Durham City Council passes rezoning request, step in allowing light rail to continue
Posted December 4, 2018 4:51 a.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2018 10:27 a.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — The plan to connect Durham and Chapel Hill with a light rail line got a boost Monday when the Durham City Council approved a rezoning request near midnight Monday.
The zoning change allows a planned Rail Operations Maintenance Facility in Durham and authorized Durham's city manager to enter a utility extension with GoTriangle.
The meeting Monday night was crowded, with the room at capacity and people listening from a hallway. Five hours passed between the meeting’s start time and when council members voted.
Those in favor of the light rail said it would help cut down on traffic congestion.
“I am from New York City; we have transit,” said Leslie Nydick. “It is just a part of life, and it will be a part of life in the suburban area here.”
Those opposed said the GoTriangle route would close major downtown streets for construction and be noisy.
Jeff Prather said he opposed the light rail.
“The simple fact is, they should have had a noise expert, independent of us, independent of GoTriangle, here to explain this,” said Prather.
A proposed stop for the light rail is right in front of the Durham Performing Arts Center and near the American Tobacco Campus, which is owned by Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent company of WRAL and also the owner of the Durham Bulls.
To put a stop there would require closing an intersection on Blackwell Street to traffic, a planned closure added in recent weeks.
During the past month, two board members of GoTransit Partners resigned their posts in the ongoing debate about the route for light rail through downtown Durham: Michael Goodmon, who was chairman of that board and is vice president of real estate for Capitol Broadcasting, and Brad Brinegar, chairman of advertising company McKinney, which has offices in American Tobacco Campus.
Goodmon and Brinegar said they were unsatisfied with GoTriangle's proposal for a pedestrian crossing and worry that there was not enough time to incorporate it into existing plans.
Construction for the 18-mile light rail is slated to begin in 2020. The light rail would have stops at and between North Carolina Central University, UNC Hospitals and Duke University Hospital.
GoTriangle, Durham and Durham County want to have their plan for the light rail in place by Dec. 31.