Concerned about pot arrests? Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez says just stop smoking weed.
5 questions with new Durham Co-op board member Amelia Freeman-Lynde

Developers unveil site plan, more details on controversial Publix center for north Durham

A crowd of more than one hundred packed the Mt. Sylvan United Methodist Church's sanctuary on North Roxboro on Thursday night to hear the latest from the development team proposing a Publix-anchored shopping center at the corner of Guess Road and Latta Road in north Durham.

Northrivervillage_prelim_conceptplan

The logistics contrast from this fall's last go-round on this subject couldn't be starker: a crowded, uncomfortable elementary school cafeteria where speakers couldn't be heard and unruliness reigned at times, versus the pews-and-pulpit auditorium with PowerPoint, amplified audio, and (Publix-provided, natch) refreshments.

Similarly, while the developers were often on the defensive in the first meeting, in this session the agenda (there was an agenda) was tight, the presentation carefully crafted, and unanswered questions that raised hostility the first time were sometimes -- though crucially, not always -- answered in this second go-round.

Most crucially, residents got to see the developer's projections on the impact their Latta Road improvements would have on the congested road's traffic flow. It was an argument, backed by simulation data, that seemed to get murmurs of assent from the crowd, but follow up questions from two residents asking for before-and-after vehicular volume counts were pointedly left open.

The developer also put forth a working site plan and likely renderings for the commercial district, along with examples of single-family detached homes that Durham-based homebuilder Cimarron Homes is proposing for the site. 

There were again clear opponents in the audience -- though this time, met by what appeared to be, based on who was applauding, an equal number of proponents. 

Proponents noted their complaints over the lack of retail (or the poor quality of current retail) in north Durham, the corporate track record and store experience of Publix, and the positive impact to traffic flow from the road improvements planned.

Opponents shared their love for the quasi-rural nature of the northernmost city limits, concern on adding more retail where strip centers exist down the Guess and Roxboro corridors, and a reminder to residents that City legislative action is still needed and the project isn't a done deal.

All of which has a Durham Planning Commission and City Council hearing window targeted to summer 2016 looming as the project moves forward.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The development team, helmed by Morningstar attorney Patrick Byker and Halverson Development president Tom Vincent, spent a fair amount of time talking through their conceptual site plan for the parcels, shown above.

The plan, as expected, shows a the Publix facing westward towards Guess Rd. along with outparcels, with a landscaping barrier separating 60-70 homes on the eastern side of the property. Stormwater management features would be located on the southern edge of the site.

Vincent noted the development team had looked through twenty to thirty designs for the site, and cautioned that while changes were possible, he was used to providing this level of detail at the rezoning -- an omission from Durham's process that the Florida developer said was bizarre to him.

"We're starting to settle in on the site plan," Vincent said. "The rub there is, the site plan is not something that we're allowed to use for the zoning hearing. But to me, if I were sitting out in the audience like you, I would want to know ... what the site plan looked like."

The developer noted that while the site plan could not be used in the zoning meeting -- a process Vincent called "backwards," describing it as the only rezoning he's done in twenty years that doesn't require it -- the team had cleared with City/County Planning that these could be shared during neighborhood meetings.

Questioned later on a related point by an attendee who asserted that developers could not link a retail tenant like Publix to a rezoning, Byker noted that he had represented a Lowe's and Walmart in south Durham and that both projects were linked to their retail partners at this stage and during planning commission and City Council hearings.

The developer also showed the range of localism they had attempted in various designs -- Spanish architecture for a Boca Raton store, a Charleston-style evocation for a South Carolina store -- and showed proposed elevations for the north Durham Publix and outparcels as well.

Additionally, the development team stepped out of the PowerPoint midway through their discussion in order to play back what they described as a traffic simulation of before-and-after the improvements they planned to Latta Road in order to build the project.

Vincent and Byker told the assemblage that they were estimating $2.1 million to $2.2 million in developer-borne improvements to Latta Road, including three-laning a fifth of a mile of the road east of Guess, and adding a second dedicated left turn lane and dedicated right turn lane to the intersection.

"For a project this size, that's really off the charts," Vincent says, noting a typical similar project would ordinarily not exceed $500,000 to $600,000 in traffic improvements.

They also added, in what they noted was project boosterism, that the City and State have no current plans to otherwise improve today's Latta/Guess intersection. 

Earl Llewellyn from Kimley-Horn discussed the traffic conditions their team had seen out on the site, noting that during peak movement hours such as the 7:00am to 7:15am period, backups of five minutes or more with cars backing up past Autumn Dr. and Green Oak Dr.

Llewellyn's before-and-after simulation showed car queuing on Latta down significantly after the road improvements were made, after factoring in the new traffic levels from the development and what they described as the organic growth merely owing to Durham's ongoing increase in population.

With the improvements, the Kimley-Horn engineer's revised simulation showed cars more easily flowing through the increased capacity at Latta/Guess without today's backups beyond Autumn Dr. 

"One might initially expect that if you have that much traffic going through one lane, if you put two lanes, you shorten the queue by half. Actually, you do more than that, because what's happening now is, everyone's getting through one [light] cycle."

"Basically, what we've done with these improvements is not only serve the site, traffic in and out, but reduce the queues that are already out there today from 1200 feet to about 300 feet," Llewellyn said.

The project would maintain level of service (LOS) C, over the D required by the City.

In other facts and figures raised by the development team:

  • Byker, using City/County Planning algorithms he stated were empirically-proven, found that local schools should only see an increase of 21 students, assuming no townhouses on the site, which would likely lessen further the impact.
  • Property appraiser Jarvis Martin compared housing prices from recent sales in adjacent neighborhoods to 2008 tax values, and found that prices had generally stayed flat or declined in the adjacent area, in contrast to what he said was much stronger appreciation south of I-85. (Small, less-expensive houses in the subject area had predominately been the properties to see price increases, Jarvis said.)
  • The development and site plan team spent a fair amount of time on stormwater, noting that legally, developers were required to ensure the amount of stormwater flow after development matched conditions before, and citing the stormwater bonds and BMPs on the site as mechanisms to manage stormwater effectively.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While the site plan, housing description, and particularly the traffic information seemed to address a number of concerns raised in the first meeting, and the development team certainly had more facts, figures and data on hand than in that elementary school classroom, there were some seeming glaring omissions.

The first was back to the question of traffic. 

While some audience members seemed satisfied with the simulation data on traffic flow, two audience members questioned the actual nominal increase in vehicular flow.

When first asked, a Kimley-Horn staffer promised to review the details and provide it, searching notes while other questions continued. When pressed for the number, though, project representatives noted the question was "academic," stating that they should really care about whether the "road network" and capacity can manage whatever that volume was.

At least two residents raised concerns about not being able to see what that actual nominal change was; one noted he lived almost immediately adjacent to the site, while another noted that with more cars, even if they flow better, there was more risk to children running in the street and the like. That's "more of an important consideration to me than if I have to spend five minutes to turn," said one.

"I think the point is, I would submit that it's probably safer to have this area developed as a destination with activity going on," and presumably turns slowing traffic, than to have drivers "rushing through" this stretch of Latta with the current development pattern, one Kimley-Horn engineer said -- though this didn't stop questions from the audience on the traffic count impact.

Similarly, while Martin's data on home prices were interesting -- and confirm yet again what is frankly the market challenges that suburban north Durham has while central and south Durham have boomed -- they also didn't seem to fully address the spirit of the first meeting's discussion.

While Martin's data did capture stagnation in the immediate area for pricing, as one resident noted, that didn't address the forward-looking question of whether homes would appreciate more with a Publix shopping center there, or less due to commercial bringing traffic in.

Some in attendance were unqualified in their support for the project, while others were clearly opposed. (When applause opportunities arose, the volumes were roughly the same for each side, and we saw about the same number of hands clapping on the "for" as "against.")

One man cited the run-down, "dumpy" grocery stores in north Durham, while citing Publix's employee ownership and strong track record as a top employer. Another, who moved to Durham from Florida three years ago, said that his choice of north Durham "would have been a slam dunk" if Publix were there.

Others were clearly opposed.

One speaker, a teacher, noted the developers' use of future tense and wished they would have used conditional tenses instead, imploring residents that this was not a done-deal project. "We have a choice," she said. "Yes, this has been zoned for single family residential, and the City Council has not passed this yet, and this does not have to be here," she said.

The majority of residents asking questions didn't express such outright support or opposition; outside of the repeated, iterative discussion on traffic and the asks for traffic count changes, there were questions on stormwater maintenance, school impact calculations, heat islands, the feasibility of including a dog park, and more.

As one of these questioners said, he remained "ambivalent" about whether the project proceeds or the developer cancels, but did feel the session gave him a sense of "some confidence" versus the initial discussions.

Byker and the team noted they expect to submit an application by year's end and project that the effort will take six months to make its way through staff review, the Planning Commission and City Council.

If approved, construction would begin in late 2016 or early 2017 and run for up to a year.

Comments

Erik Landfried

My favorite part of the preliminary site plan is the (get ready for planning buzzwords) pedestrian path (walkability!) through the cul-de-sac (connectivity!) between the residential area and the grocery store (mixed use!) which leads to...some parking spaces...behind the loading zone and a drive-thru. But don't worry about the details - they'll get fixed (read: go away entirely) during the site planning process.

If you want to support this project, go right ahead. But don't let the developers try to convince you it's anything other than the status quo for North Durham: a sea of asphalt that doubles down on the unsustainable car culture we are addicted to. And 15-20 years from now, it will likely be another abandoned shopping center and the Guess/Latta intersection will be just as congested as it is today.

MG

Exactly, Erik. This was a meeting with NO answers. Any development team that cannot quickly answer the question "how many cars will visit this site per day" is either incompetent or hiding the numbers, or both. If you want to know why there were more people that seem to have appeared that were proponents -- they had to locate the meeting nearly four miles away from the site (there was considerable opposition at meeting locations nearby) and the people who know what matters know that this is a pure propaganda/sales meeting to benefit the developer. The residents who know the facts and how development works in Durham know that this meeting was meaningless - they can show people holding hands and singing songs but once that zoning is changed anything can happen. The lack of one concrete answer to twenty questions posed by the residents should immediately impact the "confidence" of every person in north durham.

Veronicablood

This was admittedly a "campaign" event paid for by the developers. The Rovain mantra that if you "repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth" is outdated and ineffective. A company can hire all the shills in the world - it won't change the inevitable flow of oil, power steering fluid and garbage going uninterrupted down the hill into the Eno. Durham's Comprehensive Plan only allows mixed use in locations that avoid environmentally sensitive environments. This close to the Eno on a 45° hill? That's the living definition of "sensitive" - and the area certainly isn't "well-connected by multiple modes of transportation" as the Comprehensive Plan requires.

Mike

Um, so, the people all living in the neighborhood behind the shopping center are going to have to get in their cars and drive to the store even though they can see it from their living rooms. This is a principle problem with these site designs -- the lack of connectivity -- that cumulatively end up creating the bulk of our traffic problems. This plan forces people to drive to pick up a gallon of milk and a box of cookies, which, when coupled with all the other development along Latta and other roads, ends up clogging them with people who, given the option and better designs, would walk or bike to run a simple errand, visit a library, grab a coffee or eat lunch.

Jessie

I think the site plan just shows business as usual. There is no compact density, there is still an enormous parking lot, and everything is one story. Maybe residents are worried about more traffic or increased people load with more density, but it would set a much better development precident to have multi-story dense living on top of the store, with a parking structure and keep as much of the site intact as possible. It minimizes runoff and erosion, and you can still build as many residential units in a way that maximizes affordability. Walking trails would be a nice addition to the intact site, and would provide an amenity to the residents and surrounding neighborhood. It's unimaginative and the least cost to the developer to do it how they're showing.

JB

To repeat what I have posted on Nextdoor regarding this issue

The ONLY reason they want to rezone non-commercial property instead of buying or leasing existing commercial property is price and profit. There is no other reason to choose the Latta/Guess site.

Consider the O'Reilly Auto Parts on Roxboro.

That 0.9 acre property sold for $605,000 on 8/1/2012,

and then for $1,980,000 on 10/16/2014.

What was there was demolished to build the O'Reillys. Just the land and the location cost 2.2 million per acre.

There is already commercially zoned property available all over Durham, North and otherwise, but it would cost them more upfront.

I really hope that the planning department can see that this rezoning proposal is clearly contrary to the goals of the UDO and Comprehensive Plan. It is widely unwanted, and wholly unnecessary.

It's outside the goals of the Future Land Use plan updated less than 4 months ago

http://durhamnc.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1171

It's outside the scope of each of the applicable elements of the Durham Comprehensive Plan Vision

http://durhamnc.gov/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1175

Rezoning will not-
Promote the creation, enhancement and sustainability
of a healthy, livable, safe and beautiful community for
all Durham citizens.

It is not applicable to -
Promote a range of choices in transportation,
education, housing and economic opportunities to
effectively serve a diverse community.

Rezoning is directly counter to-
Promote the identity of our distinct neighborhoods by
encouraging design elements and public facilities
appropriate to the character of each area.

Rezoning will not-
Protect our historic heritage, open spaces and natural
resources.

Rezoning will not, but developing existing commercial properties will-
Provide opportunities for high quality growth and
development.

There are plenty of suitable, appropriate, and better sites for a Publix available throughout Durham. They just cost more. I certainly don't think that justifies altering and overturning established zoning and development plans. If they want zoning changes, they should have very good reasons to justify them.

They have none other than additional profit for themselves.

Scott Koon

Good post. On the traffic issue, they initially punted, but then said the volume would increase by 300 to 500, I believe per hour, at peak times. One resident from Green Oak Drive asked repeatedly how many total visitors they expected per day, which they rather steadfastly refused to answer, preferring to address it as a question of how many cars per hour woild pass through the intersection. My guess is that they expect thousands of daily shoppers, but did not want to say so.

On the issue of property valuations, it was never particularly contentious in earlier meetings, in part because residents want low values at tax time and high values at resale. Jarvis Martin presented the data, but did not draw the rather obvious conclusion: smaller, older homes are selling for more than they did before the crash, newer homes have kept or slightly declined in value. An interesting observation that does not seem to have much to do with the matter at hand, except perhaps there is more upside for the value of these newer homes when and if the economy turns around.

I think a lot of residents with concerns were cowed a bit by the size and nature of the venue. At one point, the developers practically invoked Jesus' name.

The modelling of the intersection improvement seemed impressive, to me, anyway. Fewer folks brought up concerns about where the deer that shelter there will go. The answer is, of course, to the surrounding area , which is already part of the range of what is a pretty healthy herd.

Part of the tension is based on something that has gone unstated: this isn't really a store for the near neighbors, what they really want are the Willowhaven people. There is a left lane turn in for southbound traffic, so it will be convenient for folks coming from up north and the west.

There is also the matter of the stormwater retention area abutting the school property. There is already a pond on site, but it is further away. I'd be curious to know if that means more mosquito habitat, but these are a part of our rural lifestyle anyway.

The estimate of about 20 children seems to be a lowball. Being in the Easley attendance zone is a selling point for many, so I expect many families of elementary school age children would find it attractive. Still, I'm always surprised to find so many other folks in the area who do have kids who send their kids elsewhere, especially Voyager, perhaps because the year tound schedule is not for everyone. It would mean fewer lottery seats for Easley, but on the whole there is a desk somewhere for all these kids. Now, if they put in a whole slew of developments in the area, that may not be the case, but I suppose that will become yet another land-use fight for another day.

Scott Koon

The idea that they would build multi-storey, dense residential development is a complete non-starter in this part of town. When folks heard that they were planning for 1/4 acre lots and even a few townhouses, rather than the 1/2 acre lots currently permitted under extant zoning rules-the reaction was not positive. Apartments or condos are a bridge even farther than that.

Scott Koon

Also, I did do a headcount at the outset of the meeting, and counted 139, not counting the folks there to present on behalf of the development. Something like an additional 10 to 20 people came in later.

Doug Lyda

I have to respectfully disagree with many of the comments above. As outlined in the synopsis at the beginning I felt the planners/developers/traffic analysis/environmental impact were clear & believable. The lack of restaurants & high end grocery were an initial deterrent to our move to this area. The availability of these added resources in our area can only enhance it's attractiveness to potential buyers. This in turn will allow our home values to improve. The "study" referenced in this forum last week failed to grasp the importance of restaurants & high end grocery to middle & high end home prices. Again I will state that we almost did not buy in this area because of a lack of these.
Thank You
Doug

Will Wilson

It will be a shame if the City Council lets yet more green space at the fringe of the city turn commercial when so much underutilized commercial space exists so close by (as many others have mentioned). Letting this rezoning happen is just one more example of handing gifts over to these large developers. What we need to realize is that, as Durham grows, it needs to grow by redeveloping old parcels, not simply harvest land through sprawl.

Scott Koon

That is an excellent point about reusing old parcels. This plat essentially constitutes such a reuse. These are mainly older residential buildings, it's not a pristine forest, it's single-family homes on lots that have become heavily wooded. We have all seen in various places as residential properties age.

We don't know what they are paying for the land itself. I think they want to build there not because it is a bargain-the estimated $2.1 million they are investing in the intersection is a signal that they are not doing it on the cheap. They are building there because it is strategic, they will have access to a lot of folks who are willing to pay a premium price for an upscale shopping experience.

There I go, bringing class into it again.

Will Wilson

It's not strategic, it's cheaper than redeveloping the presently zoned commercial sites down the road. Our throw-away culture extends to land use.

John

Talk about biting off your nose to spite your face!!! I am simply amazed at how some people are picking this project apart! You are not going to get Meadowmont, nor are you going to get Southern Village on this piece of property. However, this development alone is going to practically double the amount of sidewalks in this quadrant of the city. Being able to walk across Latta or Guess Roads to a sidewalk (that does not currently exist, by the way,----but will be provided by the developer along this property), which connects you to other sidewalks within this development--------in cities more cosmopolitan than Durham qualifies as "walkable!" I can't think of a single shopping center north of I-85 that's not a dump!!! In our North Durham sea of gas stations and dollar stores, why aren't people raising hell over the crap shopping centers we're stuck with that force many of us to drive 20 extra minutes for decent shopping options? Not to mention the impact the extra driving has on the environment! Idealism and righteousness aimed at this development are not going to get the owners of shopping centers such as Riverview, North Duke Mall, Willowdale, and the fleabag Food Lions on Guess and Roxboro to change anything! I suspect some of the criticism is coming from people who don't even live in North Durham, btw. In a free market (which I think our economy is still based on), COMPETITION from something newer, cleaner, and more convenient is the only thing that has a chance of forcing our existing shopping options to join the rest of us in the 21st Century!!! Publix is an outstanding company with a stellar reputation that many communities want, but can't get. They're employee owned and if many of the naysayers could lower themselves enough to drive to the Publix on High House Road at Davis Drive in Cary, they might be knocked over by how nice the employees are and how awesome the store is! Just imagine a smile on the face of a Kroger employee in North Durham!!! Hard to imagine, I know. Wake up people!!! The 1970s are calling, they want they're shopping centers back!!! This development will be the first step in making that happen!!!

Erik Landfried

John, do you enjoy crossing Guess Rd today? Does it feel safe and inviting? No amount of sidewalks are going to make that area "walkable" (appropriate quotation marks by the way).

As I stated in my first comment, if you are fine with the tradeoff of a sea of asphalt and a lot more car and truck traffic in order to get a Publix and a few more homes, awesome. But calling something like this walkable is a joke. If the goal was to make it walkable, the developer would've grouped the buildings together and put them much closer to the sidewalk, agreed to build pedestrian refuge islands on all legs of the Guess/Latta intersection, not built any additional travel lanes, and arranged the new housing so that you could walk to the front door of the grocery store without going through the loading zone and a drive-thru.

By the way, I don't live in North Durham. If you think that makes my opinion irrelevant, that's on you. My goal is to get people to walk and bike more throughout the city, regardless of where they live. If this development gets built the way the way it's being shown, it will not encourage that.

MG

Research papers out of Duke in 2014 and 2015 show that the opening of a new grocery store in Durham (several have been examined) did NOT improve home values in the immediate vicinity. At best, the home values remained the same, and many decreased. The developer used 11 homes in a cherry-picked fashion to say that values had not increased, but those were homes that nationwide had not appreciated since the 2005-08 span with the market crash and recession. If you would also like some fine examples of use of old vacant storefronts, let's look at two Starbucks in north Durham that are doing a fine business in renovated space and Fresh Market on University Dr that did the same. We should not build more storefronts if the older ones are not filled to capacity. This shows by definition that additional storefronts are not needed, and the examples of renovating old storefronts show that revamping a strip mall can be done with success in Durham.

John

Erik, as I expected, you don't live in North Durham. Your opinion is irrelevant. I'm thrilled you are able to afford to live in (I'm assuming) central Durham. That's great for you! You can spend each day in your little elitist bubble and ride your vintage bike to Compare Foods when you're not tending your chicken coup. However, for those of us living in the real world, we have to deal with the reality of not having the time or the gas to drive downtown every time we want to shop somewhere other than the dumpy Krogers, Food Lions, and the world's smallest Harris Teeter.

By the way, can someone explain to me how people in cities such as New York, Chicago, or even downtown Durham survive crossing busy streets without pedestrian "refuge islands?" They've done it for years. Must be something they know about crossing streets that some people here haven't figured out.

And, Erik, if you want developers in the future to adopt new urbanist planning methods, it's up to the City and County of Durham to change zoning rules across the city. This particular development is already a huge improvement to what exists in North Durham currently.

MG

Well, John, by your comments you must not live in North Durham either...or at least you must not drive in this area during peak times...otherwise you would know that an increase in traffic and two southbound left turn lanes across Guess Rd into this development with right turn lanes going north as well will make movement through the area impossible. I hope that there is not a need at the Elementary School of fire or police services, because the local fire station has already expressed concerns about their mobility to those of us who do live in the area.

John

Well, MG, I most certainly do live in North Durham. I live north of Umstead Road. I drive down Guess Road all the time and am very familiar with the traffic. Many of my trips, and I think this goes for a lot of people, is to the grocery store. Contrary to what you are saying, there will be many people stopping at this Publix and going no further down Guess. What you don't seem to care to think about is the fact that with the traffic improvements they will make in conjunction with having a neighborhood market, traffic in many ways will be improved.

There are a lot of people who live in North Durham! Have you ever bothered to look at an aerial photo. There are huge neighborhoods hidden behind the trees. Where the hell do you think these people shop for groceries? I would imagine they drive down Guess Road to one of our several illustrious crap grocery stores. Just imagine their daily to weekly trips reduced. You can't deny that will make a difference for the better with traffic. Furthermore, people downtown seem to cope pretty well with a street network dating back to the nineteenth century that now handles many times the traffic it was originally designed for.

Shockingly, Durham is now the fourth largest city in North Carolina. I'm from Winston-Salem. I've lived in both Raleigh and Apex. North Durham is the first place I've lived where anytime a new development is proposed, people such as you and Erik raise holy hell about what a detriment to the community it will be! How traffic will turn to complete gridlock! The world will come to an end! Meanwhile the whole northern half of Durham looks like the third world. Seriously, it's really bad! Nothing new has been built literally since the Nixon Administration. Meanwhile, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Charlotte are growing, building new amenities-----some new urbanist and dense and some not, such as this particular project. Ironically, those cities don't have huge swaths that look like third world countries. Honestly, it's time that Durham start acting like a city and not a New England fishing village. This is not a New England fishing village.

I normally stay out of these ridiculous online conversations. However, I am sick and tired of a few negative naysayers having such influence over something like this that impacts many, many people. I can promise you that a majority of the people who live here in North Durham are desperate for a premium neighborhood market! I have spoken to many who are so excited about this project, but who are above getting on a site like this to bitch and moan. I'm not above it----at least for this topic! :)

Matthew

John, ultimately any new development north of the Eno will have a negative impact on traffic. There are exactly five places in Durham County to cross the Eno River - Cole Mill Rd, Guess Rd, N Roxboro Rd, Old Oxford Rd, and Red Mill Rd, from east to west (and Cole Mill doesn't count since it crosses the Orange County line quickly).

For any new residential development, even if the new residents have grocery stores and schools north of the Eno, they're still most likely to cross the Eno for work, government business, recreation, worship, and so on. And any new commercial development isn't going to generate its customer base and employee base solely from north of the Eno (especially if Publix is as great as everyone claims), so that'll generate new northbound trips across the river. This project would increase the degree to which Guess Rd and N Roxboro Rd are chokepoints in both directions.

If instead of developing new land north of the Eno, we focused on redeveloping land between the Eno and NC 54, we could densify, reduce prices, and develop more pedestrian-, cycling-, and transit-supportive land use patterns and street networks. Unfortunately, developers are more interested in land grabs north of the Eno, where land is cheap because everyone else pays the traffic and environmental costs.

John

Give me a break, Matthew, there is very little land left for development between the Eno and NC 54. For those of us living North of the Eno, we need shopping in our neighborhood now! And, we don't want to wait twenty years for the density to increase to the point that you start seeing infill projects like North Hills. This is what I mean when I refer to idealism and righteousness aimed at this development. Preventing this Publix from happening is not going to bring North Hills or Cameron Village or Birkdale to Durham. Sorry. Durham is full of "choke points" including many around South Point. Yet, people living in those areas get in and out just fine.

Whether people use Guess Road to get to work is irrelevant to this traffic situation. People staying closer to home to shop, however, is!

MG

Matthew makes a good point that many also consider - most people living north of the Eno do not work north of the Eno. The reason for current traffic is that most people commute to Duke or to RTP or UNC Chapel Hill every day, passing those neighborhood grocery stores on their way. The notion that we need shopping now is already a reality-with four grocery stores within 1.5 miles, most people can name two or three different groceries that they frequent today. Some stop at a local gym or daycare on their way home as well. The notion that people transit around choke points "just fine" is ignorant. Living close to this intersection, and observing the traffic first hand I am well aware. With road resurfacing this week, commutes were heavily impacted on Guess road, and with two left turn lanes southbound (removing the median which is also a safety measure) and a right new turn-in lane on Guess, the traffic will be considerably worse during commutes - similar or worse than the resurfacing time this week, as people play the game of trying to cross over three northbound lanes to enter as they pick up their morning donut or coffee, and then exit out into these northbound lanes in the evening after picking up groceries, further lengthening the line of cars going through the stoplight. This area is zoned residential for a good reason - it is not an appropriate place for additional commercial traffic.

Carson

Putting aside the Publix for the moment - do we think that the numbers of Harris Teeters and Krogers in the area will remain after Kroger finishes integrating HT into its business? There's quite a few of them in relatively close proximity in the area…

John

Horse Malarkey!!! MG, you and others are using "traffic" as a scapegoat. On the contrary, myself and others would have to be ignorant to believe you when you say Guess and Latta is the only choke point in Durham. Or, that traffic is unable to cope with other choke points in the city. Durham is nothing but choke points. The real issue is this development doesn't fit into your "only new construction should be downtown, bikeable, walkable, and transit oriented" mantra. I hate to break it to you, but in a city where the city council members are excited about a soon to be built Circle K convenience store on vacant land on N. Duke St.--north of Carver St., you've got bigger issues to be protesting. Imagine a gleaming new convenience store in a sea of convenience stores surrounded by empty office buildings and storefronts. Now there's something to get in a tizzy over!

It is unfair to expect people in North Durham to continue to be subjected to the crap shopping options because this new development doesn't fit into your narrow definition of what is acceptable.

MG

My narrow definition is the City's UDO and Comprehensive Plan, sir.

John

Finally, the truth is out! Yay! It's not really "traffic" after all. Thank you for finally coming out with your true motivation, Sir-------I'm assuming, Sir. It's kind of pointless to argue" traffic" when in truth, you just don't want a grocery store north of the Eno River.

MG

Ignorance of the city planning laws, documents, and how the city makes laws about zoning shows here and you do not deserve a meaningful response. You should be asking questions. My argument has nothing to do with wanting or not wanting a grocery store north of the Eno, but you are indeed not able to understand. This is my last post, as it is clear that you should be better educated about how these processes work in the city of Durham. Some of us have well over a decade of experience and have studied and asked questions, attended meetings, invested a great deal of time and energy to understand these laws and city processes.

John

MG: I love it! I read posts from condescending idealogues such as yourself on sites like this all the time and it pisses me off, but I usually choose to keep my mouth shut. I am familiar with the Durham UDO and the Comprehensive Plan. I think they are lofty goals for Durham. I also know that there is plenty of room for interpretation. This is one reason why the Durham zoning map looks a bit like a patchwork quilt.

At the public meeting on Thursday night, I noticed that at least half the people there are in support of this grocery store being built. They would applaud when a couple of folks spoke in support of it. I also noticed the vast majority of them were afraid to speak up. Maybe they were afraid of being labeled "ignorant" or "stupid." Your last comment has proven to me that when you (and I'm sure several others in agreement with you) are confronted with a counter argument, when all else fails, just start calling those who disagree "ignorant" and "uneducated" in these matters. Never, I'm sure, would you ever agree to disagree. Ha! Love it! Love it! :)

Todd P

It is not clear from the site plan, but are they seriously considering having zero signalized intersections for direct access to this site? Safely turing left onto Guess Road without a signal would be impossible during much of the day, as would turning left onto Latta Road. The hundreds or thousands of drivers wanting to go south on Guess Road will have to turn left somewhere.

If their new interesections are too close to existing signalized intersections to add a signal, then there needs to be a change to the plan - either buy enough property to put in a light further down Latta, or build a connection though to Lebanon Circle for access to that light on Guess Road.

If they are allowed to build this without traffic signals, taxpayers will be on the hook paying for them down the line - just like the recently added ones at the North Point Kroger and the Independence Park Lowes.

K. M.

Was there any discussion of the traffic impact at Latta and Roxboro Rds? That already seems to be a "failed" intersection during rush hours. BTW, I am feeling insulted on behalf of Harris Teeter, Krogers, and Food Lion employees and patrons...they are our neighbors! It's not necessary to be so arrogant. It is my opinion that it is more important to maintain a green zone around the Eno than to provide a commercial site, but that's a point people can disagree with civilly.

Kevin Davis

@K.M.: Not taking a stand here on the pro/con of the development, and I agree that we should be polite in talking about grocery stores (and each other... cough, cough.)

But I will say that my personal frustration with Kroger reached a boiling point after five simultaneous trips to the store at North Pointe where, each time, I ended up with a spoiled/expired item. And, I've always found the level of customer service and cleanliness to be wanting.

Harris Teeter is fine, but I am pessimistic for how well they'll do under Kroger ownership. And Food Lion is one of many stores in a European grocer's constellation of brands these days.

A plus to Kroger from a workers' perspective is they are a unionized business, but Publix (like Costco) provides a far better experience for employees based on everything I've heard about the company in Fla. Wherever they end up in Durham, I hope they succeed, and frankly I would love nothing more than to see Kroger, Harris Teeter and Food Lion have to improve their stores by way of competition.

Don Moffitt

This is wrong, and got repeated more than once: 'The developer noted that while the site plan could not be used in the zoning meeting -- a process Vincent called "backwards," '

The site plan CAN be used in the zoning meeting! But if it's used, it's considered to be a committed element. That is, we don't allow bait and switch. I just love that the developer from Florida thinks that's backwards.

John Martin

@Kevin Davis: How do you make "five simultaneous trips" to a grocery store? Have you cloned yourself? ;) Have a Happy Thanksgiving. It's good to have Bull City Rising back.

James L.

The developers had a community meeting Nov. 19th. You can check out their presentation here. I just uploaded it.

http://northrivervillagenc.com/updates/2015/11/25/community-meeting-presentation-on-nov-19th

Brad

If I were the developer of this project, I'd expect to hear from City Council members in the regular order and not on a blog.

Will Wilson

@Brad: I think Don was correcting an error that was in the thread, not addressing the developer. It was a simple statement of fact. Entirely appropriate, as he was once on the Planning Commission.

The comments to this entry are closed.