Though the Durham planning department hasn't released any new findings on the Jordan Lake watershed rezoning protest petition, which was contested again this week, County Manager Mike Ruffin confirmed this afternoon that the planning department is sorting through signatures on the petition to ensure they are valid.
But, Ruffin said, the planning department still won't have any conclusions to share until next week -- which may or may not indicate whether Durham's planning staff made a mistake in ruling on the petition earlier this month.
At this point, Ruffin added, any new findings would have to be decided by a judge. That is the avenue of appeal for the petitions (the Haw River Assembly and Southern Environmental Law Center) and commissioners already voted on the issue, and can't reopen the issue and vote again, he said.
The Haw River Assembly and Southern Environmental Law Center filed the petition earlier this month when county commissioners were considering the rezoning of Jordan Lake's protective boundaries. Durham's planning department ruled the petition was invalid -- that not enough signatures had been gathered.
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.
County Commissioner Becky Heron this morning took issue with the examination of signatures at this point.
"They should have done that a long time ago," she said. "All this should have been done in the beginning."
Heron, who voted against the controversial rezoning with Vice Chair Ellen Reckhow, said she feels planning Director Steve Medlin's initial ruling on the protest petition was rushed, and that "They're doing everything to -- excuse my language -- cover their butts," she said.
We reached out to Steve Medlin this afternoon to get a response to this, but he hasn't called back just yet. But he did call us yesterday to explain the challenge presented this week by the SELC and HRA.