The News & ObserverJuly 10, 2023
Land Originally Bought for a Chatham Housing Development Will Now Be Protected Forever | By Richard Stradling
Nearly 20 years ago, R.B. Fitch bought some wooded land with the idea of expanding Fearrington, the residential community built around its namesake village between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro.
Now Fitch has sold the still undeveloped land to the Triangle Land Conservancy. The 248 acres of wooded hillsides, streams and wetlands will now be protected forever and may someday become a public nature preserve.
Fitch and his late wife, Jenny Elder Fitch, bought the old Fearrington dairy farm in 1974, and their company, Fitch Creations, developed Fearrington Village and the hundreds of surrounding house lots. Fitch drew up plans to extend a road into the wooded property next door for dozens more, but never followed through.
“When TLC approached us a few years ago, we came to the conclusion it was a better fit for conservation,” he said in a written statement. “It’s gratifying to help permanently conserve such a lovely spot at Fearrington’s doorstep.”
The land is adjacent to property owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as buffer around Jordan Lake, which provides flood control and recreation and is a source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in Chatham, Orange and Wake counties.
It’s also in a fast-growing part of Chatham County, north of the massive Chatham Park development. The property has an appraised value of about $5.4 million, but Fitch agreed to sell to TLC for the discounted price of $3.25 million. The conservancy used $2 million from the N.C. Land and Water Fund and $1 million from several private donors, including the Arthur Carlsen Charitable Fund of the Triangle Community Foundation.
The Town of Cary, which draws drinking water from Jordan Lake, kicked in $250,000.
The Fearrington property is the second big land deal the Triangle Land Conservancy has made in Chatham County this year. In March, the group announced it had bought 108 acres of forest near where Chicken Bridge Road crosses the Haw River north of Pittsboro.
Both purchases are in line with TLC’s goal of helping to protect water quality in the region. Both properties include streams that eventually lead into Jordan Lake.
The land conservancy has now protected more than 23,000 acres in the Triangle, through easements or outright purchase, and operates eight public nature preserves. It hopes to eventually open the Fearrington property to the public, but expects to spend years planning, designing and building trails and parking on the property.
The TLC’s first public preserve, White Pines, opened in 1987 where the Rocky and Deep rivers meet in southern Chatham County. The 285-acre preserve has 5.8 miles of trails.
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