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Wake commissioners sued over Falls Lake watershed development

Posted May 12, 2010

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— An environmental group filed suit Wednesday in an effort to block a recent move by the Wake County Board of Commissioners to open the Falls Lake watershed to more commercial development.

The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation Inc. and four members of a group called the Watershed Protection Council want the board's vote nullified, saying the decision "does not promote the public health, safety or general welfare" of area residents.

The commissioners amended the county's Unified Development Ordinance to allow property owners in the Falls Lake watershed who didn't meet zoning rules when the development rules were adopted four years ago to have the opportunity to obtain a special-use permit to redevelop the sites.

The issue was brought up by developers who want to convert a lumber yard at the intersection of N.C. Highway 98 and Old Creedmoor Road into a shopping center.

Under the revised ordinance, designated "activity centers" in the watershed would be open to a wider range of uses, including banks, restaurants and bars, commercial parking and day care centers, according to the lawsuit. Some redeveloped properties could be larger than 100,000 square feet, the lawsuit contends.

"The proposed shopping center or any other currently nonconforming use at the (lumber yard) will constitute a nuisance to the members of the Riverkeeper, the individual petitioners and other members of the public and otherwise interfere with the use and enjoyment of their property," the lawsuit states.

Falls Lake is the primary source of drinking water for Raleigh and several Wake County towns, and pollution in the lake has led federal officials to declare it an "impaired" waterway. State environmental regulators have demanded that a cleanup plan be in place by next January.

Raleigh officials opposed amending the county ordinance, saying new development in the watershed could add to the pollution in the lake.

County planning officials have said the revised rules would affect no more than 10 properties in the county.


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  • In the Clover May 12, 2010

    To those who think that engineered solutions are the answer to water quality problems: they are not in all cases. Engineered structures/stormwater devices have a "shelf life", and they need reqular maintenance and eventual replacement. Open fields and woods have no moving parts, need some (mowing) or no maintenance, and therefore cost very little or nothing. Over reliance on engineered solutions is a mistake.

  • In the Clover May 12, 2010

    (continued from below) the next drought or even before. What then? Do we tell the shopping center "tough cookies' you're on your own? What about the people with dry wells? Ah yes, then our local elected official will be faced with using our tax dollars to extend water and sewer all because of an earlier shortsighted decision. And, once the water and sewer is in then all bets are off. More landowners will want greater density.

    You reap what you sow. Unfortunately, the taxpayers always get kidney-punched.

    New water supply watershed policy should not be set because of the wishes and desires of one property owner. Any change to water supply watershed policy should be broad-based and should involve a well defined and balanced group of stakeholders.

  • In the Clover May 12, 2010

    The shortcoming of this "rezoning" (text change masquerading as such) is that it only looked at one property. This text change makes a bad situation slightly less bad. Once this shopping center is built, other property owners east and west of this site along Highway 98, as well as property owners north and south along NC 50/Creedmoor Road will want the same consideration. Of course, as long as the Wake County Planning Board and Wake County Commissioners (present and future) look at these cases only one at a time, the future does not bode well for water quality. The end result will be the increased commercialization of the watersupply watershed.

    This shopping center will have to be on well and septic, but this was not taken into consideration by the Wake County Commissioners. There have been problems with well water draw down in this area, and when a shopping center gets cranked up with all the out parcels, neighbors in residential subdivisions with wells may well be surprised during

  • bigsky59 May 12, 2010

    I recall that the water treatment plant was having a hard time treating the Falls Lake water adequately. A new 250 million dollar water treatment plant was proposed. I do not know if the proposal went through, maybe WRAL would like to give us an update on the new facility. Let's put money into cleaning up the problem. If we don't control the pollution, there will be no end to the demand for new treatment plants --- and that is not a solution. We need to have a strong, bipartisan, pro-environmental government to help us out.

  • NotFromHere May 12, 2010

    Parking lots near large bodies of water are sources of a great deal of polution. Morrisville zoned the area around Lake Crabtree as industrial and there are several trucking companies there with large parking facilities. When it rains you can see the runoff water washing all the diesel and oil from the parking lot into Lake Crabtree.

  • withnailharrison May 12, 2010

    So you work for developers then? Just kidding. Got your point about making conditions better in many cases. That even might be true in this case, since the site now is virtually all gravel and concrete. My concern, which your original comment made light of, is that development, if left unchecked, will very quickly lead to a net loss of area used to treat stormwater. How many BMPs do you know of that don't work like they're designed to? Why aren't nutrient levels going down in Falls lake, even when all of these good folks are putting storm water controls in their development?

  • ranquick May 12, 2010

    WHo are they speaking for excpet themselfs, that is what is worng with America now, too many stupid Law Suits!!!!.

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy May 12, 2010

    withnailharrison....I'm a civil engineer that deals with this daily. When you actually know what you're talking about, come back and see me. All development today is required to control stormwater to a pre-existing condition, which means virtually no more run-off than before. In MANY cases the new developments are required to treat runoff from sites up-stream from the developments. These are being done all over the state with GREAT expense to the development that's then passed to the consumer. Many of these regulations are good, and many of them are just money makers for the government. Now-a-days, whenever someone builds something, they're probably making the conditions downstream BETTER than they were before the development, since PRE-development many times not only doesn't have treatment facilities, but have eroded areas that just send sediment directly into the streams.

  • Brad Newman May 12, 2010

    Yes it is. Good talk Russ. I've got to go now for my weekly "clubbing of the baby seals" meeting:)

  • withnailharrison May 12, 2010

    Duh, I only shop where there are grass parking lots, and my car runs on water. Give me a break, don't start throwing out red herrings. Just because I drive a car and park in parking lots doesn't mean I'm being hypocritical by supporting tougher controls to ensure a clean water supply. Systems like these are not a black and white issues, as much as you'd like to believe. Then again, it's a lot easier to say you're "for" or "against" than to spend too much time thinking about how all of these things interact, isn't it?