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Developer, Opponents Meet To Discuss Coker Project

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RALEIGH — Raleigh's controversial Coker Project is scheduled to be voted on in less than two weeks. Neighbors who do not want the housing and shopping complex near their homes got the chance to talk with mediators Wednesday.

The Raleigh City Council put off the rezoning request, filed by developer Neal Coker, on July 3. They wanted both sides to sit down to see if they could reach a compromise.

Wednesday afternoon, they sat down together for the first time. It is an uneasy alliance brokered by two veteran facilitators, Andrew Sax and David Godschalk.

The facilitators say this is a very important part of the process.

"There have been several cases in Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro that I know about that have worked out very well. The small area plan for Carrboro was negotiated by the Orange Dispute Settlement Center," said Godschalk.

Mediation helped resolve a nasty dispute between Orange County residents and a nearby landfill. Although the Coker debate has been contentious, Sax and Godschalk say mediation can work in this case, too.

"I believe that this is a much more positive way to approach these problems than to just get into a large-scale conflict and let the best person win," said Godschalk.

Coker and his opponents are keeping things low-key for now. The August 7 deadline set by the council is less than two weeks away.

"I think we're all going to work as hard as we possibly can to get as much done as we can possibly get done. And if we need more time, I hope that we ask for it," said project opponent Warren Raybuld.

City Council members are not ruling out that possiblity, but both parties are optimistic about finding a compromise that both sides can live with.