Local environmental tweaks: Durham Water and Jordan Lake Rules

Posted June 25, 2012
Updated June 26, 2012

— As lawmakers get ready to wrap up session, they are making more frequent use of a procedure known as "gut and amend" to move issues along. Using the procedure, lawmakers hollow out a bill that has already passed on chamber, put in new, unrelated language and send it back. The maneuver cuts down on how much time it takes to pass a bill. Often, the committee hearing where the measure is gutted is the only place where it gets a hearing.

The latest example: S 382, which is no longer bill dealing with withholding on real estate sales. The House Rules Committee rewrote the bill Monday afternoon. The new bill does two things:

  • delays the implementation of Jordan Lake Rules, which were meant to improve water quality in the lake.
  • tweaks rules on when cities must provide water to developments outside their corporate boundaries. This would affect a controversial development in Durham. 

"This is a terrible way to do legislation," said Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange, objecting to the process. He noted that this was the sort of procedure that Rep. John Blust, R-Greensboro, used to object to when Democrats controlled the legislature.

"It wasn't my intent to do anything sneaky," said Blust, who pushed forward the Jordan Lake provision on behalf of the city of Greensboro. 

Jordan Lake Rules

The Jordan Lake Rules were passed several years ago to clean up the lake, which serves as a water supply and recreational area for the Triangle Region. Those rules hit Greensboro particularly hard, requiring it to upgrade its sewage treatment plant and imposing development rules designed to limit storm water runoff.

"This is just putting an unfair burden on our developers," said Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins told the Rules Committee.

The bill would delay the effective date of the rules for developers until 2013, a one-year delay. 

Hackney objected to the change, saying that Greensboro had already gotten one exemption. And, he noted, nobody from the Triangle are governments that rely on the Jordan Lake was notified of the bill. 

Environmental advocates say the measure will allow more pollution to flow into the lake. 

Durham Water

This bill would also puts new requirements on cities that designate "urban growth areas." If the city provides water service to one developer in such an area, which is outside its city limits, that city must provide water to other developers in the same area unless there is an engineering reason not to do so. 

Committee members acknowledged the measure was aimed at 751 South, a controversial development in Durham by a company known as Southern Durham Development. The city has rejected the developments request for water and sewer service.

Thomas Bonfield, Durham's city manager, objected to the bill. He said cities would be required to provide water and sewer services to areas they could not annex. Cities, he said, might not be able to make back the costs of providing that services for a decade.

In the case of 751 South, Bonfield said the city wanted to review the particulars of the project before agreeing to extend water and sewer service to the project.

Cal Cunningham, a one-time U.S. Senate candidate and well-known figure in the Democratic Party, spoke on behalf of the development. 

Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, objected to the proposal. 

"Essentially this is interfering with policy taken up by the city of Durham," Luebke said, saying it was being run on behalf of a "private interest." 

The committee voted 15-4 to let the combined measure go forward to the House floor. 

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  • patc17 Jun 25, 2012

    The water issue is a really nasty case of government of the contributors, by the contributors and for the contributors.