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City Council preps for a big week

Ahh, the end of summer, when the heat goes up out of doors during the true "dog days" of the season. College students prepare to return to classes, while the Bulls start to wrap up their minor league season, visions of major-league call-ups dancing in players' heads.

The end of summer also marks the return of City Council to their Monday night public and Thursday afternoon work sessions, and though they've been back for a couple of weeks now, this week's meetings have an interesting combination of issues on the docket:

Up tonight, the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood's concerns over City surplus land in their neighborhood being transferred to two local non-profits for social service facilities. Although the debate is largely over the mechanics and process of the transfer, at its heart is a stand-off between the public interest and the interests of urban neighborhoods -- making this a tough issue for Durham to wrestle with. On the one hand, at least one of the non-profits is well-respected for their work in the Bull City helping to get homeless persons off the street for good. On the other, the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood is probably home to more social services facilities on a sheer per-block basis than any other urban district in Durham. The debate over the discussion has heated up in the wake of web and listserv pleadings from Terry Allebaugh of Housing for New Hope (see this Endangered Durham post for some of Allebaugh's key points and responses from fellow blogger Gary Kueber.)

(Our opinion: the City should find a way to support these groups and the ten-year mission to end homelessness, but needs to do so in a way that shares the burden of such facilities across Durham's neighborhoods -- within central Durham, but also in North and South Durham, too -- as called for in the City's own housing plans.)

Tonight also marks a public hearing for the proposed $20 million street and sidewalk bond issue being floated by the Council for November's election. Expect this to be of interest less for any actual facts and findings than for what's sure to be an opportunity at speechifying by mayoral challenger Thomas Stith and incumbent Bill Bell. Expect frequent references to the City's low ranking for street repair quality, questions of fiscal priorities -- and citizen questions as to the burden of the tax impact.

On tonight's consent agenda, the DAP-Minor League Baseball proposal, including the CMAR deal for Struever Bros. and the increase in the capital project budget by $1 million for the project. As discussed a couple of weeks back, I expect that this will pass without any problem. If the item gets moved from the consent agenda to the general business agenda (where it's up for debate and a line-item vote), things will get more interesting -- though as above, I expect more from a rhetorical perspective than one that would impact the actual outcome.

Also tonight, architectural and engineering services for Phase III of Eastway Village are up for approval on the consent agenda. I'll write some more about Eastway later this week. If you haven't visited the project, you're missing out on seeing what may be the best neighborhood renewal project in the Triangle. Congrats to the City for carrying out a project the Bull City should be proud of.

At work session this week, the site plan for the new Johnson Chrysler down at Southpoint's auto park is up for consideration. This one has implications for downtown, too, in that Scientific Properties plans a mixed use property on the current downtown site where Johnson (nee Elkins) Chrysler resides today next to the Durham Freeway.

In additional downtown news, the Council on Thursday will consider executing a first amendment to the American Tobacco development agreement. More on the implications of this once all the memos and documents related to the item are published on the City's web site. Also up: a public hearing on the zoning change to support the University Marketplace mixed-use development at the old Kroger shopping center near South Square, strongly recommended by the Planning Commission earlier this summer.

Also up on Thursday, the July crime report, brought to us by none other than deputy chief (and runner-up in the recent chief hunt) Ron Hodge.

A final item of intrigue: Craig Davis Properties wants to serve beer and wine at an October 18 event at the Durham Centre Plaza. (Did you know that Durham Centre has a public park, atop the parking garage? We'll take a trip there this week.) The Centre's plaza is actually on the City's approved list of parks where alcohol may be served, though it appears some formality of permission is required. Still though, the question is -- what event does Davis' firm have in mind? Perhaps as the new owners of the Durham Centre, a kick-off to the renovations? A big leasing event? Knowing what a wild and crazy guy Craig is, I might have thought it'd be a pre-show party before They Might Be Giants hit the Carolina Theatre in October, but this party's scheduled eight days earlier than that.

City Council tip of the week: Want to get appointed to a City advisory board? Wonder what you have to do? Well, let's take the example of the Recreation Advisory Commission. If you want to be sure to be voted in, fill out your application completely and answer the essay questions, and you'll get seven votes to the board. On the other hand, just put your name and contact information and skip the questions (see front and back of the example in question). Fret not, you'll still get four votes in work session.


Michael Bacon


(Oh, yeah, and, um... all that other good stuff too... word...)

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