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BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for December 20, 2010

Back again? Citizen activist claims 751 utilities extension pending for January 3 agenda

751-south-sp I don't know about you, dear reader, but around Chez BCR there's so much to do that it's hard to even think about the Christmas holiday coming up next weekend, let alone the new year awaiting us in 2011.

Yet public hearings wait for no one, and one Durham citizen activist has started ringing the alarm bell about what she says is a forthcoming hearing for the next step in the controversial 751 South project.

Melissa Rooney, a resident of the unincorporated South Durham subdivision of Fairfield and a longstanding opponent of the proposed 751 South project -- which would bring more than a thousand residential units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail and office space to the "south of Southpoint" part of the Bull City -- raised alarm bells on the InterNeighborhood Council listserv earlier today concerning the proposed extension of municipal utility service to the site.

Rooney tells the INC that she's learned that a utility extension agreement is supposedly set to be heard by City Council on Jan. 3. (We can't validate this here at BCR, as the agendas aren't posted that far out.)

A controversial 3-2 vote by the Board of County Commissioners earlier this fall supported the rezoning of the site to accommodate the project, though an appeal on a denied protest petition that would have caused the rezoning to fail moved from the Board of Adjustment to Superior Court in recent weeks.

"If the water and sewer agreement and the subsequent annexation/rezoning agreement were to clear Council, then our lawsuit (appeal to Superior Court to question the discounting of the protest petition based on land 'donated' last minute to the Department of Transportation) in all likelihood would be rendered moot," Rooney noted in her email.

Rooney also encouraged municipal and county officials to consider using a stormwater pollution prediction model developed at NC State to evaluate how much runoff would emanate from the project.

751 South's controversial nature comes back to its adjacency to the northern tip of Jordan Lake, a nascent water source for south Durham and likely a major future water supply source for our county and Western Wake. 

Developers proposing the mixed-use 751 South project pledged shortly before the rezoning to meet the new Jordan Lake Rules for runoff and have said that renowned smart-growth environmental expert Randall Arendt is linked to the project; they've said that the scale of the project allows for elements like parking garages that can provide better stormwater mitigation than surface asphalt parking lots.

Opponents of the project have expressed skepticism about the project's size; its impact on drawing more automobile traffic to the southernmost tip of Durham; and the level of density at the city's edge, away from existing employment centers and current and proposed transit corridors.

Update: We were remiss in not harkening back to our September 2010 reporting on an InterNeighborhood Council (INC) meeting, where City/County Planning director Steve Medlin gave his view on what should happen in the event of an appeal:


The big unknown, Medlin suggested, was whether there would be an appeal of the Board of County Commissioners' controversial August vote that allowed the dense mixed-use project to proceed.

If an appeal is filed, Medlin said, "my recommendation to the city would be, and I think the recommendation of the City Attorney's office would be, that the City Council not entertain any actions associated with 751 until that issue has been settled."

"Once that issue is settled one way or another, then I think the city has to make some policy decisions" on utility extension agreements and annexation, said Medlin.



Steve Bocckino

It's hard to see what the City gains by getting in the middle of a legal dispute. They should wait until the matter of the protest petition is settled, then decide annexation on its own merits.

To do otherwise would short-circuit the appeal process mandated by the UDO and further undermine the faith of Durham citizens in the development process.

Kevin Davis

@Steve -- Your comment triggered my memory of Steve Medlins comments on that very subject, made earlier this fall after the BOCC vote at an INC meeting. I have updated the post to add the thoughts Medlin shared then on the matter.


I'm assuming those in opposition are contacting City Council members urging them to follow Medlin's recommendation?

Hopefully common sense will prevail.


The article in today's Herald-Sun (12/21)sure adds to the feeling that there's a lot here that "doesn't pass the smell test."


UPDATE: City Council voted to delay action this afternoon.

No longer on Jan 3 agenda.

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