Public hearing for 751 rezoning postponed to fall (at the earliest)

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Map of location for proposed development, 751 South
  • Map of location for proposed development, 751 South

UPDATE: This post was updated at 3:30 p.m. with a quote from Melissa Rooney.
Melissa Rooney, a South Durham resident and opponent of the proposed 751 South development near Jordan Lake, filed an appeal (PDF) to the Board of Adjustment Wednesday morning.

The appeal means an upcoming public hearing on the controversial 751 South development is now postponed until the Board of Adjustment meets and rules on the matter, which will be in July, or even later, according to Durham Planning Director Steve Medlin.

"Until the [Board of Adjustment] renders a final decision and issues a final order, we can’t move forward," Medlin said Thursday.

Earlier this month, Rooney had requested that county commissioners postpone their public hearing on 751 South (noted in planning documents as 751 Assemblage), which they had scheduled for May 24. The hearing is to consider the rezoning of 167 acres off N.C. 751, where developers want to build a huge community of homes, retail and office space.

At Rooney's request, the commissioners delayed the meeting. According to a local ordinance, commissioners may delay for up to one month. At their May 10 meeting, commissioners set the hearing date for June 14, but the next day, commissioners changed their decision and moved the meeting to a special hearing at 4 p.m. June 1. The board has been widely criticized for changing the meeting time and date after they already had voted on the matter at the public meeting.

In her appeal, which cost $695 to file, Rooney challenges the decision of the board of commissioners to delay the hearing by eight days when they may allow up to 30 days, and said that other residents and developers who have requested a month's deferral have been granted that.

"I think most people would agree with me that [a week] is hardly a deferral at all," Rooney said. "It certainly appears that citizens' requests are being shortchanged, and for that reason, I did file an appeal to the Board of Adjustment."

The problem, Medlin said Thursday, was that in her original request, Rooney did not indicate a specific time frame or date she wanted to defer the public hearing.

"Unless the date is specified by the requester, that gives latitude to when the hearing is held," Medlin said.

Rooney said Thursday she missed an e-mail from Medlin asking for the date, and didn't see it until after the commissioners already had deferred the meeting to June 1.

The end result is that the drawn-out and heavily contested development plans by Southern Durham Development will be pushed back a few more months.

The Board of Adjustment meets next on July 27, Medlin said. It may take that board one or two meetings to make a decision on Rooney's appeal and adopt an official order on the matter, he said. Only after that may the Board of County Commissioners reschedule the public hearing, which would be in the fall at the earliest, he said.

From its start, the development plans for 751 South have been under attack by residents of South Durham, environmentalists trying to protect Jordan Lake and its watershed and others who cite the large project's potential effects to water quality, wildlife, traffic and transportation.

The process has in the past year been hung up on Jordan Lake's watershed boundary, a protest petition, two lawsuits and now, this appeal to the Board of Adjustment. See past blog posts about this issue >>

The rezoning of the land on which Southern Durham Development wants to build this community, which could have as many as 1,300 housing units, its own school and a fire station, is a major hurdle the developer has to clear before being able to move forward with its plans.

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