park-and-ride facility going up on an ajacent tract."

The issue, as many point out, is runaway growth in Chatham County. We (fellow Chapel Hill/Carrboro citizens) have little or no say in this and other Pittsboro-CH/Carrboro 15-501 corridor isues. That is not going to change until we begin to find ways to talk with surrounding counties and each other without a attitude of superiority.
UNC's growth is going to happen. We will and should have critical input. Clouding the Wal-Mart/Chatham County growth issue with shots at UNC is not constructive.

Steve--I don't think Alex was taking potshots at UNC. The issue is the cumulative effect of everything that is going up in north Chatham, including the Park and Ride (which I know Alex is in favor of).

I agree with you though that we need our elected officials to open a conversation with Chatham officials, as well as those in Alamance. Some folks in Chatham think we're too late to stop development on the Lee Moore tract, but there will be many more such opportunities in the near future. If you haven't driven down 15-501 lately, you would be amazed at how fast the land between here and Fearrington is being paved over. Even in south Orange, there's a new shopping center going up across from Southern Village and a new park going just south of it. On Smith Level, we've got the high school coming and at least one new housing development in progress. The plan to maintain south Orange as "rural" isn't working too well and lack of a collegial relationship with the Chatham commissioners is the biggest contributor to the plan's failure IMHO.

Again, I write as someone who is relatively ignorant about local government and planning issues, but it seems to me as if Orange County's opposition to big box retail has backfired by putting all of the big box retail just over the county lines (Southpoint and all the associated big box around it, and New HOpe Commons and the other developments all along 15-501 from the OC line to the 15-501 split in Durham) and now a Wal-Mart at Starpoint.

I predict that Wal-Mart gets built and does very well. And I am by no means a fan or customer of Wal-Mart (although I likeTarget).

Why is Orange County unhappy about this? Because of traffic issues on 15-501?

Are you saying it has backfired because all the tax revenue goes to other counties?

I am organizing a citizens Task Force to explore what can be done to keep Wal Mart out of north Chatham. We need to coordinate our research and appeals to government and business leaders. Please email me if you wish to help.

If you want to see what's happening nationally, I suggest you go to WalMartWatch.com.

Mark Barroso

Chris, I guess it might look like a battle of the big-box barbarians at the borders but there's so much more to the opposition than an apparant simple knee-jerk dislike of big-box capitalism.

I've searched Durham's online info to see if there's been any substantive studies of the New Hope Commons Wal-mart complex on water quality in the New Hope Creek watershed - but contrary to what I recall as being part of the original compromise allowing this development - no followup seems to have been done. A shame as the Starpoint development will surely more directly and more negatively impact Carrboro's and Chapel Hill's University Lake watershed than the New Hope complex does New Hope Creek.

Maybe passing the costs of cleaning up the tainted water supply of a Chatham approved mega-project onto the shoulders of OWASA's customers seems OK with "see no evil, hear no evil, what is evil? " Bunky Morgan but I think it stinks.

There also is the immediate negative impact on 15-501 traffic. The almost never-ending effort to expand and improve this road is finally nearing completion (though many folk claim that'll it'll never be done, I have hope...) and now we're going to destroy it's efficacy? I guess the traffic snarl this mega-project will create will have one nice benefit - it'll keep Briar Chapel traffic bottled up to the South. The snarl at this traffic nexus seems to be an unintended consquence that doesn't seem to have been contemplated even by the Asheboro NC-DOT office. The State's taxpayers underwrote the cost of the 15-501 upgrade, I wouldn't be surprised if they balk at starting an immediate new upgrade because of the shortsightedness of a few county commissioners - especially if it means additional delays in their own communities projects.

I'm sure as the tale of this project unwinds, more specific concerns will arise with, hopefully, a concommitent rise in action to address these concerns.

If you are interested in the economic impact of big box stores on local economies, this site has compiled several. http://www.newrules.org/retail/econimpact.html#3

All of these studies are negative so if anyone has any positive benefits studies, please share.

A few more facts:
--The Lee-Moore land abuts the new UNC park and ride, a facility that will eventually support 965 parking spaces. When Walmart or whatever big retail shop is built, more than 1 mile of paved space will adjoin 15-501 from Smith Level and 15-501 to Old Lystra. UNC's lot is predominantly porous pavement.
--Both Lee-Moore and UNC Park n Ride drain into Wilson Creek, which drains into Morgan Creek, which drains into Jordan. Morgan is already designated as 'impaired' at various sites between Chapel Hill and Jordon. Chapel Hill will be charged with managing any pollution problems resulting from this new development.
--Smith Level Road is patrolled by the Orange County Sheriff's office. In 4 years, I've seen one traffic stop for speeding, despite the fact that average speed is well over 50 mph. It's more and more frequently being used as a shortcut for heavy trucks and others.
--Smith Level Road, a 2-lane country road, has never been intended for the type of traffic load it will have to carry with all the new development in Chatham County. It is within our own University Lake watershed. http://www.flickr.com/groups/smithlevel/
--None of our local governments currently have any formal communications with Chatham on any type of development, including this new proposal.


Yeah, I guess I'm saying that. It seems to me that Orange gets the negative effects (decimation of local businesses which provide a higher multiplier, the alleged increase in social costs because of Wal-Mart's reliance on public benefits to make up for it's benefit packages, etc) and none of the sales and property tax revenues. It also seems to me that having so much commercial development on the edge of Orange County will make it hard for Chapel Hill and Carrboro to add commercial development to broaden the tax base outside of residential.

Again, I'm happy to be educated if my viewpoint is wrong...my perspective is of one person who is making assumptions about the costs and benefits of big box, and I could easily be wrong.

I'd also say this...when I lived off of Estes Drive, I was more likely to head out to Southpoint (because of the quality of the theatre) or to New Hope Commons/Lowe's Plaza for non-grocery shopping that I was either to Kroger Plaza/Eastgage/UMall.

Terri, You're an info-gathering Machine!

Actually, y'all,
We've requested more than simply a courtesy review from Chatham: We' ve requested that NCDOT and the MPO conduct a review to determine whether this use fits the trip projections in the 2030 Long range transportation plan, as well as for DEHNR and/or whoever else may be responsible (OWASA, et.al) to review likely watershed impacts. As to the former; Why is this important? Cuz planning (and funding) for transportation improvements is based on the projections---If the proposed use will over-stress the infrastructure, both existing and planned, NCDOT may deny access permits until these issues are resolved. Not to mention the implications for Smith Level's future (see Briar Chapel string). As well, (as Terri points out above)UNC appears to be intimately involved in that it appears that access across university property may be necessary for this thing to fly. An assessment needs to be made of the potential impacts on the operations of their park-and-ride facility going up on an ajacent tract.

One could hammer this approach as being 'overly bureaucratic', but these bureaucratic processes are just what may slow this process in order for the public, and officialdom to get their hands around what the implications are likely to be, and determine a responsible course of action. Torches and pitchforks are important, but you've gotta work the problem from all sides.

Moreover, while some grumbling is beginning to emerge about Orange getting in Chatham's bidniss, it doesn't take Werner Von Braun to arrive at the conclusion that the implications are regional in nature, hence, a regional approach needs to be taken.

As for the torch-and-pitchfork angle, as I mentioned on the
'Briar Chapel' string, Ed and I are working with Mark Barroso
in Chatham to assemble an Orange/Chatham coalition of folks who are concerned about the issue, with an eye towards organizing a strategy meeting shortly after July 10.: Drop us a line to get on the e-mail list. Here are the contacts:

Alex Zaffron (Orange) http://www.ocdp@mail.com
Ed Harrison (Orange) http://www.ed.harrison@minspring.com
Mark Barrosso (Chatham) mbarrosso@mindspring.com

As an aside, I'll be in New Orleans 'til the 10th for some badly-needed (and already booked) r&r, so please pardon some delayed responses (as a concession, I'm dragging the laptop, but not to Preservation Hall)


One more fact. There is no city or county sewer system available in north Chatham. Cole Park Plaza oeprates their own wastewater treatment facility, approved and monitored through NC DENR. So there are environmental issues beyond stormwater.

As I understand it, the developer will have to provide full engineering analysis of the soils, etc. before DENR will issue a permit. The type of review for that permit depends on whether they propose to build a discharge or non-discharge system; soil type determines in part the type of system they can be permitted for. If they want a discharge system, Orange Co will be involved since the discharge would be going into Morgan Creek (acquifer protection). If they use a spray system (non-discharge) DENR is the only reviewer since it won't be considered any kind of environmental threat. Either way, this "bureaucratic" issue may slow down the process significantly.

The correct email address for me is: ed.harrison@mindspring.com. Phone is 490-1566.

The main response to this needs to be from Chatham County residents. If there is a rezoning application, anyone in the world can comment, but the Commissioners will want to hear (we hope) from their own constituents above all. Having said that, my Council colleagues and I would like a meaningful response from Chatham County government, because there are a lot of regional issues here.

Terri, nothing wrong with a "bureaucratic" approach to slowing down the process. But if you're looking for someone to lead on this, you need champions with more than one arrow - the "bureaucratic" arrow - in their quiver.

I applaud Alex, Ed and Mark's efforts to pull together a coalition of forces to address the issues a new mega-development like this pose - I just hope that all those who want claim leadership on this project have the staying power, the strength of conviction and the "out-of-the-box" aptitude to create a good result.

And for all our sakes, let's hope it isn't just election year posturing.

A quick observation on the DENR and spray discharge. From my research, it appears that Orange County (and probably OWASA) will have grounds to review the permits if the soil type is of sufficiently questionable quality to provide complete absorption. These "technical" limits which combined with both the geology and topography of the Starpoint area would seem to make a case for a collaborative review.

One avenue of discussion vis-a-vis a similar approach to spray sewage discharges at Briar Chapel has to do with concentration of pollutants (heavy metals, etc.) in the discharge areas and residual run-off from the system. In addition, as you have pointed out, even with the semi-permeable surface of UNC's lot teamed with the addition of a Wal-mart size lot plus the currently anticipated traffic loads on Smith Level/15-501, the increased concentration of traffic-related pollutants both in the Jordan and University Lake watersheds should be of great concern.

"Info-gathering machine" Terri, have you tripped across any studies on the effects of New Hope Commons on the New Hope Creek watershed? If not, maybe Candidate Ed can steer you in the right direction.

maybe traffic won't be effected in Chapel Hill by this. Chatham residents will be able to get thier retail fix in Chatham rather then pass through Orange to shop in Durham.

Clark, even if all the traffic was from South of the mega-plex and terminated in their parking lots, the pollution would still find its way, both pre- and post-construction, North of the Chatham-line.

To get a better sense of this, take a look at this.

Nobody has mentioned this yet, but given the elevation of the site and the typical illumination that your standard Super-Wal-mart-mega-plex uses, anyone on the South-side of Chapel Hill that used to enjoy a little reprieve from light pollution to their North by gazing South - too bad - the glow on the horizon won't be the new risen Moon, it'll be the bright sunshine of Pyrrhic profits.

Will--I should have known to talk with you instead of DENR's environmental chemist. I'll let her know you disagree with her understanding of the science and the law. :)

Hmmm, I guess that's one way to squash a possibly relevant avenue of discourse. In fact, your disdain for my 'net-based research reminds me all so well of a certain lame-duck Councilmember.

I'm going on some previous research I did on the Briar Chapel sewage treatment proposal. Has your friend looked into the specific problems surrounding sewage sludge use or spray application of sewage?

I know the rules are extensive and technical in nature but they do seem fairly clear. For instance:

For spray irrigation, land application of residuals on dedicated sites, or residual disposal/utilization systems and treatment works, except for rapid infiltration disposal systems and systems for composting residual for land application:

(A) a map of the site, with topographic contour intervals not exceeding ten feet or 25 percent of total site relief, whichever is less, and showing all facility-related structures and fences within the treatment, storage and land application areas, all test auger borings or inspection pits and the location of all wells, pits and ENR-ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT COMMISSION T15A: 02H .0200 NORTH CAROLINA ADMINISTRATIVE CODE Effective April 1,2001 Page 12 of 44 quarries, springs, lakes, ponds, or other surface drainage features within 500 feet of the waste treatment/disposal site(s);
( C )soil evaluation of the disposal site conducted by a soils scientist to adequately evaluate the soils to be utilized for treatment and disposal down to a depth of seven feet to include, but is not limited to field descriptions of texture; color; structure; the depth; thickness and type of restrictive horizons; the presence or absence and depth of evidence of any seasonal high water table; recommendations concerning application rates of liquids, solids, and other wastewater constituents; field estimates or measurements of saturated hydraulic conductivity in the most restrictive horizon; and cation exchange capacity. Applicants may be required to dig pits when necessary for proper evaluation of the soils at the site.
(D) a project evaluation and a receiver site management plan (if applicable) prepared by an agronomist and his recommendations concerning cover crops and the ability to accept the proposed application rates of liquid, solids, minerals and other constituents of the wastewater;
(E) complete plans and specifications for the entire system, including treatment, storage, application, and disposal facilities and equipment. Treatment works previously permitted will not need to be shown, unless they are directly tied into the new units or are critical to the understanding of the complete process;
(F) a complete chemical analysis of the typical wastewater or residual to be treated, may include but not limited to Percent Total Solids, pH, Total Organic Carbon, BOD, COD, Ammonia, Nitrates, TKN, Chlorides, Sodium, Phosphorus, Sulfides, Bicarbonate, Magnesium, Calcium, Nitrates, Phenol, Total Trihalomethanes, Toxicity test parameters, Total Volatile Organic Compounds, Total Coliforms and Total Dissolved Solids;
(G) proposed location and construction details of a monitoring well network;
(H) information on the location, construction details, and primary usage (drinking water, process water, monitoring, etc.) of all wells within the 500 feet of the
disposal site.
(J) sites will only be permitted in water supply watersheds when allowed by 15A NCAC 2B .0200. Residuals from more than one facility under common
ownership may be considered as a single source.

I never claimed to be an expert Terri, and I might not have the specific expertise you want Terri, but, as a concerned citizen with a layman's understanding of the problems this mega-lex poses, I will continue to slug away at this issue as best as possible.

I'll ignore Will's snide little 'election year...' crack except to say this: Some of us have been hammering away at this kind of stuff for..like, fifteen years. How about you?

Having said that, the more folks bring leadership to the table to deal with this issue,the better. So bring it on. What won't accomplish anything is sniping at one another.

See ya when I get back (If the place hasn't washed away).


Go for the wall Will. But if you present inaccurate information, I'm going to challenge you on it--just as you would/so often do challenge me.

In this instance, the individual I spoke with is the DENR inspector for that section of Chatham Co. so I trust her technical knowledge more than yours. FWIW, I would believe you more if we were talking about wifi. She says that soil analysis is the technical criteria used to determine what kind of wastewater treatment can and cannot be used in this particular section of the Jordan Lake watershed (not University Lake as you stated above). Its the developers responsibility to provide complete plans and the soil analysis so that gives me hope that the process will not be quick.

One question I have is why Orange Co was not given review rights on the park and ride since stormwater falls under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements. Anyone know?

The point I think should concern Orange and Chatham county residents is how many of these individual wastewater treatment areas are being developed in the absence of any county-owned system. Maintenance of Individual treatment areas fall to property owners/neighborhood associations after the developer signs off on the property. If they don't follow the maintenance and repair requirements, a huge environmental disaster could result. Eventually with all of the individual systems being built, such a disaster becomes inevitable--when not if. Chatham could find themselves in the same position as Beaufort or other small communities, where leaky/faulty/poorly maintained wastewater systems encroach on drinking water. I'm not challenging DENRs ethics or their oversight, just being realistic about their limited staff.

Alex, the comment wasn't directed your direction (it didn't occur to me you would self-apply it). Sorry if you felt caught in the jetwash.

Terri, I was presenting an avenue for discussion. Sure, the Neuse River basin and Jordan Lake are probably most in play, but it doesn't make sense to discard University Lake's watershed so lightly as a concern. If you reread what I've posted I never claimed to be a DENR inspector or environmental chemist "for what it's worth" (why did you leave that out of your original post?) but I am willing to pursue several avenues concurrently - aren't you? Alex certainly is inviting

"more folks [to] bring leadership to the table to deal with this issue,the better"

As the particular "inaccuracies" in the science, though I didn't quote any specifics, feel free to point out the relevant details.

It seems pretty straightforward from the one section I quoted from 2H.200, a soil inspection is critical in selecting the proper type of sewage treatment process (just backing up your statement "the developer will have to provide full engineering analysis of the soils... ").

I would challenge your assessment, even if it came from the DENR "horses mouth", that

If they use a spray system (non-discharge) DENR is the only reviewer since it won't be considered any kind of environmental threat


This seems to be rather over-reaching as spray systems have been targetted nationwide for their inappropriate usage and the potentially grave environmental damage they can cause.
Damage seems to fit the category of "environmental threat".

Even if such a system was approved by DENR, like Briar Chapel's, and a locality thought the approval inappropriate, I'm sure other parties would call for a subsequent review.

I look forward to your DENR environmental chemist friend's suggestions on how best to contest the enviromental impacts of the mega-plex based on her knowledge of both the relevant science and law.

Two lessons from history may help. The bad one was the
CH Town Council's unanimous recommendation to the
Durham City Council against the construction of Southpoint.
I was supposed to present our case, but the Durham council
would not even let me speak. I managed to get them all a
written copy of our resolution, but Howard Clement, then
Durham mayor pro tem said "The folks in Chapel Hill are
entitled to their opinion, but they are entitled to be wrong".
Th message here is that a Chapel Hill and Carrboro request will very likely fall on deaf ears; some issue with legal teeth,
traffic, environment, or whatever, will be necessary.

The second lesson is the opposite. About 10 years ago,
the citizens of Eureka, California successfully fought a WalMart,
even though its city council was in favor of it for all the same
reasons that (I assume) the Chatham Commissioners will
be. Eureka is
in far northern California, had a population of about 35,000 then, and its economy, based on timber, was faltering badly -- the
lumber mills were closing one after another. WalMart wanted
to build a store right on Humboldt Bay, on a tract of land that
housed a badly-performing plywood mill, I think. City
people started the largest PR campaign against WalMart
I've ever seen, with a bumper sticker that became
nationally famous: MalWart, your source for cheap plastic
crap. It took a lot of Eureka citizens to get involved, and
their legal issue was protecting Humboldt Bay, whose
waterfront at that time, was industrial, dirty,
and unattractive. They also had the California option,
which we don't have, by which a certain fraction of voters
can start a ballot question, by which the city council's
decision can be overturned.
I suggest that anyone who is interested
in this, please contact Eureka's city manager's office.
Unfortunately this happened before the internet was
so prevelant, so I can't give you links straight to the


Would the Chapel Hill Town Council have been receptive to a resolution from the Durham City Council if the situation had been reversed?

Chris, I imagine a Council that was willing to listen to the mostly out-of-town Actioneers talk about all the "dead churches", etc. in Chapel Hill, that Durham's Council would at least be extended the same courtesy. Further, I know that our Council justly prides itself on its Triangle-wide outlook and participation.

I am curious to know ... how much oversight did Chapel Hill offer to Chatham County when they were reviewing Southern Village? How about Meadowmont?

Terri is clearly correct that better intergovernmental communication with Chatham County is badly needed. When I was on the Town Council we did meet occasionally with the Chatham County Commissioners. Once in Pittsboro, as I recall, and again in Siler City (driving past Rosemary Waldorf's childhood home in Silk Hope along the way). Those discussions were helpful, but never led to any real agreement about development in either county.

Contrary to the implication made by several people above, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County have each ceded over control of certain aspects of zoning to other jurisdictions in exchange for similar authority in the other jurisdiction. This was done as a way of ensuring one another's future. And such arrangements with Chatham County might be mutually beneficial for Chatham and Orange Counties, however these types of agreements would need to be wanted in Chatham County, which is unfortunate because our land use planning in southern Orange County has major implications for Chatham's water supply.

But, as Terri pointed out, we will need to approach conversations with Chatham County without arrogance and with respect for both their sovereignty and their community values and goals.

On a related note, I spent about an hour today at the Chatham County Planning Department and I will report to y'all what I learned regarding the Lee-Moore property a little later tonight on OrangePolitics.org.

Right now, I have to go to a cookout with my sons' preschool.

This in this morning's Globe and Mail:

Second City on B.C. Rejects Walmart


News today of a movement to get TIAA-CREF to divest from Walmart.

I'm not sure how others feel, but I don't want any big box store at Starpoint. The site is simply not appropriate for 20 acres of impervious pavement, whether its Walmart or Lowes (Hardware) or Target.

I've been following Greensboro's Wal-mart inspired drama for the last couple weeks. First the developer insisted on $300K of public incentives to secure the Super-duper Wal-mart and then, two weeks later, Wal-mart went ahead and committed, and now the developer is back at the public trough.

It's a story worth not repeating.

Part of the travails of a developer Linder trying to shake economic incentives from the G'boro Council are documented via Ed Cone, the News & Record and Greensboro's exceptional Council 'blogger Sandy Carmany (Councilmember Carmany has kept a nice log on their Council's efforts to find a new Town Manager).

I really hope that the Chatham Commissioners don't propose any public-enticements to bolster this developments prospects.

Here is what I learned at the Chatham County Planning Department today:

1) Twenty acres at Starpoint is zoned B1 which would allow a WalMart type store with no review or approval by the County Commissioners or Planning Board. They would simply file for a building permit. To give you an idea of what would fit on that site, twenty acres is about the amount of land that the Lowe's and Borders Books and their parking lot sit on at Sage Road and 15-501 in Chapel Hill.

2) If WalMart needed more space than the 20 acres that is currently zoned B1, then they would apparently need a Conditional Use Rezoning and Conditional Use Permit - which would be a decision for the Chatham County Commissioners. This would be a legislative (not quasi-judicial) decision and it would merely be up to them to decide if they want it or not.

3) There is no application on the table for this site, although the Chatham Planning Director did discuss various possibilities with representatives from WalMart about a year and a half ago.

4) The driveway for this site would have to go out to 15-501 in a location where there is no current intersection (apparently opposed by DOT Engineering) or it would have to cross three properties that sit between the WalMart site and an existing intersection at 15-501 and Woodward. The intervening property owners are UNC, Sledd Thomas and Dwight Kernodle. The word on the street is that Sledd Thomas's property is under contract to an unidentified party.

All of this information gives me a couple of ideas for points of intervention against the development:

A) In order for the driveway to come out at Woodward, it would have to cross properties which are currently zoned RA40 instead of B1, so one interesting question might be whether WalMart would need a rezoning of these RA40 properties in order to get to run their driveway to line up with Woodward. If so, this puts the issue before the Chatham County Commission.

B) Even if the driveway in RA40 is not a problem under the Chatham County ordinance, a critical question is whether a WalMart can be built on the twenty acres that is already commercial or whether they would need more space than that and are therefore likely to seek a rezoning. If there is a rezoning requested, then perhaps surrounding property owners could get a protest petition going, which would raise the number of votes that would be needed in order to grant the rezoning. That is, the vote count to approve a rezoning despite a protest petition would have to be 4-1 in favor of rezoning in order for it to pass (I believe I am right about that; anyone want to elucidate how protest petitions work?)

C) If there is no rezoning needed for this project, then the County Commissioners may have no say about this project whatsoever. If that is the case, then UNC and DOT will be the powers that are in the best position to determine whether this project goes forward or not, because DOT can refuse the driveway permit other than at Woodward and UNC could stand in the way of the Woodward driveway. It seems to me that if the University administrators are thinking clearly, then they will see that this plan does not benefit UNC (more congestion on 15-501 south), but the owners of the property are very powerful folks, so they may be able to overcome UNC. After all, the final decision on whether UNC would co-operate will come from the Board of Trustees, rather than the administrators themselves. And given the back slapping nature of UNC BOT appointments, one could be fairly skeptical about the whole thing.

C) Of all things, the NC Department of Transportation could stand up to these developers and stand behind their own engineers. But frankly, the Board of Transportation is not noted for its anti-WalMart background.

Mark, what about Terri and others points on stormwater, sewage and water? Even if they can build, how do they handle these services?

It's interesting to note how the currently constituted Chatham Planning board have decided to limit evidentiary discovery on projects as a consequence of Briar Chapel, et. al., as noted by Planning Board member Chris Walker in these minutes.

Hopefully Board Chairman Eliason's desire to expand the Board's evidentiary process has progressed since January.

Chairman Eliason thanked Mr. Walker for his comments. He stated that the County has changed and that the Board has not had to deal with the magnitude of issues that are currently before the Board. He noted discussions like tonight will allow us to grow as a Board.

The sewage issue is really not within Chatham Planning's purview; it is a state issue and a Helath Dept issue. I did not address it above because I only met with the planning staff.

Ad for storm water, the one thing that I learned about that is that Chatham and the State allow upto 36% impervious surface in that area of the county. This site does not drain in to University Lake. I am unclear about whether they can build the 20 acres of B1 until it is 100% impervious and use the other 40 acres of RA40 as the non-impervious area that would bring the total down below 36%. I would have to get clarification from the Chatham Planning Staff about that.

But my fundamental point was that this project might be able to be built with only minimal review from local government, which I think speaks to some larger issues about how these things are handdled. It is very disappointing to me.

Looking through the reports on Walmart it appears that they have often taken small properties such as this (20 acres) and built a regular store only to purchase larger property within a few years for a Super Walmart. Then the smaller property is abandoned. I believe this was their strategy in Hillsborough.

Mark--when I spoke with the Planning Dept last week, they said the application would have to go to public hearing and then to the commissioners. I wonder why we got different stories...probably the person I spoke with knows that Walmarts are rarely contained on 20 acres and expected they would want something larger. But if they allow on 36% impervious surface, does that mean they can only build on 7.2 acres (36% of 20) without a conditional use permit or is the 36% applied to the entire tract of 69 acres?

Thanks Mark. I imagine we'll see the details of the service hookups if a plan is ever submitted. I'm surprised this site doesn't drain at all into the University Lake watershed - I looked at a topo the other night and it didn't look the ridgeline divide was well defined enough to shed water completely towards Jordan.

Terri, I am not sure whether it is 36% of 60 or 36% of 20 without a rezoning. We need to put that question to the Chatham County Planning Dept.


I was surprised too that this is not in the University Lake Watershed, but here is the pertinent part of a memo to the OWASA Board from OWASA Director Ed Kerwin:

"This memo and attached map provide some basic locational information.

"The property in question (shown in yellow on the map) is a 63-acre tract owned by the Lee-Moore Oil Company. It is located near the Starpoint area, immediately south of the Orange-Chatham County line and east of Highway 15-501. Recent news articles have also mentioned a new park-and-ride lot planned by the University of North Carolina. We are not familiar with the status of that project, but nearby University-owned property is shown in tan on the map.

"As indicated by the dashed red line, the Lee-Moore property is wholly located outside of the University Lake watershed, which is generally west of 15-501. A small southwestern portion of the UNC property appears to be within the watershed, but we have not verified this in the field. Virtually all of the UNC and Lee-Moore tracts drain in a northeasterly direction away from University Lake and toward Wilson Creek."

If anyone would like a PDF of the "attached map" please email me at Mark _Chilton@Hotmail.com and I will send it to you. I don't know how to post it on OP and I don't know if it is on the OWASA website. Can anyone out there find it on OWASA.org and post a link?


Hi, all. I've been lurking on this site to find out what folks in the area have discovered while researching the Wal-Mart Situation here in Chatham. I live off Lystra Road in north Chatham, and have been pretty active in Chatham development issues over the past few years, particularly in regards to environmental impacts.

I'd like to clarify some things I've read on this thread.

1. If the developers of this site require more than 20 acres on which to build, they must get the remaining portion of the parcel rezoned. This requires a legislative decision by the Chatham Commissioners. If they need a Conditional Use Permit, that will require a quasi-judicial process, including a public hearing that's fact-based. We here in Chatham have become quite knowledgable about the quasi-judicial process due to the large number of Conditional Use Permits that have been requested (and approved) in recent years (e.g., Booth Mountain, Briar Chapel, Chatham Downs, etc.).

2. Unless the developer could hook in to an existing wastewater treatment system, they would have to build their own. My guess is that they would propose a non-discharge system. Terri mentioned that this might take awhile, but I contend that this kind of thing has become commonplace in Chatham, and the plan for it could already have been completed! In fact, Mark Ashness, CE, and his cronies (Ed Andrews, soil scientist, and Lee Fleming, wastewater treatment plant guru) are being hired by every big developer wanting to get into Chatham. They've got the process down.

3. The Divison of Water Quality would have to permit the non-discharge system if that were proposed. The permit often includes conditions related to stream monitoring and groundwater monitoring, but it takes vigilant citizens to make sure the data are actually submitted to and then reviewed by DWQ. One can request a public hearing on non-discharge permit applications from the Director of DWQ; this is a route we have been increasingly exploring in Chatham.

4. A bill that caps wastewater discharge into Jordan Lake just passed the State House and Senate and is on its way to Gov. Easley, so the likelihood of the developer being able to get a new discharge permit into Wilson Creek is slim to none.

5. Someone should check on whether or not the developer could use the 40 acres zoned RA40 in the impervious surface calculation without having that 40 acres rezoned to B1 along with the rest of the parcel.

6. Based on my experiences in Chatham, whether or not this project gets reviewed by Chatham Commissioners makes no difference -- we have a 3-vote majority that votes for ANYTHING that brings in a little tax revenue. We may need to rely on the State (DOT and DWQ) to keep us safe from the impacts of a large development on this site.

Thanks Mark.

I guess that means we can let Cary, Apex and Raleigh "carry the water", so to speak, on the concerns of a tainted watershed ;-)?

Kidding aside, we would still have stormwater related pollution the extra 10,000 to 20,000 car trips expected from locating a Super-Wal-mart (or any other simila r complex - like the Home Depot across from New Hope Commons) at Starpoint. And doesn't this also encourage commercial development in the wedge between Damascus and Smith Level Rd.?

Does anyone know if it is possible -and how to-find out how many Wal Mart "associates" receive some form of public assistance from Orange County/from Durham County?
I worry that even though the store would be right across the line,paying no OC tax,employees who live in OC would be subsidzed by OC tax payers-thus forcing us to subsidze Wal Mart.
Jacquie Gist

I spoke with the Chatham Planning director and the current landowner can develop 36% of the full 62 acres--however, only 20 acres are zoned for business so that's the limitation. If Lee Moore sold the 20 acres, only 36% of that could be developed (impervious pavement limitation). As to the wastewater treatment, it depends on the soil type, but he's pretty sure that a non-discharge system to support the 20 acre development could be built on the remaining 42 acres if the soil type would support it. He's going to research the question though, because it is governed by both state watershed protection laws and county zoning ordinance. Chatham County has no plans to build a county-owned wastewater treatment facility.

It may be that Orange County Social Services has employer information and could put together a report although there are no doubt other agencies that the workers in question depend upon. But my understanding is that most of the relevant studies of Walmart employees' dependence on public assistance have been done by research centers. For example, the well-known California study was done by UC-Berkeley's Institute for Industrial Relations. Another key study was done by the AFL-CIO.

Forgot--Mark the GIS map you have from OWASA isn't online. I'm going to ask for another version that includes Wilson/Morgan Creek so that stormwater runoff from the site will impact Chapel Hill and should be addressed through the Upper New Hope Arm stakeholders group.

Terri, I guess it was accurate to say that DENR wasn't the only voice on the waste water issue? Thanks for the researched clarification.

Disclaimer: I am not an environmental chemist or a DENR employee and have never played either on television.

Allison--do you know what conditions require a conditional use permit? When I first spoke with the planning dept, they seemed to *assume* there would be a public hearing, although not the type of public hearing we have in Chapel Hill/Carrboro (staff reporting to aldermen/council on possible impacts of proposed plan).

Jacquie, it could be hard to get the kind of data you mentioned for clients confidentiality reasons here in Orange County, but check out an excellent piece on this topic in other communitieis by my friend Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham:


My, Haven't we been busy bees. Don't have a lot of time, but two brief items:

1. Steve, In no way was my comment regarding UNC's role in this designed to be derogatory. My point was, that as a key player---which we all recognize is the case--- that the University has interests that may be adversely affected by the proposal, both from a practical standpoint, and as a matter of public goodwill: Would YOU like to be the one who the fingers are pointed at as being responsible for an undesireable outcome? As such, it is important that all concerned make all institutions who will have involvement in this matter aware of those concerns and issues.

2. Jacquie's point of information may be addressed by an analysis of the typical geographic reach and commuting patterns of Wal-Mart's employment patterns, merge that with the stats illustrating public assistance requirements of associates, and break out the number likely to be from Orange. It's not a precise scientific tool, but is likely to produce a result useful for illustrative purposes.

3. Just as potshots at UNC are unhelpful, it is equally unhelpful to dismiss NCDOT's role based on displeasure with some of their patterns of decision making (which I grant, is valid). Like it or not, they are THE regulatory agency beyond Chatham County Government---IMHO---who is likely to have the greatest influence on the outcome of this affair. As I said earlier, if it can be shown---by the numbers--- that the proposal is inconsistent with adopted plans, those will be powerful tools to bring to bear questions about the viability of the proposal, particularly as it relates to potential strains on already overextended resources---both financial, and physical. The MPO staff should be starting to work this as we speak.

Gotta go---

To Jacquie's point, I wonder how many UNC workers live in Chatham county and get public assistance there?

Hmmm ... seems we've had an outbreak of soundbite politics on the public assistance issue, which the "Facing South" article Mark C. linked to above identifies as a Medicaid issue.

It is interesting that the article mostly discusses children. On that front, it's important to remember that this state's Medicaid elibiligity standards are quite loose (up to 185 percent of poverty wages for pregnant women and children up to age 1) to combat infant mortality.

The key determinant for eligiblity is, more than income, the number of children in the family. For example, a single woman who's pregnant or has a single child under age 1 would qualify if she make $23,736 or less per year. In the perhaps unlikely possibility that she's pregnant and already has one child still under 1, she qualifies if she makes $29,772 or less a year. (Bear in mind that in NC, an unborn child counts the same as one who's been born, so a single pregnant woman is considered a family of two.)

Problem is, there's probably not an employer in the country that makes wage determinations based on the number of children in a worker's family.

I would guess that despite their commitment to paying workers above-poverty wages, Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County all might have employees who are Medicaid-eligible.

Even if they don't, they might have workers who are receiving public assistance. According to a May 2005 state survey, 23 Orange County residents who are city or county workers have children in the N.C. Health Choice for Children program, which provides medical coverage to otherwise uninsured children under 19 whose family income is higher than the Medicaid limit but under 200 percent of poverty.

The same survey found that 80 state workers living in Orange County and at least 47 public school employees living in Orange County also had children in the Health Choice program.

Caveat: This survey only classes employers and identifies the employee's place of residence. From the data available, one can't say for sure that any of the employers are based in Orange County. For more information on N.C. Health Choice, see http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/dma/cpcont.htm.

Bottom line: This is hardly a Wal-Mart-only problem.

Question: Is there any evidence that Wal-Mart pays employees (not proprietors) worse, counting all salary and benefits, than the small retailers it displaces?

Ray, Walmart is the largest private employer in the country so they are a good place to begin focusing on remedies, even if low pay for workers is widespread as a fundamental precept of capitalist enterprise (surely, Ray, you know something about that).

According to wikipedia, "wages at Wal-Mart are about 20% less than at other retail stores"

"In 2001, Wal-Mart paid its employees an average $8.23 per hour, compared with $10.35 for an average supermarket worker. (US Rep. George Miller citing California report)

"True, not everyone is badly paid. But last year Scott Lee Jr., Wal-Mart's chief executive, was paid $17.5 million. That is, every two weeks Mr. Lee was paid about as much as his average employee will earn in a lifetime." (Paul Krugman)

Public employee compensation is definitely a challenge for our local governments. Carrboro does a study comparing our pay grades with other area employers every two years. This ensures that we remain competitive compared with UNC, Durham, Chapel Hill, Duke etc. But that is different than saying that all pay grades are adeqaute (because some pay grades are just as inadequate in neighboring jurisdictions).

The public subsidy of public employers question extends beyond the areas that Ray mentioned. For example, a significant portion of state-appropriated childcare subsidies goes to support local government employees. And there probably are some municipal government employees living in subsidized rental housing in this area as well (based on my experience managing subsidized rental housing). And I would not be surprised if other examples could be found as well.

On the one hand, such subsidies should, of course, be made jsut as available to public employees as to anyone else, but on the other hand we should be taking seriously the question of whether we should be putting public employees in the position of needing these various subsidies. When I was on the Town Council in the 1990's, Councilmember Richard Franck and I worked closely with the Black Public Works Association (BPWA) to implement their pay proposals, and it would be helpful if Carrboro town employees could likewise share their concerns about compensation issues.

I also know that there are few Carrboro Town employees who are able to own their own homes in Carrboro because this town is getting so expensive. A few of our highest paid staff positions (such as the Town Manager) have town residency as a job requirement (because we need these key people to be readily available in the event of a serious emergency). But most other town employees cannot afford to buy in Carrboro. I know from running an affordable housing organization that a number of municipal employees in southern Orange County have bought their homes from EmPOWERment, Habitat or the Land Trust.

That is a good thing in that these programs are partly intended to benefit municipal employees, however the sad reality is that probably 50% of the municipal employees who own homes in Southern Orange County either inheritted their homes or bought them from an affordable home-ownership program - there being hardly any other way for most municipal employees to afford to own adequate housing in our community.

At the present time, Carrboro is evaluating the possibility of partnering with a private company to assist us in providing a home buying benefit to Carrboro Town employees. This is a low cost program that would promote home ownership by providing some downpayment assistance to municipal employees. We have not yet determined whether this program is a good fit for Carrboro, but it looks like an interesting possibility. Particularly because we need all of our emergency personnel to be available in the event of an emergency, not just the department heads. Plus the people who make this community work really should be a part of this community and have a personal stake in its future.



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