So, Raleigh, now it's *you* caring about what's going on downstream?

Throughout the Falls Lake Rules process, one thing that's been frustrating at times for those of us in upstream Durham -- where a significant majority of our blue county, I suspect, supports tougher environmental measures -- has been the frustration of getting finger-wagged over growth and pollutants by our downstream neighbor.

A neighbor that's grown far faster than Durham, Orange, or Person, taking up a disproportionate share of regional growth. A neighbor whose impervious surface levels soared in the area around Falls Lake much faster than Durham's did. A neighbor whose County Commissioners vetoed a slow-growth provision near a future reservoir site so that Rolesville (who wants to live in Rolesville?) could keep growing.

A neighbor that chews up greenfields for subdivisions like a fat guy eats hot dogs at a July Fourth eating contest on Coney Island.

Well, what do we see today at the (absolutely terrific) site Raleigh Public Record?

Raleigh city officials say a proposed chicken operation in [downstream-from-Wake --BCR] Nash County could cost them big bucks for waste cleanup. [...]

If [the plant and associated Consolidated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs are] built as planned, Raleigh officials say nutrient levels in the Neuse and its estuary will rise. Should that happen, Waldroup predicts “the federal government, through the Clean Water Act, will require additional nutrient reductions from everyone upstream, not just the plant or the CAFOs.”

“Everyone within the basin will be affected, and traditionally point sources, like waste water treatment plants, will feel the brunt before non-point sources like land application operations,” he said.

“Municipalities, rather than the CAFOs, will receive more scrutiny because of how the Clean Water Act is structured.”

Meanwhile, the article tells us, Raleigh's three wastewater treatment plants have spent $25 million (gee!) to meet tighter nitrogen and phosphorus requirements -- and as much as (gasp!) a half-million a year in operating expenses to meet pollution rules.

But let me get this straight. Raleigh's grown at massive rates in the past decade, with the fastest growth countywide in the Brier Creek area, which drains to the Neuse just downstream of Falls Lake...

...and you're concerned that something happening downstream from you could make you have to spend more on pollution clean-up?

Continue reading "So, Raleigh, now it's *you* caring about what's going on downstream?" »

Because the Old Bull River is for ducks, not trucks

BCR Fake Memo 'o The Day:

FROM: The Management, American Tobacco Campus

TO: All Tenants 

RE: Clarification of car wash policies

Many of our tenants' employees and customers enjoy the automobile hand-wash services offered by an outside firm on the rooftop of the ATC parking decks. We are pleased to have partnered with an organization that can provide quality car care while your employees are at work or enjoying a meal.

It has come to our attention that some customers prefer self-wash facilities, and that one customer in particular has chosen to avail themselves of our campus water feature instead of making use of the paid service option.


Please remind persons in your organization that the "Old Bull River" is not suitable for recreational or hygienic use, be it by children, adults, non-plastic ducks, or Ford Windstars.

Besides our car wash facilities for use by minivans, human beings may avail themselves of shower facilities at the YMCA on the lower level of the Crowe Building, while live ducks should seek out the waterfowl impoundment area along I-40, a convenient 6-mile waddle down the American Tobacco Trail.

(For more hilarity, see how the vehicle found its way out of the Old Bull River via this YouTube video. Thanks to reader M. for sending this along.)


An amusing Raleigh aside from the billboard wars

Posted this morning at the terrific web site Raleigh Public Record:

The Fair Housing Hearing Board is getting $20,000 in billboard advertising from Fairway Outdoor Advertising. The board will get to put its message of housing rights on one unused billboard for four months at different spots around the city. The billboard will tell people to call Legal Aid for help with housing rights violations.

Thomas Crowder questioned the plan, saying the city has historically shunned billboards. “It would be hypocritical of us to use billboard,” he said.

Octavia Rainey, chair of the fair housing board, said she understands the city’s sign ordinance and opposition to billboards. “But this is a moral billboard,” Rainey said.

For now, of course, the question of billboards -- moral or otherwise -- is outside the domain of consideration of Durham city and county.

Then again, Howard Clement did ask the billboard industry why they weren't starting their campaign in Raleigh if billboards were such an asset to a community.

You don't think ... ?

(Oh, the vote went 7-1 in favor of allowing the board -- which is an official Raleigh city function -- to accept the donation.)

Kinnaird to Orange Co.: We need a Costco in the southern part of heaven

The N&O's Mark Schultz must feel like a double-super-secret agent, editing and writing for The Durham News and The Chapel Hill News. Why, two separate papers, both generated out of the Franklin St. offices owned by the Nando folks.

A weekend story in Schultz's lighter-blue paper this weekend is worth a read -- as much as anything else, for recognizing (and maybe chortling a little bit over) the ongoing economic benefits we get from having Chapel Hill and Orange County to our south.

We covered this ground here recently, but to sum up if you missed it: Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents are typically quite well off, comparatively. And guided by their beliefs, many of them choose to live in a community that, among other things, eschews big-box shopping. But then, the have no big-box shopping in their community, meaning that when they need Target... or Best Buy... or Costco...

They come our way.

[State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird] sees Costco as a way to keep sales tax dollars in Orange County, reduce homeowners' tax burden and provide jobs.

As The Chapel Hill News reported last Sunday, Orange County will depend on property taxes for 76 percent of its operating revenue this year. In Durham County, property taxes make up 58 percent of general fund revenue; in Alamance County, just 49 percent. [...]

Just last week, for example, Orange County Commissioner Pam Hemminger, lamented how she made three trips to Target in Durham to outfit her son's college dorm room. Hemminger did buy a carpet at Lowe's in Chapel Hill but said local shopping doesn't offer the convenience most shoppers need. [...]

[CH/C Chamber of Commerce head Aaron] Nelson and others have long complained about sales tax dollars "bleeding" out of the local economy as Orange County residents drive to New Hope Commons, The Streets at Southpoint and elsewhere to do their shopping.

County residents spend $1.5 billion a year on retail purchases and they spend $1 out of every $3 in another county, he said.

"That's way out of whack," Nelson said, estimating that Durham consumers spend only 10 to 15 percent of their retail dollars outside Durham County.

Well, southerly friends, until and unless you bring a Costco to Chapel Hill -- please, feel free to continue patronizing ours!

While you're here, have you considered visiting our terrific waste transfer station? No need to build one of your own; for the right price, we'd welcome you to use that too!

NC billboard industry enters new scented phase

Bloom_billboard_scented Supporters of allowing electronic billboards and improvements to billboard structures in the Bull City -- which has had outdoor advertising restrictions for a quarter-century -- say Durham could permit these structures and come out smelling like a rose. 

To billboard opponents who cite the visual clutter of billboard-infused roads like I-40/I-85 between the Triangle and Triad, the whole idea just stinks.

Whatever scent you attribute to the twin lobbying efforts of the billboard industry and neighborhood activists, there's little doubt that neither side contemplated the newest front on billboards being opened up in Iredell County, near Charlotte.

You thought electronic billboards were high tech? Wait'll you get a whiff of the latest whiz-bang idea in outdoor advertising: scented billboards!

Yes, Bloom -- the grocery chain founded by Food Lion to help them have a way to distribute groceries in stores that, well, don't stink themselves -- is "wafting black pepper and charcoal smells" from a sign in Mooresville.

Continue reading "NC billboard industry enters new scented phase" »

Woodcroft traffic circles cause April Fool's Day laughter -- but not in City Hall

We here at BCR struggled with ideas for April Fool's Day jokes this year -- narrowly nixing a plan to go all-beige as Cary Rising, only to be cited for excess color on the site by the Town of Cary... leading to a "Screwed by the Town of Cary Rising" banner at the top. But anyway.

One local foolin' hooligan did have an idea of a way to tweak local life in the Bull City, in the form of a fake email message from "Amy Blahlock," a play on Durham's faithful transmitter of official press releases, Amy Blaylock.

The joke? A "Durham Circular Vitalization" project promised to move into phase two with everybody's fave, the roundabout!

Or, nine roundabouts, all for Woodcroft, in this particular fake-news play.

Continue reading "Woodcroft traffic circles cause April Fool's Day laughter -- but not in City Hall" »

Life on the Durham streets: Angry blood giving guy is angry

Passive_aggressive_tp Walking through the Trinity Park one of these fine recent spring days, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this plea for donating blood, posted in the bulletin board case along Watts St.

It's an interesting neighbor to the more typical food drive, babysitting and dog-walking services advertised there, I must say.

I've seen fervent pleas for donations of blood before, but this one almost has to take the case for its, well, insistence in the need to "get off of lazy butts" and get down to the church to get pricked.

Somehow, "pricked" comes to mind with this one in other ways, but what the heck, you get the point. 

Phone number obscured to protect the extra-vigilant and overeager.

In Durham, granite curbstones to go on sale soon (even if surplus vehicles are priceless)

Nh_is_the_granite_state_but_whats_on_durhams_granite_slate It was almost a year ago today that BCR tooted out to East Durham's Albright neighborhood with City Council's Eugene Brown to see the City's Public Works dumping site, the target of PAC1 complaints that the refuse site was unsightly and kicked up dust near a playground and community garden.

And what did we spy (besides the oh-so-ironical "No Dumping" sign across from what residents kvetched was a City dump of its own) but a stockpile of granite curbstones, taken out of older neighborhoods during curb and gutter repairs.

As we noted then:

These big blocks in the foreground? They're cut granite, and they've got some significant value to them in the hands of someone who could use them. (A number of older in-town Durham neighborhoods have granite curbs, in fact.) Brown suggested that a number of landscaping companies would be happy to pick these up gratis and re-use them.

Well, it's a lean budget year. And it doesn't make much sense for the City to hold on to precious granite curbstones that have value, wherever they're being held these days (we don't know for sure that they're in Albright any more.)

To wit, a Public Works employee told a local citizen the other day that the City will still be sold off to residents interested in using them in landscaping or other projects.

I guess a granite curbs have more value than a used police cruiser.

Continue reading "In Durham, granite curbstones to go on sale soon (even if surplus vehicles are priceless)" »

Let's all count the days of snow misery!

Class, it's time for our daily lesson: how many annoying things can happen because of one single snow event? Don't worry that every school system from Asheville to the coast is probably closed today, you can play along and learn this lesson at home!

Elmo_2 Our first lesson, brought to us by an appropriately snowed-in Elmo, is, the number TWO. That's as in, TWO days of delay in your solid waste pick-up this week! Says the City in a press release:

Due to continued icy road conditions on many of Durham’s secondary streets, solid waste collections are now delayed by two days for all customers.  Customers are urged to go ahead and place their carts on the curb by 7 a.m. the day of their normal collection and leave their carts curbside until after collection crews come through.  In addition, exempt garbage and recycling collections as well as bulky item and yard waste collections are cancelled for this week, and will resume next week, weather permitting.

Our next lesson for the day is brought to us by the number THREE. That's three, as in three, THREE days of school now being cancelled for Durham Public Schools.

Everything is supposed to be OK by Thursday, kids, just as long as the forecasters and school officials don't manage to find a single snowflake or ice chunk remaining on any road, anywhere. (Or, perhaps more to the point, just as long as City and NCDOT crews are able to take care of all the ice and snow remaining in place on neighborhood streets and around school facilities.)

Our final number is that beautiful and lucky number, SEVEN. Seven, as in the number of inches of snowfall we received, to cause all this much havoc.

If the terrorists were to have come up with a James Bond villain-style Artificial Snow Machine, they Would Have Already Won. In the Sunbelt, at least.

CH to Durham: For Halloween, send cops, not partygoers

Ch_no_means_no No regional dig here, merely a point of amusement to this observer in the timely juxtaposition of two items in the public sphere.

First, our brethren to the southwest had a lovely Halloween celebration, by all accounts -- not that many Durhamites were there. From the N&O:

Despite increased efforts from Chapel Hill police to limit crowds, the Saturday night block party [50,000 attendees] was larger than the 35,000 people who attended last year. But attendees said fewer people lingered on the street because of a greater police presence and mandatory cover charges at downtown bars.

In 2008, town officials launched a “Homegrown Halloween” initiative to limit non-residents from attending and to cut thousands of dollars in cleanup costs. The crowd was far smaller than the record 80,000 people who showed up in 2007 to celebrate, which caused town officials to limit the celebration.

The presence of out-of-towners during big gatherings has been a concern for Chapel Hill, which a few years back canceled its popular Apple Chill street festival after purportedly gang-related fighting broke out.

(And last year, the Halloween fun on Franklin St. caused a shutdown for one of CH's neighbors -- with cheek-by-jowl Carrboro going all law-and-order on its neighbor, setting up checkpoints at its borders to discourage anyone but Carrboroites and their approved visitors from driving through the town on their way to the celebration.)

But there was one group of Durhamites welcome at the Chapel Hill Halloween festivities this year: DPD's finest, whose assistance was requested under a mutual aid agreement between the two municipalities (and for which the Bull City got reimbursed.)

Continue reading "CH to Durham: For Halloween, send cops, not partygoers" »