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Frequently Asked Questions

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Proposed Joint Land Use Plan with Cary

Q: What exactly is the Chatham-Cary Joint Land Use Plan?

A: The Joint Land Use Plan will establish the official long-range direction for growth and development in the study area, which is generally located east of Jordan Lake, west of the Wake County Line, south of the Durham County Line, and north of White Oak Creek. Once completed, the Joint Plan will establish a common long-term vision for future land uses, transportation, parks, open space, and the environment.

Q: Why is this Plan being prepared?

A: In response to increased growth and development pressures in this part of the Triangle over the last several years, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and the Cary Town Council passed joint resolutions in December 2005 to work as partners in developing a long-range land use plan for this portion of Chatham County.

Q: Once completed, how does the Plan become official?

A: In order for the Plan to become official, it must ultimately be adopted by separate acts of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and the Cary Town Council.

Q: Once completed, how will the Plan be used?

A: The Plan will become an official policy document, expressing both Chatham County’s and the Town of Cary’s official long-range vision for the area. The Plan will be used by these two local governments to help guide infrastructure planning (roads, water, sewer, parks, etc.). Both Chatham and Cary staff and officials will use the Plan to evaluate private development and zoning proposals submitted to either of these local governments. All future development and zoning proposals submitted to these local governments will be evaluated against the recommendations of the Plan. Lastly, private landowners, area residents, and businesses will use the Plan to help guide their own investment decisions. 

Q: Will adoption of the Land Use Plan change my zoning?

A: No. The Land Use Plan is only a policy document, and will not change either Chatham County’s or Cary’s Zoning Maps or Ordinances. Changes in zoning must follow a separate process. 

Q: Will adoption of the Land Use Plan cause my property to be annexed?

A: No. This Plan will be a policy document establishing a common long-term vision for future land uses, transportation, parks, open space, and the environment. It is not an annexation ordinance or proposal.

Q: Will my taxes increase as a result of the Joint Land Use Plan?

A: The development of a joint land use plan will not result in an increase in your taxes. As described in a preceding question, this policy planning effort is not an annexation plan, and will not result in any Town-initiated annexation. Thus, properties within the study area that are outside Cary’s municipal limits will continue to just pay Chatham County property taxes, while properties within the study area that are currently within Cary’s limits (such as Amberly and Weldon Ridge) will continue to pay both Chatham County and Town of Cary property taxes.

The value of your property is established by the Chatham County Tax Office during their re-evaluation every 4 years, with the last one occurring in 2009. You can view information about the tax department’s re-evaluation process here.

The County tax rate is set by the Chatham Board of Commissioners annually. Similarly, the Cary tax rate is set by the Cary Town Council annually. Tax rates are applied and do not change based on where you live within a jurisdiction.

Q: Will property owners within the plan area be forced to obtain water and sewer from Cary or otherwise have to pay if it is made available but they do not use these services?

A: No. The Chatham-Cary Joint Land Use Plan is an effort to map out the long-range direction for future development within the study area, regardless of whether such growth happens under Chatham's or Cary's jurisdictions. In fact, one of the issues to be explored in this planning process is that of identifying and developing a common governmental policy with respect to when and where future development would be best served by either private well and septic systems, community package systems, or municipal water or sewer. As a side note, while the Town of Cary typically requires new subdivisions being constructed within its corporate limits to connect to municipal utilities, the Town has no policy requiring existing subdivisions to connect, whether inside or outside of Cary.

Q: Will property owners within the plan area be subject to the development ordinances that Cary has adopted but that Chatham County has not adopted?

A: If a property is located in Chatham County but not within the Cary municipal limits, then that property is only subject to Chatham County development ordinances, and any requests for development plan approval and building permits must be submitted to Chatham County. Development plans submitted for approval to Chatham County will be subject to Chatham County development regulations.

If a property is located both within Chatham County and also within the Cary municipal limits (such as is the case for portions of Amberly and Weldon Ridge), then that property is subject to Town of Cary development ordinances, and any requests for development plan approval and building permits must be submitted to the Town of Cary. Other Town of Cary ordinances also only apply to properties located within the Town of Cary.

Q: Why is Cary interested in planning for this area? Why is Chatham County?

A: Cary has and is continuing to receive voluntary annexation requests from property owners and developers of land in Chatham County. Similarly, Chatham County also continues to receive subdivision requests in this area. But, neither Chatham County nor the Town of Cary has an adopted Land Use Plan Map for this specific area to help guide and direct future growth. (Chatham County does have a countywide Land Conservation and Development Plan, but it does not include a Land Use Map to apply specific policy recommendations to specific geographic areas. 

Regardless of whether future development within the study area occurs under Chatham County or the Town of Cary, both local governments share a common interest in sound growth planning, including environmental protection for the Jordan Lake water supply. In fact, one goal of this plan will be to jointly recommend reasonable and appropriate future land use types, densities, and infrastructure for this environment, in order that both local governments can be assured of adequate protection of the water supply.

Q: Does the Town of Cary have an extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) in Chatham County, if so how far does it extend, and what is an ETJ?

A: The Town of Cary does not have an ETJ in Chatham County. An ETJ is an additional area beyond a municipality’s corporate limit where the municipality exercises land use controls, such as subdivision, zoning, and watershed regulations and issuing building permits. In Chatham County, the Town of Pittsboro and Town of Siler City have an ETJ, whereas the Town of Goldston and Town of Cary do not. To view a map with municipalites in Chatham County and the ETJ's for Pittsboro and Siler city, click here.

Q: How will I learn about future community meetings?

A: All area landowners will continue to be notified of community meetings by a direct mail postcard. If you are not a landowner of record in the study area, but wish to receive mail notification, please forward your mailing address to Planning Staff ( or and indicate that you want to be added to the distribution list. Public meetings will also be posted 

Q. I’m still concerned that someday my property may be annexed against my wishes. What are the state laws regarding Town-initiated annexation?

A. Under NC state law, there are very strict tests that must be satisfied in order for any municipality to initiate the annexation of a property. The subject parcels must be:

  • Adjacent to the municipality’s Town limits; and
  • Have a total population density of at least 2.3 persons per acre; OR
  • Have a total population of at least one person per acre and be subdivided into lots such that at least 60% of the total acreage within its boundary consists of lots 3 acres or less in size and of these lots at least 65% of the total number of lots are 1 acre or less in size; OR
  • The land must be so developed that at least 60% of the total number of lots and tracts are used for residential or non-residential purposes and the residential properties are subdivided such that at least 60% of the total acreage consist of lots 3 acres or less in size.

If none of these situations apply to your property, you cannot be annexed by a municipality unless the owner(s) of the land specifically request to be annexed. Since the vast majority of the existing residential properties are larger than three acres in size in this part of Chatham County and/or the properties are not adjacent to Cary’s existing Town limits only a handful of residential properties even qualify for Town-initiated annexation.

You can also view the North Carolina General Statutes references here for:

Q: What is the alternative to developing a joint Chatham-Cary Land Use Plan?

A: In the absence of a joint plan, Chatham County and the Town of Cary could either continue to use their individual existing Comprehensive Plans and development policies, or they could update those plans and policies individually.

Q. Are municipalities allowed to cross County Lines? What is Cary’s status in Chatham County?

A. Cary is one of four municipalities in Chatham County, the other three being Pittsboro, Siler City, and Goldston. In North Carolina, municipalities are a separate unit of government from counties, and are chartered by the state for different purposes. In North Carolina, municipalities are free to cross county lines, and this is in fact a regular occurrence in the state. For example, in the Triangle area, the City of Raleigh crosses over into Durham County, the City of Durham crosses over into Wake County, and the Town of Chapel Hill crosses over into Durham County. Also, extensions of municipal limits does not require County consent or approval in North Carolina. This is true for all 100 counties in North Carolina. However, County approval is required to grant a municipality extraterritorial zoning jurisdiction beyond its corporate limits.

Q. Why is Cary allowed to draw water from Jordan Lake Reservoir?

A. The Jordan Lake Reservoir is a federal facility, owned and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a regional reservoir. It is not a county-owned lake. In fact it was originally constructed with the intent of serving areas such as western Wake County, as well as Chatham County. Water allocations from the reservoir are granted by the North Carolina Division of Water Resources (NC DWR). The NC DWR weighs and considers reservoir water allocation requests from numerous local governments, including applications from Chatham County, Cary and Apex, as well as from local governments far removed from the Triangle.

For more information about Jordan Lake, click here.

For more information about water allocation from the reservoir by the NC Division of Water Resources, click here.

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