Here comes Briar Chapel

Last week the Chatham County Commissioners approved a project called Briar Chapel. It is being described as "another Siler City" (pop. 7,000) - and that's not counting the three shopping centers. Except of course it's nowhere near Siler City, it's over here near our neck of the woods.

Many people in Chatham County are understandably alarmed about how their schools and other public facilities will handle this rapid growth. Here's some information about the fiscal impact of this development on Chatham County, from a local blog called The Chatham Shagbark (sadly defunct of late) .

But being selfish, I have to wonder about the impact here in southern Orange County. Where are these people going to work and how are they going to get there?

Erwin Trace: A challenge for local government

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 19, 2005

One of the more unusual ideas to hit Chapel Hill of late was the suggestion, adopted last year, that the town seek authority to purchase open space outside its jurisdiction. On the face of it, this was nonsensical. As Kevin Foy put it last September, "Citizens of Chapel Hill are citizens of Orange County, and Orange County buys land throughout the county. I don't think we have an interest in duplicating the efforts of the county."

But Foy went on to point out that the town's planning interest extends beyond the town line. Tactical purchases outside the town's extra-territorial jurisdiction can help Chapel Hill protect the rural buffer and provide additional open space. This was born out recently when the town opened the door to cooperating on the possible purchase of property along Erwin Road just northeast of the extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Local Builder Leaves HBA

Mark Marcoplos gave me permission to post this letter to the president of the Home Builders Association. It speaks volumes and most eloquently.

Marcoplos Construction

February 9, 2005

Dear President Burgess,

After much deliberation, I have decided not to renew my membership in the Home Builders Association.

From my perspective, the long-term viability of our communities, our economy, and our health is in danger. Our society embraces short-term profit-seeking at the expense of human needs, environmental protection, and a sustainable economic framework.

At the forefront of this short-sighted approach is the Home Builders Association. Whether the issue is building along fragile coastal areas in North Carolina, building housing developments in the Florida Everglades, or battling regulations that would help curtail urban sprawl, the HBA is consistently advocating for whatever will allow more building with less barriers and more profits.

OWASA-UNC project should be model

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, January 22, 2005

Two weeks ago, I wrote of the importance of valuing, using and protecting our local water supply. Although the OWASA system provides an abundance of fresh, high-quality water, its vulnerability was apparent during the drought of 2002 when water supplies fell to a harrowing 30 percent of reservoir capacity.

Spurred in part by that experience, OWASA and UNC last year began planning for a water reuse system to meet a significant part of the university's nonpotable water needs. This will involve the reclamation and reuse of highly treated wastewater from the Mason Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant. Much of that water will be channeled toward the university's chiller plants and perhaps ultimately to the cogeneration plant.

When the project comes online in 2007, it will initially reduce water demand by 10 percent. At build-out, the reduction will be 15 percent. This is equivalent to expanding the water supply that much.

Global water supply under attack

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, January 08, 2005

The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies a right to such basics as food, clothing and housing. But the word "water" does not appear in the document. Perhaps this is because the authors of the 1948 document could not imagine a time in which fresh drinking water would become an increasingly rare commodity, no longer freely available to all. That time is upon us.

In southern Orange County we are fortunate to have abundant fresh water provided from OWASA's reservoirs. But global trends are not encouraging and may threaten both our control over our water supply and our ability to keep it off the competitive market.

Less than one-half of 1 percent of the world's water is fresh. The rest is seawater or frozen in permanent ice masses. The UN has determined that a billion people lack access to fresh drinking water. Global water consumption is growing at twice the rate of the population.



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