Southern Durham Development President Alex Mitchell told the Indy Thursday that if allowed to move forward, his 751 South development pitched for southern Durham would meet even more stringent standards for managing nutrients that would wash from the development into Jordan Lake. The commitment to tougher environmental standards came with 11 other promises Southern Durham Development will make Monday, when the company appears before Durham County Commissioners seeking permission to move forward plans to build the community of as many as 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and shops.
Mitchell said 751 South would meet future rules for Jordan Lake, which state the development could discharge no more than 2.2 pounds of nitrogen per acre, per year, and no more than half a pound of phosphorus per acre, per year.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are two naturally occurring nutrients that have been found in high concentrations in Jordan Lake. When levels rise, they fuel algae in water bodies, which can wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Standards for these pollutants in Jordan Lake are currently less stringent, but are anticipated to change over the next two years. If Southern Durham Development does not build its development to meet those projected standards, taxpayers would be footing the bill years from now, as the city would have to pay to retrofit the development to meet environmental standards as they change.
To reduce the pollutants generated by the development, Southern Durham Development will have to use both management systems for stormwater and runoff, and nutrient offset programs, Mitchell said, which would reduce the net impact of nutrient runoff from the development.
The commitment is an expensive venture for the developer, but also one that many opponents had asked Southern Durham Development to consider. Members of Durham's Planning Commission had even asked the company in April to meet the new Jordan Lake rules, but the developer would not compromise at that point.
But as Monday's vote nears, Southern Durham Development has now made this and several other offers to help generate support and good will from both commissioners, and the public.
"We're trying to make this a plan that all of Durham can be proud of," Mitchell said. He said he has tried to address as many concerns as possible for the project with commitments that show residents that Southern Durham Development will build what it is promising.
The other proffers Mitchell and Southern Durham Development are promising to make at Monday's meeting:
(Disclaimer: These are as summarized verbally by Mitchell, and do not represent verbatim language to be included in legal documents and plans.)
— A minimum of 10 percent of the housing units will be classified as affordable housing based on federal low income housing standards. That would be a minimum of 130 units of 1,300 planned residences.
— Tree coverage on the site will be consistent with what is illustrated on the plan, which equals 41 acres of the 167-acre development site. (Download illustrated site plan and other documents)
— There will be a maximum of 88.1 acres of paved/impervious surfaces, or roughly 55 percent. The maximum allowed by ordinance is 70 percent.
— There will be a minimum of about 41 acres of open space, as reflected on illustrative maps the developer has given to the county.
— The developer will build a clubhouse, pool and playground for the community.
— The developer will build two bus shelters with roofs, seating, solar lighting, real-time displays that show bus arrival time and wireless Internet access. (Public transit does not currently service the area, but, Mitchell said, "Once the headcount's there, the transit's gonna come. What we're focusing on is encouraging people to ride it.") The Triangle Transit Authority has made no commitment to service the area. County staff have said it could cost more than $400,000 a year to extend service to the site.
— The street layout that is currently reflected on illustrative plans submitted to Durham County will hold, provided that the city of Durham adopts guidelines to make them consistent with standards, Mitchell said. The city is slated to adopt guidelines that were adopted by the state 10 years ago, Mitchell said. Once the city adopts those standards, the roads at 751 South will be in line with those standards, and would prevent a wide swath of road that would allow any "big-box" stores that opponents have spoken out against, Mitchell said.
— The developer would create sidewalks on both sides of the street where it is "environmentally responsible." This would NOT include areas are adjacent to alleys, natural stormwater areas and areas where trees will remain untouched, as shown on the illustrative plans, Mitchell said. Mitchell said putting sidewalks in these areas would unnecessarily damage them.
— No single retail space will exceed 75,000 square feet.
— The developer will create a 100-foot vegetated landscape across the road from the current Chancellor's Ridge development to improve the view from those homes when looking at the planned development.
Some opponents of the project might be encouraged to hear these new offers from the developer—but not Steve Bocckino, one of the most vocal opponents to the project.
Bocckino, who lives not far from the site, said the proposed changes to the development plan still don't address his deepest concerns, including environmental pollution and the idea that this project could spur much more retail infill nearby, and south down N.C. 751 into Chatham County.
"Nitrogen is just one thing that we're concerned about," Bocckino said. "There are a lot of pollutants generated by construction, and by the development process. I think they'll have to rethink the plan entirely for them to win my support."