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H-S: Deed easement could nullify protest petition against 751 South development

Updated: 751 South deed of easement may endanger protest petition

Southern Durham Development, the Raleigh-based developers behind the 751 South project, may have found a way to invalidate the protest petition filed against their property's rezoning.  The petition, ruled valid earlier this month, would require a super-majority for rezoning of their parcel to allow higher residential density.

A July 13 deed of easement, a copy of which recently posted to the register of deeds website, shows that Southern Durham Development requested and received a 41 foot extension to the state’s road easement that surrounds some of the property.  The easement previously stood at 60 feet, yielding a new easement of 101 feet.

For those familiar with the county’s protest petition process, 101 feet is a unique number.  For a signature on the protest petition to be valid, the signatory must own property within 100 feet of the parcel considered for rezoning.  SDD's easement strategy may invalidate the signatures of all property owners in the Chancellor’s Ridge development, which sits across NC-751 from SDD’s site.

Quite interesting is the date of Southern Durham Development’s deed of easement.  The deed carries a July 13 filing date, the same day in which Planning Director Steve Medlin ruled the protest petition valid.

Even if all Chancellor's Ridge signatories are removed from the petition, it may still remain valid. A valid petition would necessitate that four of the five county commissioners approve the proposed rezoning at Monday’s meeting.  A new law, passed in this year’s session of the NC General Assembly, expanded criteria for approving a protest petition.

Under the new law, protest petitions are valid if property owners controlling 5 percent of the land that directly borders the site in question are signatories.  Previous Durham County rules stipulated that 20% of property owners, either inside the rezoned area or within 100 feet, must sign the protest petition.

If signatures from Chancellor's Ridge are declared invalid, only two names, representing a single parcel, will remain.  As noted by Ray Gronberg at the Herald-Sun 10 days ago, this property sums to 5.52 percent of the land directly bordering Southern Durham Development’s parcel.  These two property owners may still remove their name before Monday's meeting, and one can assume that they are being intensely lobbied by lawyers from K&L Gates, SDD’s law firm.

Also, to be clear, the City/County Planning Department has not yet altered the status of the protest petition.  Although the deed of easement is definitive, its effect on the protest petition is not entirely clear.

Update #1: Ray Gronberg at the HS did some follow-up on both the status of the protest petition and the campaign contributions made to Gov. Bev Perdue by the developers.  In the article, City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin states that the new easement will, in fact, nullify the protest petition.


Steve Bocckino

First the threat of a SLAPP suit, and now a spite strip. Neal Hunter and his partners seem quite proud to take the term "sleazy developer" to a new level.

You have to wonder what strings Southern Durham Development pulled at NCDOT to persuade them to take the unprecedented step of intervening in an active rezoning. Who could have greased the wheels for the developers, and why would they do such a thing?

When this rock is turned over, it's not going to be pretty, but it should be entertaining.


This is absolutely disgusting. What on earth can the rationale be for NDOT doing this?


K&L Gates doing the limbo: How low can you go?

SDD is right about this project creating jobs...for its high-priced law firm.


the BP of Durham strikes again! Regulatory capture, anyone?


What this story needs is a good detailed timeline for July 13, 2010.

AM: Head of Durham planning Steve finds that the protest petition is ruled valid.

2:06 pm - Signed easement is filed

PM: Statement from SDD: "Update #2: The development team issued the following statement to BCR and other media outlets late Tuesday:

"As unfortunate as today's announcement may seem, it in no way diminishes our enthusiasm for the future of our project. We are hopeful that when all of the relevant information is presented, 751 South will have earned the support of the Board of County Commissioners, moving it closer to becoming a reality."

"all of the relevant information" such as: we already submitted an easement that undermined your petition, suckaz!

NCDOT not only accepted and signed the easement, they couldn't wait to do it! WTF!?!

Steve Bocckino

The Secretary of NCDOT, Gene Conti, should be required to answer why the NCDOT is interfering in a Durham zoning case, and why Southern Durham Development is getting special treatment.

Secretary Conti's phone number is 919-733-2520


Okay - I've pieced this together from the easement. K.M. Smith who R.D. squigglyname signed the easement on behalf of I believe is: Kathy Smith, the Division Agent for NCDOT Division 5 Right of Way Office


I'm less sure of the person who actually signed the document, but I think it's Richie Tuttle, Area Negotiator for NCDOT Divisions 5, 7 & 9


If these are the NCDOT folks named in the document. The questions remain:

1) What is their rationale for accepting the easement?
2) Who authorized the acceptance of the easement?
3) Why is NCDOT intervening in an on-going rezoning case in Durham?

Raymond G.

Mr. Chuck Watts (occasional BCR contributor) is the area representative to the NCDOT Board. Chuck, any light you can shine?

Derm Rez

Don't be so shocked! This is all about money, money, money!

Bill Williams

Sounds like game, set and match. Developer wins again. Congrats to the developer, they are very clever folks!

It does sound like a nice development to me so I am glad it is moving along.

John Q.

Corruption, Money, Corruption is more like it!

The new law, which incidentally only affects Durham County, was introduced on May 25th. The day after the protest petition was filed. I guess if you don't like the rules, and you have enough money, you can get the rules changes to suit your needs. Would love to see someone investigate this one. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/gascripts/BillLookUp/BillLookUp.pl?Session=2009&BillID=S1399

Rob Gillespie

SL2010-80 was actually was written to bring the county rules in line with the prevailing city requirements. This brought the minimum signatory requirement down from 20% to 5% of immediately adjacent lots, so if anything, the law will allow the protest petition to still stand.

@Bill Williams-
Even if the Chancellor's Ridge signatures are removed, the protest petition may still be valid. As long as the adjacent property owner remains on the petition, the 5% requirement will be met, and four of five commissioners will be required to vote aye on the rezoning.

Doug Roach

Whole thing seems kinda moot when one considers that a 4 outta 5 vote can likely be bought at least as cheaply as the NCDOT staffers.

After all, I don't think most folks would consider our commissioners high-end players...

Bill Williams

Well, in any case, Rob- I sure hope it gets built. It would be a great addition to Durham's community.

South Durhamite

I'm just so mystified by the pro-development push for the shores of Jordan Lake. The number $1.5 BILLION (for Falls Lake cleanup) just keeps going through my mind over and over. Do the folks in favor of this new development not understand what that means for each and every Durham resident? I guess denial is a powerful thing...


I can just see the headline:


Steve Bocckino


You must be a mindreader. Check out Ray Gronberg's article, just posted on the Herald Sun website.

"The agency's acceptance of the easements helped a development team that state records show contributed heavily to Perdue's 2008 campaign for governor."


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