by Matt Saldaña
According to a new survey and hydrologist's report (PDF, 196 KB) commissioned by the Haw River Assembly, an environmental advocacy group, Jordan Lake's easternmost point is "approximately 6,200 feet upstream" from the drinking-water source's present location on official County maps. The survey, which according to a Haw River Assembly press release was paid for by donations from more than 100 citizens, is significant because it shows Jordan Lake extending in the opposite direction from a disputed survey now undergoing a public hearing in Durham County.
In 2005, Southern Durham Development partner Neal Hunter commissioned a survey that moved the easternmost point of Jordan Lake downstream from its present location, effectively removing 273 acres of property in Southwest Durham County from the protected area that extends one-mile from the lake's boundaries in Durham County. Of those 273 acres, Hunter either owns, or has a stake in, 240--including a 164-acre project, proposed by Southern Durham Development, that calls for 1,300 dwellings and 600,000 square feet of combined office and retail space. Patrick Byker, an attorney for Southern Durham Development, has acknowledged to the Indy that the project, known as the 751 Assemblage, would be impossible if it remained within the protected area, which severely limits development.
In 2006, former planning director Frank Duke accepted Hunter's survey, and changed Durham's maps, without submitting the revisions to Durham's elected officials, or to state regulators. Last year, the Durham County Board of Commissioners submitted the survey to the N.C. Division of Water Quality for the first time. In February 2009, the agency approved the survey on technical merit, after determining that Duke had exceeded his authority in changing Durham's maps without review. Since then, Durham County has initiated a state-mandated public hearing process to reflect the survey's changes in the County's watershed maps. In response, Southern Durham Development has sued the County, calling its vote to initiate the public hearing an "unlawful attempt to strip Southern Durham Development of its rights to develop the Property” and demanding that Duke's changes be implemented immediately.
Earlier this month, the Durham City-County Planning Commission delayed a vote on whether to recommend changes to Durham's Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Ordinance, based on Hunter's survey, in part so they could consider the Haw River Assembly survey. The Planning Commission's recommendation on the map changes is the first step in the public hearing process.
Byker, and Durham Planning Director Steve Medlin, were not immediately available for comment on the Haw River Assembly survey.