When many of us moved to Fearrington, the Handbook and Directory gave us the essential information, but slowly other questions emerged. Why do I pay dues to two organizations? What does the Fearrington Homeowners Association (FHA) do and who belongs to it? How does it fit in with the service groups shown on the website, and what exactly is a service group? What role, if any, does Fitch Creations still have in management of the overall development? How close to “finished” is Fearrington? Here are some of the answers you may have been looking for.
Building the Dream
The Fitch vision was to develop a quiet country lifestyle with a vital and attractive village center, parks, open spaces, recreation, and housing to meet different lifestyles. In 1975, Chatham County gave the approval to Fitch Creations to create a Planned Urban Development (PUD). The first phase of single-family homes, now known as the Historic District, was developed in four phases and was completed in the early 1980s. Since then, 14 phases have been added.
Each time Fitch Creations is ready to develop a new area, it submits plans for layout, construction, and governance that must be approved by the Chatham County Planning Department and county commissioners. All plans must comply with county regulations that were in place at the time that the PUD was approved in 1975. Fearrington was approved to have a total of 1,602 residential units on 934 acres (not including Henderson Place, which is outside the PUD). At the beginning of 2020, approximately 1,350 units had been completed, including 300 in Galloway Ridge. An average of 25 to 30 new homes have been added every year.
The FHA acts as an umbrella homeowners association for the entire village and is the only HOA to which many single-family homeowners belong. Some phases of the development also have service groups to meet their needs. (See below for more information.)
The retail center continues to be wholly owned by Fitch Creations, which has complete control of the center’s merchants and maintenance. Fitch also owns and maintains the central park; the playgrounds, tennis courts, and bocce court that are off Benchmark; the Fitch residential compound; and those parts of the village that are yet to be developed.
To preserve the qualities that initially attracted us to Fearrington Village, Fitch established the nonprofit FHA in 1976. In 1980, a board was established to represent residents, while working with Fitch Creations, to protect the vision that the Fitches had for the village. The FHA’s purposes are to maintain and preserve the common areas; enforce the governing covenants and restrictions; and promote the health, safety, and welfare of village residents. For these services, all members pay a nominal annual fee.
All homes in Fearrington Village, including those outside the original PUD, are members of the FHA. The organization owns and maintains The Gathering Place, four mail kiosks, the Creekwood nature trail, and all strips of land between development phases. The FHA Board has responsibility for establishing a budget and a reserve fund, collecting dues, maintaining the common areas, receiving complaints, enforcing the terms of the covenants and restrictions, and generally protecting the interests of residents.
To that end, the board monitors the activities of various levels of government on issues concerning the community and, if necessary, expresses the views of the community on those issues. In the past, the board has engaged in the planning of postal facilities, emergency services, cable television, and appropriate fire insurance rating codes; the need for a traffic signal on U.S.15-501 and additional street lighting; and property valuations. In addition, the board has represented resident concerns regarding the deer population, proposed construction of Compact Communities,1 and in general, the desire to preserve the rural character of Chatham County. For example, the board is currently representing residents’ interests on a proposed major change to our wastewater treatment facility.
What Is a Service Group?
As village phases diversified to include town homes and single-family homes with common yard maintenance, the structure of the FHA was not sufficient to provide some of those required services. In response, Fitch Creations designed service groups for individual communities that could manage and provide services to specific areas of Fearrington Village. For example, Camden Park provides landscaping services, whereas Countryhouse Closes provides landscaping and maintains roofs, siding, garages, and skylights.
When developing a given phase, Fitch Creations determines whether a service group needs to be established and, if so, defines the necessary legal documents and covenants before lots can be sold. These are then registered with the Chatham County Register of Deeds and specify when management control will transfer from Fitch to the service group.
While the FHA Board is responsible for enforcement of the covenants and restrictions governing all parts of the village, service groups manage additional services and requirements for individual communities. Residents of those communities pay separate, monthly fees, as outlined in each set of covenants. (See table.)
Each service group has its own board of directors and is subject to its own management. Despite some differences in the language of the various documents, all residents and lot owners are subject to essentially the same general covenants, and all enjoy the same privileges and responsibilities of ownership. The covenants are summarized in the Directory and Handbook that is furnished to each resident and are available on the FHA website. The covenants of each Compact Community support mixed-use development and are anchored by a village center composed of commercial, civic, and residential uses that add to Chatham County’s tax base, help residents meet their daily needs, and preserve Chatham County’s small-town atmosphere. Compact independent service group prevail where they are stricter than the FHA covenants.
|AREA||FHA MEMBER?||SERVICE GROUP/MANAGEMENT COMPANY|
|Historic District: Phases I-IV||Yes||No|
|Countryhouse Closes||Yes||Yes/Towne Properties|
|Bush Creek Townhomes||Yes||Yes/Towne Properties|
|Bradford Place||Yes||Yes/Towne Properties|
|Henderson Place||Yes||Yes/HRW, Inc.|
|The Knolls||Yes||Yes/Towne Properties|
|Mill Creek Circle||Yes||Yes/Fitch Creations|
|Millcroft Cluster Homes||Yes||Yes/Community Focus of NC|
|Weathersfield||Yes||Yes/Mill House Properties|
|Rutherford Close||Yes||Yes/Towne Properties|
|The Camdens||Yes||Yes/HRW, Inc.|
|Galloway Ridge||Yes (Associate)||Yes/Galloway Ridge Board of Directors|
In addition to the organizations discussed above, Fitch Creations created separate corporations to manage and maintain four important functions:
The Swim and Croquet Club: All Fearrington owners and qualified renters are eligible to join this club for a fee, which provides for the maintenance and management of the facilities. (919-542-7337 or email@example.com)
Tennis Association: The tennis courts are owned by Fitch Creations and leased to the association, which is responsible for their maintenance and management. The courts are open only to paid members. (For information, see the FHA website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Fearrington Utilities (currently managed by Envirolink): The wastewater treatment infrastructure for the entire village is currently owned by Fitch Creations, but service is managed by Envirolink (888-754-9878).
Fearrington Cares (FC): Originally formed as two separate corporations to help meet the health and daily living requirements of residents, Fearrington Cares became one organization in 2000. Anyone who needs help with transportation, home repair, medical equipment loans, meal delivery, or nursing services, or who is interested in educational or support opportunities, should contact Fearrington Cares at 919-542-6877 or https://fearringtoncares.org/services/.
Preserving the Vision
Because the village is being developed in separate stages, the plan has been subject to a number of changes over the years to reflect the changing vision of its creators and changes in housing needs or market conditions. Despite the changes, however, the vision of a country village has remained constant and is being continuously refined and improved.
Successfully managing this process requires a great deal of time and energy. With some exceptions, such as fiscal management and landscaping services, the time and energy are contributed by an army of more than 200 volunteers. Services range from helping to staff the FHA office in The Gathering Place and answer questions to editing this newsletter to serving as a board member. In other words, your village needs you, and there are many ways you can help.
Got It Now?
Over 85 percent of the original village dream has been built to date, and Fitch Creations continues to build and help manage the village. Some of us pay dues to two organizations because they provide different things to different types of homeowners. If we have questions or concerns about matters related to the responsibilities of FHA board members, such as the FHA budget, the newsletter, or The Gathering Place, we contact the FHA. If we are wondering when our siding will be power washed or who will remove a large tree branch that fell near our porch, we call the service group for the phase in which we live. When in doubt, we call our service group. We all likely moved here for some of the same reasons that R.B. Fitch and his wife Jenny bought this property: the beautiful farm and the tall, old-growth pines that whisper in the wind. Thanks to Fitch Creations, the FHA, the service groups, and scores of volunteers, Fearrington Village continues 40+ years on to provide a quiet country lifestyle that residents are happy to call home.
1Compact Communities support mixed-use development and are anchored by a village center composed of commercial, civic, and residential uses that add to Chatham County's tax base, help residents meet their daily needs, and preserve Chatham County's small-town atmosphere. Compact Communities allow for compact village-style developmen surrounded by protected green space, as a size that is easily walkable and bikable by residents of all ages. (Chatham Compact Communities Ordinance.)
Helene Carlson, with support from Jesse Fearrington,
Tony Daniels, and Gordon Pitz