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Development approved in Falls Lake watershed

The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a proposal that will allow more development in the Falls Lake watershed.

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Lumber yard near Falls Lake
RALEIGH, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved a proposal that will allow more development in the Falls Lake watershed.

The proposal, which was previously approved by the Wake County Planning Board, will permit developers to convert a lumber yard at the intersection of N.C. Highway 98 and Old Creedmoor Road into a shopping center.

Under the plan, some property owners in the watershed who were given exemptions when the county adopted its Unified Development Ordinance four years ago because their properties didn't meet zoning rules will now have the opportunity to obtain a special-use permit to redevelop the sites.

The plan would open up designated "activity centers" in the watershed to a wider range of uses, including banks, restaurants and bars, according to the Planning Board. Officials estimate the plan would affect no more than 10 properties in the county.

"I think, with this action, we are protecting citizens' health and natural resources," Commissioner Joe Bryan said.

Nearly a dozen residents who live near the lumber yard expressed concerns about the plans Monday, saying the developer didn't properly notify neighbors and discussing their fears about possible adverse effects on Falls Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water for Raleigh and several Wake County towns.

Pollution in the lake has led federal officials to declare it an "impaired" waterway, and state environmental regulators have demanded that a cleanup plan be in place by next January.

Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen previously expressed opposition to the development proposal, saying special-use permits for new projects could add to the pollution in the lake. Requiring property owners to go through the rezoning process for proposed redevelopments would be a better way to handle such requests, he said.

Commissioner Tony Gurley cast the lone vote against the proposal on Monday.

"I don't think the trade-off has to be this large," Gurley said. "I would rather see the site move forward with existing uses, not adding new uses."

Commissioner Betty Lou Ward said she doesn't think the development plan will open a Pandora's box of problems in the watershed.

"We have a lot of rules and regulations," Ward said.

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Dan Bowens, Reporter
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