Haw River Assembly, SELC contest ruling on petition

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The Southern Environmental Law Center announced this morning that it is contesting a ruling by Durham's planning director that its recent protest petition on the rezoning of Jordan Lake's watershed was invalid.

The SELC and the Haw River Assembly argue that Durham's planning director miscounted the amount of land owned by people who signed the petition, and therefore the petition actually was valid.

Had the petition been ruled valid, it would have required one additional affirmative vote from County Commissioners to rezone the protective boundaries around Jordan Lake. Without a valid protest petition, commissioners needed only a simple majority, and voted 3-2 on Oct. 12 to shift the protective boundaries around Jordan Lake to the west. Doing so would allow for more intensive residential and commercial development closer to the lake, which is a drinking water source for Cary and Chatham County.

SELC map showing contested land calculations
  • SELC map showing contested land calculations

The SELC announcement said that the organization contacted Durham's planning department Tuesday with their argument. We're awaiting a return call from Planning Director Steve Medlin on what, if any, response the department has to this point.

County Attorney Lowell Siler stated earlier this month that the only recourse the SELC and HRA would have to contest the petition ruling was through the judicial system.

UPDATE, 4:51 p.m.: Planning Director Steve Medlin let us know that the planning department received a call from the SELC on Tuesday and his staff is looking at the complaint.

"They feel that our methodology had omitted a portion of a property," Medlin said. "We're looking at that, and we're not done."

Medlin said he's not sure whether considering the SELC's argument could change the outcome of the petition, and that his staff likely won't be finished weighing the claims until sometime next week.

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