Early voting exit poll: Bell with a big (though predictable) lead
Royal Ice Cream sit-in site gets another shot at historical marker

Quiet night at Council on election's eve

With downtown and neighborhood revitalization on the agenda, we've been used to seeing big-ticket items on the City Council docket this past year: parking decks; multi-million dollar incentives; funding for the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Tonight's big ticket item? A lease agreement with Hanson Southeast allowing the aggregate company access to allow them to lease back a sales area on the former Teer Quarry they sold to the City for $10.00 back in 2004. The City's income on this? One shiny new Susan B. Anthony dollar, per annum.

It's not surprising to have a quiet agenda the night before the election that could change over half the Council's votes; needless to say, there will be a great deal on many's minds.

In any event, once the election's over and the winners sworn in, Messrs. Bell and Stith will no longer share a dais -- which, given the embittered feelings of this election, may not be such a bad thing. Two years ago, the new and returning councilfolk were officially sworn in during the first meeting in December upon the presentation of the certified election results; if this holds to pattern for this year, we'll have a couple of lame-duck work sessions and one Monday night session before the old guard gives way to the new.)

Fittingly, former Durham mayor Harry Rodenhizer will be memorialized in a resolution tonight. Given the nature of some of the remembrances of Durham's former mayor in recent weeks, I somehow think he'd delight in being remembered on the eve of the election of one of his successors. Seems he'd get a kick out of that.

So what's happening tonight? Well, given the extreme drought Durham is facing, expect a great deal of interest in any additional news about the status of the Teer Quarry, and not just where the leaseback arrangement is concerned. The agenda item memo notes that once (likely significant) capital improvements are made to the quarry, it could hold between 1.32 and 1.95 billion gallons of water for public use. (We'll see if tonight's discussion at Council clarifies the curious point in the agenda that there is "currently ongoing cleanup of a nearby groundwater contamination" near the Teer Quarry.)

Besides this, there's not much else to note. Zoning changes to support the CVS store underway out NC 98 in eastern Durham are on the list, as is a vote to hold a public meeting on Nov. 19 about paving Harvard Ave. using assessments of impacted property owners to pay for the work. Also up: St. Lawrence Homes wants to build a 127-lot subdivision on 77 acres out Infinity Rd. near Snow Hill Rd.; the proposal got a unanimous vote from the Development Review Board and comes before Council tonight. A site plan for Palladian Office Park's next phases is also up for discussion.

One oddity on the Council docket: a priority item for Terry Thompson in Public Works to provide an update on streetlight work in North-East Central Durham, a subject of deep interest among residents as a way of helping to reduce crime levels. The topic isn't listed on the agenda, but the PowerPoint presentation is linked off the Council's agenda here. Not sure if it'll come up tonight or is just accidentally there in advance of a future meeting.

The presentation notes that 39 new streetlights have been installed in NECD and 15 repaired since the City focused on the area this spring; 12 trees have been trimmed back by Urban Forestry in cases where foliage was obscuring light levels. Depressingly, Thompson reports the helpful addition of "bulletproof shields" on lights at Bingham St. and Boone Ct.

Of course, NECD lights and NECD police cameras play a small but prominent role for Tuesday's electoral action. We should know Tuesday night whether the lights are coming back up or setting for Mr. Bell's tenure as Durham's mayor.


John Schelp

It's a good thing the community stopped Hanson Aggregates from building its cement batch plant next to the Teer Quarry back in 2003. :)


Board rejects cement plant plan
Herald-Sun, 23 Aug 2003

The city-county Development Review Board unanimously rejected plans for a portable cement plant at the end of Denfield Street over concerns the road could not handle the traffic that would be required to deliver the cement to future Interstate 85 work crews.

The board's vote against the cement plant cheered local activists, including John Schelp, who had waged a campaign against it, citing air quality, water contamination and truck traffic issues. The plant was proposed for a site about 1,500 feet from the Eno River and near a quarry that one day might be used as a drinking water source for Durham.

"We had raised issues about truck traffic. Denfield Street has no shoulders and no sidewalks. During the site visit, we saw a mother carrying groceries; it was a dangerous situation," said Schelp, who is an officer with the local chapter of the NAACP.

"The road work would also be happening at night, so these trucks would be rumbling through at night," he said. "This is a residential neighborhood, a less-affluent neighborhood. We could have done better in choosing a site in an industrial district closer to I-85."

The land is owned by Hanson Aggregates, the world's largest producer of crushed stone, which also would have owned the plant. The mining company has offices throughout the world, as well as a regional office in Morrisville, and uses the stone to make concrete and asphalt, among other building supplies.

Hanson also owns the quarry that Durham would like to use eventually for a drinking water source.

Jim Sprinkle, vice president of North Carolina operations for Hanson, said he did not know what the company's next step would be.

"I heard the concerns of the public. We, at this time, are reviewing our options," he said, declining to say anything else about the issue.

Durham Planner Dick Hails said the board ruled that Denfield Street did not meet the minimum standard for a road that could be used as an access for a concrete "batch" plant, which is a "mixing operation."


Letter: Vote no on cement plant
Herald-Sun, 22 Aug 2003

The Denfield Street cement plant vote will take place this morning. The Development Review Board, a group of in-house technical staff, is meeting in the basement of City Hall to decide.

This proposed cement batch plant is close to homes, churches, parks, daycare centers and the Eno River. What guarantee do we have the cement dust, which has known carcinogens, will be fully mitigated? Contaminated water run-off risks the already polluted groundwater by the old Teer Quarry.

The resulting truck traffic is going to have a major impact on a less affluent community. During a recent visit, we saw a mother carrying groceries along the side of Denfield, a road without shoulders or sidewalks. In addition to pedestrian dangers, trucks will carry cement dust on their tires and undersides into the neighborhood. Durham can and should do better.

John Schelp

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