Raleigh, N.C. — A bill that would force Durham to annex and provide services to the 751 South development near Jordan Lake is one vote away from heading to the governor's desk after a contentious Senate vote Thursday.
751 South would include about 1,300 homes and 600,000 square feet of office and retail space. Developers say it would also bring about 3,000 jobs.
The proposal could end a five-year battle over the 167-acre project, but it's not the resolution city leaders want.
The Durham City Council has voted against the project twice because of skepticism about developers' promises of job creation. Also, nearby residents have fought the project in court, saying it poses environmental and traffic concerns in a rural area.
Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, a former Durham councilman, pleaded with colleagues to keep their noses out of the city's business, saying the bill came before the General Assembly only because the developer's lawyer is an old buddy of a lawmaker.
"Isn't this what we have city councils for?" Woodard asked. "If you want to become the planning office or zoning commission for the whole state of North Carolina, vote for this bill."
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, also noted that 751 South could further pollute Jordan Lake, especially with lawmakers poised to delay for three years regulations designed to prevent pollution in the lake.
"This lake is very close to the tipping point, and putting one more development there doesn't keep it away from the tipping point," Kinnaird said.
But Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, backed the proposal, saying the developer has promised to abide by existing pollution regulations. Durham also would benefit from the economic development, he said.
Woodard questioned the suggestion that 751 South would bring thousands of jobs, calling it "the promise of jobs versus the illusion of jobs."
The Senate voted 36-9 in favor of the bill, which has already cleared the House. A final Senate vote is expected Friday.