DURHAM — A group of Durham homeowners lost their battle to rezone property despite the commercial growth surrounding the new Southpoint Mall.
Plagued by water and septic problems, Antoinette Hawes and her family moved out of their home nearly a year ago. Hayes believes a commercial zoning designation will give residents in the Kentington Heights neighborhood the best chance of recapturing their land values.
"We've been in a fix for 30 years. I think it's time to get out of the fix and be relieved of this stress and this agony," she says.
Durham County commissioners say it is their job to manage growth, not land values. The commissioners voted to designate the area as mixed use, which would allow for offices, shops and other businesses.
"Because of all the homeowners already in the area, it's important to make sure you're stepping down the development rather than have the development grow rapidly," says county commissioner Mary Ann Black.
Not much more than a buffer of trees separates some Kentington homes from the site of the future Southpoint Mall. Some property owners say what attracted them to this neighborhood nearly 30 years ago is long gone.
"At one point, you could only hear the birds and the crickets," Hawes says. "This was a very nice, serene surrounding, and these people needed this and wanted this. We didn't ask for the mall. It came to us."
Despite being turned down by both the city and the county for commercial designation, some property owners vow to keep trying.
"We're not going to give up, and I don't think anyone with property in our situation would give up," says resident Dr. Anita Keith-Foust.
Property owners say they are exploring their legal options to continue to fight this battle. The organization, Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Everywhere (CAUSE), supports the county's decision for mixed use zoning. The group believes it is the best long-term land use plan.