751 developer responds to protest; planning director gives update on petition | News

751 developer responds to protest; planning director gives update on petition

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Area proposed for 751 South
  • Area proposed for 751 South

UPDATED Friday, June 18, 1 change at the bottom, in italics

As relay runners gear up for a demonstration against the developers proposing the 751 South community this afternoon, Southern Durham Development's president released an announcement countering some of the claims made by protesters.

The protest, called "Relay Run for a Paycheck" begins today at 4:30 p.m. Runners will relay for 11 miles from East Durham to South Durham to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed 751 South development, and the fact that there currently is no mass transit to 167 acres that could be developed into 1,300 residences, retail and office spaces. The lack of transportation is a major concern for potential workers there, said Kate Fellman of the Durham People's Alliance, which organized the race. (See the original post about the race).

In his statement, Southern Durham Development President Alex Mitchell said, "The opponents' complaints are based on misinformation, false assumptions and illogical claims that are designed to strain relationships between our company and supporters of the project."

He added:

Detractors of 751 South have complained that there is no currently committed mass transit linked to 751 South, that the site is too far away to attract labor from other parts of Durham and that most of the jobs will likely pay only minimum wage.

Mitchell said, "They should not assume that transit will not come or that willing workers won't travel to the site on their own, both during construction and beyond."

SDD officials also point out that successful employment centers have been completed all over the Triangle for decades without initial mass transit. Employment centers such as Treyburn Industrial Park and the Research Triangle Park are long distances from parts of Durham, yet attract thousands of employees from all areas of the city. Read the full statement (PDF)

In other news, resident and project opponent Steve Bocckino met with planning staff this morning. He got a short update on the protest petition filed by residents opposed to the development of the community. (Skip the next two grafs if you know what a protest petition is.)

The protest petition, if found to be valid, would make it more difficult for the developer to get permission from the county to rezone the land it wants to build upon. Ordinarily, a developer would need approval just from a simple majority of the five county commissioners. A valid petition requires four of five commissioners to approve the rezoning, which, based on prior votes, doesn't look likely. Commissioners Ellen Reckhow and Becky Heron have in the past been opposed to building the dense project in a rural corner of the county, while commissioners Joe Bowser, Michael Page and Brenda Howerton have in the past cast favorable votes.

This is the second protest petition to be filed in an attempt to stop 751 South from being built. It's a touchy subject, considering the last one ended in a lawsuit against Durham County that still hasn't been resolved.

So residents like Bocckino are eager to find out the current petition's validity. Planning Director Steve Medlin said no preliminary ruling on the petition's validity has been made. But what he could confirm: 1) the petition was filed on time; 2) the planning staff is reviewing tax records and deeds to ensure people who signed the petition are the correct owners; 3) the signers represent owners of 45 percent of the eligible properties on the east side of the property to be rezoned, well above the required 20 percent;

4) the Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association own approximately 26 percent of the property that was signed for on the petition. (This is a sticking point, since some have raised questions about whether the leaders with the homeowner's association can sign for common areas in the community.); 5) the county attorney's office is currently checking the validity of the petition, which is required by city/county ordinances; 6) the final date on which signatures may be added is July 7; and finally, 7) Medlin said he'll meet with the county attorney on July 8 and will soon after make an announcement on whether the petition is valid.

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