Let's begin with the debate over the neighborhood protection overlay in Old West Durham, where some residents want additional zoning regulations to stop new construction they deem out of character with what's already there. (On Monday night, the Durham City Council approved the NPO on a unanimous vote; see story, page 10.)
Tiffany W-g, an OWD homeowner, says the NPO initiative was a last resort: "We support the NPO because we don't want giant monster houses looming over our family's backyard. If we wanted a McMansion, there are plenty of other neighborhoods in Durham for that. Developers could respect our neighborhood and restore or build homes of the proper size and character (and still make money, BTW). But since they clearly only care about profit and squeezing in ridiculous square footage onto our tiny lots, it's our job as residents to try and push this NPO as a last resort to save the neighborhood we cherish."
Edward Teach, a renter in this neighborhood, says the developers aren't the ones being greedy here. "When I look to possibly purchase a house," Teach writes, "what I see are old, dumpy, dilapidated houses with high asking prices. Homes that are barely habitable, but asking $200,000–$400,000. So because of this, I really have little-to-no sympathy for the pro-NPO arguments about 'greedy developers.' The existing homeowners seem to be rather greedy themselves. If middle-income Durham families cannot afford these houses in the first place, then why exactly should we enact a public policy to force the status quo to remain?
"In reality, this is a neighborhood that is ripe for larger multiunit development, in order to keep it reasonably priced. If the idea is that 'We are going to keep these little mill houses,' then we are basically adopting an anti-middle-class policy."
Commenter John Trololo thinks OWD should be grateful to the gentrifiers: "Gentrification is the American way. Be thankful for the rich who make this happen. It is change for the better."
On Facebook, Vanya Wright argues that people wouldn't care if the new construction wasn't hideous: "I think people wouldn't hate the new houses so much if they weren't such eyesores. Cheap, suburban construction and ridiculous, uninformed design. The new houses are not just big, they are awful."
Finally, there's DR B, who weighed in last week with what turned out to be an inaccurate prediction: "The people with money control the world. The rest of us have little, if any, say in the matter. The NPO will fail, Mon-strosities will prevail, property taxes will soar, and retirees on fixed incomes who own their homes will be forced to sell to greedy, indifferent developers due to inability to pay the exorbitant taxes.
"God bless America and the rich pricks for which it stands."
On to our story about the recent $50 million-plus verdict against pork giant Murphy Brown LLC, which two expert trial lawyers (correctly, as it turns out) told us (on background) would be reduced to a little over $3 million because of a state law capping punitive damages.
"I really appreciate your article about the litigation and trial results. It was thorough and well-written," writes Gary Jackson. "But, as an attorney, my reaction to the attributions from anonymous attorneys opining on the case rings hollow. You need to find prominent and respected attorneys who are not afraid of attribution. Though a great piece, that aspect limited its power."
Commenter MichaelEdits says the hog industry isn't going to change on its own: "Of course they chose the current lagoon (cesspool) system because it was the cheapest way to operate. Anyone who tells you different doesn't even believe what he's saying. They're not going to change unless they're forced to.
"North Carolina sure didn't smell like this when I grew up here, and now I often get to hear people from other places ask me, 'What is that smell?'"