Updated: 751 South deed of easement may endanger protest petition
BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for July 26, 2010

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

In his story on the presence a deed of easement giving 751 South developers a possible way past a valid protest petition on the controversial 165 acre mixed-use development proposed south of Southpoint, BCR correspondent Rob Gillespie noted that it was unclear whether or not the move -- an easement to NCDOT that could effectively take the Chancellor's Ridge neighborhood side out of play for signing on to a protest petition -- would serve to invalidate the petition.

The H-S' Ray Gronberg is on the story in this morning's Herald-Sun, and brings us the sense of Planning director Steve Medlin, who opines that the petition would be invalidated if the easement is counted, though county attorney Lowell Siler is taking the temperature of UNC's Institute of Government on this one.

As the paper notes:

[I]n the view of the developers [the easement] triggered a provision in state law holding that the signatures of landowners separated by more than 100 feet of road right of way from a parcel to be rezoned don't count when it comes to assessing the validity of a protest petition.

Assuming they're right, the petition 751 South opponents filed "would fail to have the necessary signatures" to require developers to muster votes from four county commissioners, City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin said.

The H-S story is a must-read, with Gronberg delving in more to one of the questions that's been prominent on the comments here -- whether state politics played a role in an NCDOT move that opponents grumble has the look of state interference in a local zoning matter.

One thing's for sure: we should know something tonight. This evening's County Commissioners meeting will feature the continuance of the public hearing on the rezoning of the development site.

If successful -- and given the near-certain opposition of Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow, that'll take a win on the protest petition -- the move tonight would leave only the approval of utility service extension by the City as a last hurdle for the development team.

Expect quite the discussion and commentary at tonight's meeting, to say the least.


Steve Bocckino


It's not just "the look" of state interference in a local zoning matter—it's the real thing.

And who benefits from this special treatment by NCDOT? Developers and kin who contributed $17 K to the Perdue campaign.

Seems like we have a lot to "grumble" about.

Liz Pullman

As I stepped out of my home in Austin, Texas this morning, I noted that the wind had shifted and was now out of the East. " Holy Cow!!!", I thought, "what is that overpowering stench?" Now I know - there is something rotten in the County of Durham - the 751 South Assemblage re-zoning shenanigans of Patrick Byker.


I sure hope the petition is ruled invalid and neighbors armed with information from both sides can finally make a decision whether or not to remove their names from the remaining valid signatories. Imagine swarms of petitioners some while back knocking feverishly door to door to convince people that if they didn't oppose this development right now, all hell would break loose with regards to their drinking water, traffic, school overcrowding, etc. Paint a picture with one-sided viewpoints to people standing at their door who have no clue as to what is going on around them, and who don't have all the facts to make a rational decision, and you guarantee some will sign their names to any petition.

Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the developer has a change to put forth their side of the facts, instead of relying on scare tactics by the opposition. People want developers to follow all the rules, but when it's their side that didn't cross all the "t"s and follow the strict wording of the law, it somehow doesn't matter.

This development is good for the city of Durham, bringing in new taxpayers and economic stability for South Durham's retail and commercial businesses.

Rob Gillespie

The opposition side did "follow the strict wording of the law". The deed of easement was filed with the Register of Deeds four hours after Medlin ruled the petition valid. So the petition was 100% valid-- the developers just had an ace up their sleeve, as they had already negotiated with NCDOT to have them intervene on a local zoning case. Additionally, K&L Gates sat on the easement for 10 days, waiting until the business day before the County Commission meeting to spring the easement upon the City/County Planning Office.

To be honest, this whole situation is a great case study in how developers and their high-paid attorneys are able to evade local policy and defy the will of local government.


Rob: I understand the opposition followed the law at a certain stage, and the whole affair does appear quite stinky. However, as you say the developer had an unexpected ace up their sleeve, which does not pre-suppose that they did NOT follow the strict wording the of the law in their counter-move. The developer found a loophole, and now they are exploiting it to their advantage. What if the opposition knew of the loophole, and the potential for a counter-move by the developer, yet said nothing hoping they wouldn't find it and continue the process? Sounds to me K&L Gates is doing everything according to the law, even though it doesn't seem right to utilize every bit of strategy and tactics to get what they want.

It's a game both sides play to their advantage. You can change the rules, close the loopholes, and make things more complicated in order to get anything done. In the end, the only ones that benefit are the lawyers.

What I don't understand is why folks want to leave the decision up to a super-majority, when the decision to tax and spend our way out of everything is left up to a simple majority. This includes the unilateral decision to raise our water/sewer rates almost 10% to fix Falls Lake, a thing that wasn't built with our approval, that we do not use for drinking water, and for which our city/county government has seemingly rolled over and accepted 100% of the cost and taxpayer burden to remedy--based on some very questionable testing methodology and suppositions. There must be a lot of wealthy Durham citizens these days living near downtown that see no problem bankrupting our community time and time again to be responsible for our neighbors' loose development policies, just because it's too hard to stand up and say no. They find it much easier to keep out new taxpayers and businesses that are needed to help the unemployed and share the burden, than to force the other communities to accept responsibility for their own practices. It's also apparent that it's much easier to oppose anything complex, than to to study the issue and question the data that's trumped up by one side or the other. Since we're not doing that for Falls Lake, why should I expect us to do it with Jordan Lake?

Now we have two commissioners who have been easily swayed by the same vocal minority, who won't support anything sound and reasonable because of the political fallout from some of their major supporters. I have a feeling that no matter what new information comes up, they've already decided to say no. Perhaps one of them sees the light and is just letting the legal process make the tough decisions for her.

Show us some evidence that either the developer or its legal team are doing anything nefarious to harm our environment, or not doing what's necessary above and beyond the standard to get this long-awaited (from their viewpoint) high-quality development built in an attractive area of the city? I doubt any of their team members are stupid enough not to anticipate and correct major discrepancies in their plan, given its sensitive and desirable location, and the realities of Durham's politics. If you want to tie this into some backroom deal with the governor and some of her appointees, then take that out on them for falling for it. Don't punish the people trying to make a good living who are following the law, no matter how full of loopholes it may be, and who have no ax to grind with our community just because it doesn't always share pro-growth politics.


No developer needs to find loop holes in the law if they have a good development plan, have worked with their neighbors and added committed elements to guarantee the best possible development. That this developer had to rely on loop holes over and over again only proves our point that the development plan itself is flawed. They can clearcut all their land and grade it into a giant flood plain and build a huge big box store - or sell it tomorrow to someone else who will do worse - because their plan has no protection of committed elements. That is why I oppose this rezoning.


Response from my letter to Rep. Paul Luebke begging him to challenge this NCDOT loop hole. I reprint with permission.

"I have already been in touch with the Governor's senior staff and with the DOT secretary, urging them strongly to revoke the easement."

When I asked who else I should contact, he replied:
"You might want to write briefly both to the Governor and to the Secretary of Transportation."

Which I have done.

Rob Gillespie

Which is exactly why the developers waited until 1 business day before the CC meeting to bring the easement to the Planning Department's attention. They knew that the easement had a very good chance of being revoked. By ambushing the county with it, they ensured that there would not be enough time for the county and state to respond.

Southern Durham Development is hoping that this protest petition goes down exactly like the last one. Remember, the protest petition over the critical watershed decision was ruled valid in retrospect. The county decided that they would sit on the sidelines and let the courts decide what would happen.



While I remain committed (obviously) to anonymity as a means of fostering open debate, I wonder if Green Lantern is willing to share whatever special qualification or expertise makes him so certain that his own "one-sided viewpoint" should be valued above the choices made by fellow citizens who will actually be directly impacted by the development.

I just don't understand the attempt to make the developers seem like victims of some nefarious plan. They chose of their own free will to commit a vast sum of money to creating a project, and they took on the risk that the project they wanted to make might not be accepted by the community.

Now it appears they're going to get their own way by cheating rather than negotiation. The "whole affair [appears] stinky" and "it doesn't seem right" according to your own statement, yet we're supposed to feel sorry for them? Dude, you're trolling yourself.

Steve Bocckino

Apparently NCDOT has decided to ignore GL's counsel. It must have been the "Dude, your're trolling yourself" comment by ever&anon that swayed them.

The Indy is reporting that NCDOT will rescind the NC751 easement. That means the petition is valid.


Susan, you are falling into the fear trap that opponents have stressed could happen, but it's not necessarily what will happen. You say you can support a "good" development plan, but what exactly is that, and what gives you and the opponents any more legitimacy in prevailing? If the plan doesn't meet the most extreme environmentalist, no-growth point of view, then the plan is not "good". Who's standard is the test for development? Should Durham adopt Chapel Hill's policy of saying no to anything that doesn't serve their elite population, forcing low and middle income residents to travel to Durham to buy things they can't get in CH?

Should everything we build in Durham be perfect development, assuaging the fears of even the most casual and malleable observer who takes no time to educate themselves on the pros and cons? Should local politicians be beat over the head shutting down the local economy so that left-wing environmentalists and self-interested parties don't have to share their neighboring fields to newcomers? "I have mine, but you can't have yours..." Such arrogance, it boggles the mind!

EverAnon: I'd like to know your qualifications. I'd like to know why you defer to a few select individuals who you don't question their qualifications, but to whom you give up your independence of thought and allow to decide for you and the rest of us what goes on in our community. How's that any different than letting Lavonia Allison speak for the whole black community just because she leads a powerful PAC?...Plus, criticizing me for "trolling" because you don't agree with my views, or because I stay anonymous (like you who are doing the same for whatever reason), just shows how intolerant one side gets when it doesn't get its way all the time.

Just because the same people write articles or get quoted in the Herald Sun, or have taken the lead in whatever cause of the day, doesn't mean the rest of need to roll over and play dead. Too often these people have too much influence--not any different that the teams of lawyers and lobbyists that are being criticized. It's unfortunate that the vast majority are silent on this development plan, but given the state of our economy, they would certainly not oppose the jobs and growth it represents, for what appears to this casual observer a major economic boost with a minor impact to our environment.



July 26, 2010


RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) learned last weekend that by accepting the donation of right of way along N.C. 751 in Durham, the Department had inadvertently interfered in an active public participation process.

In order to rectify this and restore the public voice in a local zoning issue, NCDOT has issued an immediate “Revocation of Acceptance.” This legally-binding action restores the local public process to its original state.

NCDOT accepted the Right-of-Way in good faith, having not been notified of the “100-foot rule” in Durham County or how accepting this donation would impact the public process. Had NCDOT staff known in advance that this would interfere in that process, we would not have accepted the donation at that time.

Copies of this statement and the “Revocation of Acceptance” are being faxed to the Durham County manager’s office and the attorney for the property owner at this time.

*** NCDOT ***


GL is the second person, following Rob Sneed's piece in the Durham News last week, to make the claim that the "silent majority" of Durham is in favor of the 751 Assemblage development.

Prove it.

Rob Gillespie


RALEIGH — The N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) learned last weekend that by accepting the donation of right of way along N.C. 751 in Durham, the Department had inadvertently interfered in an active public participation process.

In order to rectify this and restore the public voice in a local zoning issue, NCDOT has issued an immediate “Revocation of Acceptance.” This legally-binding action restores the local public process to its original state.

NCDOT accepted the Right-of-Way in good faith, having not been notified of the “100-foot rule” in Durham County or how accepting this donation would impact the public process. Had NCDOT staff known in advance that this would interfere in that process, we would not have accepted the donation at that time.

Copies of this statement and the “Revocation of Acceptance” are being faxed to the Durham County manager’s office and the attorney for the property owner at this time.



NC DOT does the right thing. Wonder what the ratio of letters they got from proposal opponents vs supporters was? Perhaps the "silent majority" is not a majority after all.

Erik Landfried

It's too bad there hasn't been a documentary film crew following this story over the past year plus - this thing has more twists and turns than a good spy novel!


Unfortunately, for the supporters of economic growth and development, the silent majority is too fixated on Lindsay Lohan or having to work for a living to support their family to have the time to show up en masse at council meetings.

Just about the size of the electorate that shows up in primary elections, is about the size of the silent majority. Still, their opinions count, as does their taxes...

Marc Howlett

I would support a development the scale and density of Southern Village in the 751 Assemblage with provisions for mass transit, affordable housing, and a pledge to adhere to the new Jordan Lake stormwater rules.


So if a South Durham resident, particulary one who might live in a place like Chancellor's Ridge, is opposed to big new housing developments across the street, is willing to sell out, bulldoze the house, dig up their driveway, replant the trees, and move downtown, then I'll take his position on 751 a little more sympathetically.

Seriously, the hypocrisy, as thick as the humidity right now, you can cut it with a knife.

How many more nearby developments that might cater to a more well-off crowd are we going to say no to, before high-end retailers begin to leave the area? How high do our taxes have to go because we don't want any more successful families moving in next door if it means cutting down a few more trees? There are a few more parcels up and down 751 that could see the same fate. How high does the unemployment rate need to go before we reach a breaking point and people start to leave Durham and make the situation even worse? There hasn't exactly been a rush of wealthier folks moving to Durham recently. Providing them with the right neighborhood in a good part of the county close to their offices at Duke or RTP, far enough away from the crime and blight of the inner city (to their perception, not mine) is the only way to attract them to move here and pay for a lot of the demands (like sidewalks, new libraries, etc.) we continue to pile on in the name of livability.

Congratulations on your victory, for now. The next step is annexation to the city, which might be better in the end to connect new homes with proper sewage/water service, in addition to all the new taxes we could potentially receive. Perhaps the city council will be one vote friendly to real progress.

South Durhamite

GreenLatern, You ask, "How high do our taxes have to go because we don't want any more successful families moving in next door if it means cutting down a few more trees?"

My main reason for opposing this particular development is because I think our taxes are going to have to go up precipitously to pay for the clean up of Falls AND Jordan Lakes. And this development, no matter what the developers do to minimize it, is going to create a huge amount of runoff into the lake. I have no opposition to the development being created elsewhere, nor do I oppose low-density development going in so close to the lake.


I would support development of the scale of the 751 Assemblage in a number of places in Durham. I'd also support a transit system that enabled people who live in east Durham to work in south Durham, people who live in north Durham to work downtown, and people who live in west Durham to work in east Durham.

The 751 Assemblage project is not "progress," rather it's a continuation of the sprawl policies of the 70s and 80s with a couple of contemporary buzzwords (mixed use, riparian buffer, yadda yadda) added to the slick brochure that will do nothing to get cars off our highways and pollutants out of our waterways.

As to how high our unemployment rate has to go, last i checked Durham - Chapel Hill's unemployment rate is still better than the state and the nation as a whole.



"Unfortunately, for the supporters of economic growth and development, the silent majority is too fixated on Lindsay Lohan or having to work for a living to support their family to have the time to show up en masse at council meetings."

I am so tired of hearing this BS. I work for a living, and when it's important enough to me, i show up at meetings. Most of the people who disagree with you also work for a living. Most of us just want to be left alone, and don't start paying attention until our stormwater rates go through the roof, or we notice that our 15 minute commute now takes 45 minutes.

You don't get to claim the "silent majority" as supporting your position without proving it.

Bill Williams

Green Lantern, your posts are excellent and well reasoned, unlike some. Thanks.

To the opposers, I say- this is a good development, and it will happen. Time for you Haw River Assembly folks to find something else to protest. How about BP Oil? Or, go hassle Alamance County for a while, they are in the watershed and building like bananas!

The world will not end because someone built a nice neighborhood next to the lake. It has been happening forever and is a good thing.


Wow, Barry, it's almost hard to counter-point when I agree with you too much of the time. I'll concede that I don't have "good data" to support whether my suburban neighbors like me who voted in 2008 for Obama and his coattail candidates, are on board with 751. All I can say is what little they know of 751, pro or con, generally elicits a positive response. I think it has to do with the image of weathier taxpayers moving in than whether a little more runoff is worse that oil leaking from the bass boats on Jordan Lake that leads them to conclude the benefit outweighs the risk. I certainly agree stringent requirements, not suggestions, are to be required of any new development, concurrent with available technology. If the homes are that pricey and seductive, the market will bear the additional cost. We could use a few more pricey homes to bring up the average anyway.

I could ask you the same question about whether you can determine the majority of Durham residents agree with your opposition to 751. Given our voting turnout, you are probably guaranteed a sizable block of consistent white voters left of center. If that's who you tend to socialize with, then it might be 90% of the sample size.

I do know the overwhelming majority pay local taxes, that they are suffering from economic stress in a recession, and they are often tuned out of issues that are important in their daily lives. Unless they speak up and stand up, they're views are ignored and their positions unclear.

I agree mass transit is our future, but that funneling everyone to a downtown hub to wait another 30-minutes for a another bus is an outdated model from the 1980s, as much as strip malls and low-density housing when growing numbers of young families are having second thoughts about the big house and big yard. People just want to live in a nice house in a good school district and not have to travel more than 15-minutes on a highway to get to work.

751 Assemblage can be all of this to its potential residents in its proposed location. Of course it would be nice to put it somewhere else to get similar amenties. 15-501, Cole Mill, Sherron Road, Page Road, MLK, etc.--not all are in the best school districts or near a boat dock, but perhaps much less of a watershed issue. The question I have to ask, is if the big issue is the the watershed, how much of an issue is 751? Is it being blown out of proportion as I suspect it is, just because some consistent growth opponents have carefully and smartly found a way to derail it in the anticipation of halting future development they don't agree with? I don't know the answer, but one thing is for sure, I haven't heard the other side. Not from dueling internet posts or newspaper articles, or tet a tet in heated council hearings, but from two sides sitting down and sifting through the data and alternatives with the planning commission, free from lawyers and lobbyists in a way that makes it work.

What I sense is that the opposition is focused on tightly controlling new growth and development only when the elements conform to their narrow set of values in how a city should look like. Those values might not be consistent with what most newcomers are looking for, or with what long-time residents will go along with, to change the way things have been done before. We've been down this road before repeatedly will all sorts of new development. Remember Brightleaf?

What I sense from the proponents is a lack of willingness to work with Durham's political landscape and more "let's see what we can get throught the loopholes". Given all the time and money invested it would be beyond logic to assume the developer is throwing up any old field of tract homes within spitting distance of a lake. I'd like to think they aren't taking their investment that lightly, and that the plan is well-engineered and open to modification.

The answer is somewhere in the middle, but the picture is far bigger than 751 Assemblage. There will be another debate some other place down a similar road in the near future.


I've never claimed to know how the majority of citizens feel. All i can say is that the developers have sought to undermine the spirit and the letter of the law at every step of the way, and that as far as i can tell, that's just standard operating procedure for their attorneys - see what happened last month with K&L Gates, Fairway Outdoor Advertising, and the City-Wide PAC.

I can think of three locations within a mile and a half or so of my house where i would support high density mixed use redevelopment, instead of empty big boxes and acres of parking. I also think we need to deal with transit and transportation infrastructure issues before we start building "mixed-use" developments with neighborhood schools on the edge of town. We can't sell houses to people with children in my decidedly urban neighborhood because we have no neighborhood schools. There's a house on the market not 100 yards from me for $39,900. That's not a typo. I can guarantee you it won't sell to a homeowner. Probably one of our many slumlords will pick it up and let it run down even more.

Wait till the state passes the new Jordan Lake rules, and your property taxes and stormwater bills go up by a couple of thousand a year or more in order to pay for upfitting the stormwater controls at 751 if the commissioners pass this rezoning.

To finish this somewhat disjointed thought, what the hell is so hard about having the county attorney give his opinion on the validity of the protest petition? Either the state's action today is valid or it isn't. It takes 15 seconds to opine about that. Everybody knows that Becky and Ellen will vote no, and Brenda, Joe, and Michael will vote yes. All we need to know is whether or not that's enough.


I watched the whole meeting on TV.

OMG, how embarrassing and dysfunctional at midnight!


I totally agree with you GL. If you want to be a County Commissioner your must work late sometimes. In particular Rechow’s refusal to extend the meeting by a mere 30 minutes disgusted me.


How the heck do ellen and becky, queens of no growth(both opposed southpoint), get elected everytime? And we wonder why people from raleigh pick at us about how dangerous our city is. we wouldn't look so bad if we had more wealthy residents! Lol. Ya'll who oppose suck because i love this city and i want to see it grow. I grew up ashamed of my city because of people like YOU! Stop opposing growth. Durham needs to be a city and listening to a few naturalist who only care about fringe issues and not the big picture. Green Lanturn, i salute u...u

Steve Bocckino

It 's hard to see how the "Increased tax base" argument holds up, when our taxes increase every year in an era of exponential growth in south Durham.

lamb, you ask how County Commissioners Reckhow and Heron get re-elected term after term? Because the "silent majority" of Durhamites fully endorse their policies on growth.

And please watch the CAPS and explanation points!. They look like a digital billboard, another thing Durhamites overwhelmingly despise.



Thank you, once again, for your logic, common sense, reason, and well-worded comments. This whole situation is tiring. I do not understand this city; I really don't. I'm seriously thinking of just picking up and moving back to Michigan -- where, by the way, there truly are beautiful lakes ... and development is ON the shores of the lakes (imagine that!), and the lakes are STILL CLEAN and CLEAR!

South Durhamite--
You write: "My main reason for opposing this particular development is because I think our taxes are going to have to go up precipitously to pay for the clean up of Falls AND Jordan Lakes. And this development, no matter what the developers do to minimize it, is going to create a huge amount of runoff into the lake. I have no opposition to the development being created elsewhere, nor do I oppose low-density development going in so close to the lake."

You are simply mis-informed. I don't blame you for not wanting your taxes to go up and for being concerned about the lake's water quality. However, if you listen to the experts (world-known), the development of the 751 acreage as zoned (large single-family home lots) will actually create MORE runoff of more DETRIMENTAL water quality than this mixed use development.

The mixed use component requires a higher level of standards to be met by the developer. The result, consequently, is what the developer be REQUIRED to do and has COMMITTED to do WILL make a difference (lessen damaging water runoff compared to lower density uses of that land)!

Letting the 751 land be developed as most of the opponents to this want will actually cause Jordan Lake to suffer more harm. That is the paradox. Opponents don't want to believe it. But it is reality.

Finally, it sure is ironic that so many people are complaining about these "Jordan Lake Rules" and how much it will cost in tax payer burden. I will be frank in admitting that I did not follow this issue when it was developing and became law. However, I no doubt suspect many who are opposing this 751 development plan are the same "environmentalists" who pushed for such an aggressive tax burden to become necessary as a consequence of this law which will require retrofitting of neighborhood runoff systems that are in non-compliance (i.e., all) with these "Jordan Lake Rules".

Well, which way do you want it? Do you want to impose strict environmental standards which are going to cost Durham's property tax payers an arm and a leg? Or, do you not want to pay a higher tax for that purpose? It seems like we cannot have it both ways. So, perhaps we should be a bit more careful before we support those who push for what are probably excessive binding environmental regulations that cause everyone's cost of living to go much higher.

Even if the developer (any developer of 751, whether or not this rezoning gets passed) is forced to (or agrees to) meet stricter "Jordan Lake Rules" FUTURE standards (not yet known), does anyone really think this comes without a cost?

Perhaps you don't pay for it in your property tax, but you'll pay for it indirectly in other ways that perhaps aren't as transparent. After all, if a developer has higher fixed costs (like through more stringent water run-off costs or all the ridiculous legal bills he's had to pay to fend off the opponents for nearly 3 years), then he will pass those costs on in the way of higher lease and sales prices for the development's users. The result of that is those who lease the retail and office space will charge the rest of us more for the goods and services we purchase from them, etc., etc. Higher costs are always passed down the line.

So, the harder Durham makes it for this developer (or any developer), then the costlier it is to live in Durham.

The developer of 751's mixed simply wants to put forward a beautiful living experience and, yes make a profit (shocker!). Unfortunately, too many people who lack vision and common sense for what is best for Durham as a whole want to paint this as an evil image. Profits drive business and business creates jobs and innovation.

Let's be honest and smart. 751 is an excellent project that nearly ANY community and city/county would jump at, especially given the quality and excellent character of this local developer.

Far left negativism and pessimism does nothing to help Durham or Americans. Americans innovate and push forward. We are successful because we have a "can-do" attitude. The opponents to this project are taking away that American spirit. And it's a damned shame!

Do NOT let that pessimism win! Bring this development to 751 and watch Durham finally begin to become the star it can be!


From this project I hope a new political alliance can occur between the Durham Committee and the Friends of Durham. As an African American in Durham, on local issues my thinking is more in line with the Friends of Durham than the Peoples Alliance. Such an alliance can finally rid us of Heron and maybe Reckhow. I know that I will not be voting for them in 2012.


Why is it your BCR participation is exclusively related to 751 South issues?


Y'all know there's about 400,000 square feet of empty big box development on North Roxboro Street, with easy access to I-85 and existing (if inadequate) transit lines just begging to be redeveloped into mixed use communities that people who need jobs would actually be able to get to.

For those of you who think that building this project out on the fringe of the county is such a good idea, let me ask: why can't we incentivize and prioritize these kinds of projects in places where they make more sense? Or is Atlanta really the model of growth that you have in mind for Durham?

Finally, for you who think that Ellen Reckhow is the problem on the BoCC? I'm trying to imagine living in Durham in 6 years if Joe Bowser gets re-elected to the Board, and somehow i just can't do it. It's one thing to advocate changing our existing processes if you don't think they're efficient or lead to desirable results. It's another to pretend they don't exist.



I have actually made a few comments on a small number of other issues. But the reason why my participation in BCR is overwhelmingly on the 751 issue is because it is an issue that is very important to me and my time for this kind of discourse is limited. So I've chosen to focus on it.

The 751 issue points to two core elements of the American culture that I think is rapidly waning and I'm very concerned about it.

Number One -- It shows that, as one eloquent speaker said last night (I believe his name was Darius Little): “We have reached a point where people love animals and trees more than they love human beings.” I do not dismiss a concern for the environment and animals as being moderately important and an issue for consideration. However, the concern for these things has become excessive and irrational in America over the last 20 years to the point of hindering the progress and economic greatness that America once represented.

Number Two -- The 751 issue also is a representative illustration of promoting fear and irrational negativism over optimism, logic, innovation, and adaptability -- the latter of which were all core characteristics that helped make America a unique, independent, wealthy, and healthy nation that believed it COULD over the fear that it could not.

These days America cowers forward with its tail between its legs -- fearful that any move She might make will cause a political uproar or make Us look like an overbearing and prideful nation.

Well, folks ... NEWSFLASH: A lack of pride, logic, and optimism will sink this great county, not protect us from harm! Pride and confidence is what distinguishes success from failure.


Last night we heard one of America's (world's) most (perhaps the most) prominent land use conservation development planners clearly state that this 751 mixed use project would do two key things. 1. It will actually cause LESS harmful water runoff for the surrounding environment than if the development of the land were used for its currently zoned purpose (large lot single family homes). This is because of the effective and quality water-capture methods that the developer will use (engineered by experts with decades of experience) and that are mandated by such a mixed use development. 2. Mr. Arendt also said that given the expected growth of Durham over the next decade, this is a far more efficient use of 166 acres than placing another low-density sfh development on the site. Building this site as "high-density" makes more efficient use of the land and DECREASES damage to the environment, especially when one considers the need for additional residential housing that will be necessary in Durham over the next ten years to keep up with population growth (state's figures, not developer's figures on population modeling).

Yet, despite this common sense and clear logic coming from a leading expert with many, many years of experience, those who have cemented in their minds that this development should be opposed CONTINUE to do so by IRRATIONALLY claiming that the development will cause economic harm when it clearly will not. Developing 751 in the manner proposed will HELP Durham's environment. It will HELP to improve streets, roads, and intersections that are badly in need of improvement. It will HELP make a beautiful and unique and vibrant area for people to shop, live, and work. It will HELP create jobs and a boost to our economy for an extended period of time.

I cannot do much more than this. This is, when considered in a dispassionate and level-headed, logical way, what the developer's mixed-use plan will do for Durham. These are good things and people need to start realizing that optimism, innovation, logic, adaptation, and risk-taking entrepreneurs is what makes America successful!

Unfortunately, those who want to "protect" America from every little possible "germ" are like those parents who make their child use hand sanitizer every time Junior touches a door knob -- that which seems wise and caring when Junior is a child is in reality the over-protection that makes Junior weak and unable to build immunity to fight off many more serious health challenges of his adult life.

American culture is turning into a "coddling" culture. 751 is a prime example of this dangerous reality.

THAT is why I spend time on this issue rather than others. I want to help rid Americans of this irrational and illogical fear and instill optimism, pride, and a little "thanks" for those who innovate and risk their own capital to help our community and country be a better place.

Myers Sugg

Where's the balance, consensus? Why is it necessary to cajole, and not be transparent in your process? Why can't committed elements be put in place? I think the folks at 751, and in particular Mr. Byker know that misrepresentation and deceit is one way to "win" if you can get the clock to run out. Love the lack of supposed full disclosure to NCDOT about why the rush to "give" the easement. If jobs are the primary impetus for why this project should be approved according to many supporters, tell me why is it necessary to have land use planning and zoning in the first place. If all you have to do is promote any development as a job creator (no matter the ultimate financial, environmental or other unforeseen negative consequence) then we can cut a lot of City & County expense, and eliminate the Planning Dept. The lack of disclosure by the proponents, and willingness to seemingly do most anything to get this rezoning through exactly as they want it, is almost enough for me to want to oppose it. Balance and consensus is a much better approach than tearing apart the public process just to "win." Where is the basic respect for each other, and processes that are supposed to insure that respect and consideration is used throughout? I'm having a hard time finding it.


Mark - If this developer had actually legally committed to one of those amazing multi-use developments so gloriously discussed by experts, many of its opponents would have been supporters. But they have IN NO WAY bound themselves to such a plan. In fact, they have gone out of their way to keep all options open for what they can actually build. Or just selly the newly rezoned land for a huge profit and let someone else build.

Many of us involved in zoning issues at the neighborhood level come by this understanding the hard way by having supported a development based on the pretty drawings in the beginning only to see that the final results are far different.

I really enjoyed the development experts talks last night and look forward to SmartGrowth developments in Durham - in the urban tier where they were intended. Even their expert admitted that this location was not the best for such a development. We've tried several times and got Patterson Place instead.

Michael Oehler


I've sat on the side of this debate so far, but as things haven't gone your and the developers way, your true colors have begin to show. You paint with a broad brush, my friend.

1) If the developers committed on paper and to those elements which are bandied about so easily from their mouths, I might support this development.

2) As someone who asks for more funding for schools and as someone who will be entering the job market in the next year, I appreciate your concern about Durham's tax base and jobs, but I have little belief that the jobs or taxes created in this development will be a net gain for Durham. Roads, schools, infrastructure, water, etc. are quite expensive. It isn't just the size of your tax base, but how you use it ;)

3) You're political ideology/rants make me far less likely to even read many more of your posts here at BCR. Stick to the facts.

Michael Oehler


Appreciate the kind comments. I haven't been ignoring them, I just don't respond to them.

I watched the entire meeting yesterday until 12:15am. The commissioners' behavior was embarrassing and unprofessional to say the least. This was NOT a school board meeting of the past however. For the most part, speakers behaved themselves as they passionately expressed their views, including Victoria, Lavonia, and Jackie. I have to disagree that the choice by chairman Page to hold off the city attorney's decision on the petition until after public comment was a wrong move. The chairman wanted to hear from the public about the merits of the development, not hash out whether or not the protest petition was valid. It was already announced at the beginning of the meeting that DOT reversed their acceptance of the easement donated by the developer. People automatically assumed, as did Reckhow and Heron, that the deal was over, despite the fact that the city attorney had doubts as to the validity of the retraction having the necessary impact they would have liked. They're not lawyers, neither was the DOT engineer who stated this was the first time he had ever seen this tactic used to revoke a permanent
(forgot the term) versus a temporary one.

What was interesting to see was the maneuvering by both Reckhow and Bowswer to short circuit the attorney's request. On the one hand, Reckhow was ready to accept the DOT's press release as a decision, while Bowswer at the last minute was ready to rule it as impotent in the zoning decision, thus to take a vote on approval! They all were complaining about the process all night, but when the opportunity arose for a vote that could have gone either way based on the commissioners' interpretation of a press release, both sides fought frantically to move ahead with the vote, despite hearing from the developer and the public. That's not how things are done.

Still, it was a snapshot of Durham politics at work.

The last speaker (Albanero?) summed it up quite well. The optimist seeking a compromise. If only that were realistic in Durham.


You know what i really hate? When people start impugning my patriotism because i disagree with them.

Yeah, i really hate that.

It means they know they don't have an argument.


The argument that people would have supported this development if only they promised to follow through on the committed elements, or if they had used the process more reasonably, etc., is ridiculous.

As Mark put it, America has become a "coddling" culture, afraid to commit to anything big or different, because too many worry over every detail that might not be that significant from a scientific viewpoint, but which is highly significant and overly weighted from culture and emotion. In Durham, that's why we get "committed elements" and planning rules adopted without broad public/private input. As I listened to the speakers from the opposition last night complain about the environmental impact of the 751 project, it was clear that most of them have no idea what degree their own behavior has on their environment. They chose to live in a new house, which required the cutting of trees and the grading of land, the use of unsustainable building materials, all in a typical suburban design from the 1970s. Despite testimony from well-credentialed experts on the facts of 751, dozens of opponents lined up to refute the experts with their own muddled views. I could tell most of them were highly educated, but narrow minded. As in real life, education doesn't equate common sense and reason.

I think it's time in the next election to rid the board and council of members too easily swayed in our "coddling culture", too easily manipulated by extremist, self-interested folks who blatantly show their hypocrisy and lack of understanding of things more complicated than their own daily lives. From either end of the spectrum, one could argue, it means all of them!

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