This post was updated May 6 with links to planning department files. These and more files also may be viewed at this county website.
Durham's Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, May 24, and vote in a 167-acre rezoning case that would allow developers to build 751 South, a prominent and controversial mixed-use development. (map of development plan, PDF)
Plans for the development and the rezoning of the land have been on the table for more than two years, and environmentalists and many neighbors of the area to be developed have fought the effort at every step. Proposals to build the development, which could offer retail space and 1,300 dwellings on land off N.C. 751, have hung up on the land's proximity to Jordan Lake, and recently, its proximity to areas cited in the Durham County Inventory of Important Natural Areas, Plants and Wildlife and the state's Natural Heritage Program.
Based on the planned development's infringement on areas important for native plants and animals, the planning department last month recommended that the rezoning not be approved by county commissioners.
But since that meeting, scientists with the state and the applicants for the rezoning, Southern Durham Development, met recently and reached compromises on areas of concern, said Amy Wolff, case planner with Durham's planning department. (letter from N.C. Natural Heritage Program to Durham planning staff, PDF)
Now, the planning staff recommends the rezoning be approved, as the developer's proposal has addressed the plan's previous inconsistency with land-use plans, in that it infringed upon areas of concern to the N.C. Natural Heritage Program. (New planning staff report, PDF)
Among the items the developers and the state were able to agree upon:
- A buffer of undisturbed land will separate the development from adjacent land representatives with the state say should be protected under the Natural Heritage Program. This varies from the 100-yard buffer representatives with the state Natural Heritage Program recommended, Wolff said.
(To view the proposed buffer, view the site development plan linked above and see the blue cross-hatched area at the top of the map. The state's recommended buffer is the lime-green dashed line, also at the top of the page.)
- A deed restriction will be placed on one three-acre lot at the southwest end of the proposed development that decrees a portion of that land must also be left undisturbed to further protect native plants and animals in adjacent woods.
- The developer will create a "revegetation area" of 1.3 acres between school playfields and environmentally sensitive areas. The area may be graded during development but native plant species will be replanted there.
- The developer will NOT build a fence around the development, but may build fences around playing fields that accompany a school, if a school ends up being located there.
- The developer will build underpasses under two streets in the development that will allow wildlife to travel underneath the road.
Based on city and county ordinances, residents in this area are allowed to file a petition protesting the rezoning of this land, Wolff said. (Residents around the Jordan Lake watershed filed a protest petition on that decision last year, which led to a tangled controversy and lawsuit.)