Bell, Stith await election outcome in different styles
Development moratorium: Do we need one?

Thursday's Council work session: New Hope for Durham to call for a development moratorium?

Given the quiet agenda for Monday night's City Council meeting, you might expect the same ordinary and slow order of business for tomorrow's work session, right?

Twenty-nine Durhamites comprising a new group called "New Hope for Durham" plan otherwise. And just when you thought this week's political fireworks ended with the election.

This group formed and galvanized in opposition to a planned 308-unit residential development on part of the old Garrett Farm, after an earlier proposal to build 235 single-family homes on the site was rejected. As part of their appearance at Council tomorrow, they plan to advocate for what spokesperson Claire Jentsch calls "[o]ur hope ... to encourage a moratorium on development until the schools, traffic, water, economy can be assessed and addressed.  We think that growth is happening too fast to be beneficial for the future welfare of the Durham."

Interestingly, Durham is one of the only municipalities in North Carolina where constant growth vs. slowing growth was not on this year's election agenda; it dominated the Wake County elections, for example. I wouldn't imagine that given the omnipresent tax base concerns in Durham that there'll be much receptivity to an outright moratorium on development in the Bull City -- but New Hope for Durham both reflects the strains and concerns over development that so many North Carolinians feel, and also brings us back to the root issue of how, if we do have growth, we grow our infrastructure in turn to support it.

More on the Garrett Farms development and the moratorium proposal tomorrow at BCR.

Comments

B.C.Visitor

I just visited the area and the land there is beautiful. That is if you don't turn around and keep your peripheral to a minimum. Beyond the trees to the east is a bland shopping center that appears to well kept. Certainly not as exciting as the Southpoint Mall. But across 15/501 are, what looks like, a sprawling apartment complex that, to me, just looks ghetto like. Not very pleasing to the eye.

Subjective, I'm sure. But I wouldn't want to live there. Actually, the area around the old farm lacks much beauty with the best thing being the Toyota dealership.

And I guess that the biggest problem I have with development in Durham is that much of the residential being constructive appears so substandard. Maybe my tastes exceed what's acceptable around here, but when I see vinyl covered condos, apartments or housing, I immediately think "cheap". A development created with substandard materials that will definitely not the weather the years like the old architecture of Durham has --- providing they were well maintained, but even poorly maintained, most of the old homes still maintain their character. This new stuff won't.

It's going to be a shame when the old Garrett farm disappears from the landscape only to be replaced by a multi-profit per square foot vinyl sided complex that will only scar the area, imho.

Yet I agree that resisting new development here in Durham may be a challenge since new development brings new tax money. I just think that the city must go beyond the standards of building code and start creating some aesthetic standards and right soon. Renovations like the tobacco district and dowtown are spot on primarily because they are building on quality work. It's the ground up developments that require aesthetic standards. So far, I have not seen high ones.

Myers Sugg

Amen to B.C. Visitor. Frankly, in my opinion, I would call these structures cheap, not just substandard. The use of vinyl, whether it be siding or windows, etc., despite the environmental concerns, is sadly the norm, and not the exception. I heartily agree with B.C. Visitor that there should be a push to produce less of these 20-25 year lifespan homes, apartments, etc. I don't know how this could be done, but at the very least there should be a push for it. I know the "affordable housing" advocates will be upset with these types of comments, but having an affordable house, shouldn't mean it has to be a cheap, poor quality structure. With some effort to look for ways to offer different building materials (like Hardi-plank) real character can be produced without emptying the builder's pocketbook. The notion of "its best if its the cheapest" is the wrong way to look at homebuilding. The idea of, "how do we strike a balance between quality and costs" is one that should be given more play time.

Myers Sugg

Kevin Davis

Agreed about the blight that we see from the pervasive vinyl in so many places. Under the right circumstance, it *can* work; take a look at the Habitat Durham subdivision under development out off Junction Rd., for instance, where vinyl is used (as is the norm) but is very well counterbalanced with a range of colors, textures such as shingle-siding on other houses, etc. that give the neighborhood a much more attractive look than your typical all-one-color siding. (Disclaimer: I've been doing some volunteer work on this project, so I'm not 100% objective.)

More broadly speaking, I think that it would be excellent to see things like Hardiplan or the like used in affordable housing. To some extent, I recognize that affordable housing builders concentrate their investments on building systems that will reduce homeowner expense -- at Habitat's Hope Crossing I'm referring to, for instance, homeowners are guaranteed utility bills under $30/mo. IIRC due to the use of better insulative and other materials than you see in your typical market-rate development. (They've actually gotten funding for solar panels in at least one of the homes, too.)

Ideally, it would be nice to see some of those aesthetic upgrades come from external funding -- perhaps a non-profit along the lines of Preservation Durham kicking in for the extras, for instance? The numbers are tight on these kind of properties, and I can understand affordable builders having an internal conflict in trying to address this; if (say) improving the long-term look of a home cost an extra $5,000 per house, over the course of a subdivision like Hope Crossing that's enough money to build a couple _more_ houses, so you end up potentially with a conflict of mission (as these groups may self-perceive the mission at least.) After all, if they're raising the extra funds, why not put them to more housing? And that's something they have to answer not just to Durham stakeholders about, but presumably their boards and national leadership, too.

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