Durham commissioners vote in favor of controversial development
Posted August 9, 2010 10:36 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2010 4:25 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The Durham Board of County Commissioners on Monday evening approved a proposed development after nearly two hours of heated discussion.
The 167-acre 751 South project runs along N.C. Highway 751 near the Durham-Chatham county line. Plans call for it to include 1,300 homes and up to 600,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
The battle over the project has gone on for more than two years. Developers and supporters say it would bring jobs to the area, expand the county's tax base and allow for two new schools to be built.
Commissioner Joe Bowser said anything that will bring jobs deserves a shot.
"This project will help some unemployed in this community," he said.
Opponents of the development fear it would harm nearby Jordan Lake and the rural landscape.
"The citizens will have to pay for the consequences of poorly planned development in close proximity of already impaired Jordan Lake. Passing this development is yet another storm water IOU from the citizens of Durham," Durham resident Tina Pearson told the commissioners.
Developers have said the project would be built a mile away from the lake, and they are doing all they can to reduce pollution, such as building more parking decks and fewer parking lots to reduce runoff into the watershed.
Commissioner Becky Heron voted against the project, saying she too is concerned about the potential for polluting Jordan Lake.
"There is no way I can support 751. With all the shenanigans that have gone on, I can't trust them (the developers)," Heron said.
Commissioner Ellen Reckow was the only other commissioner to vote against the project.
"The development is inappropriate and too intense for that location," she said.
Commissioner Brenda Howerton disagreed and said the project will help support the area economy.
"There have been a lot of people that have approved and endorsed this project," Howerton said. "We have to take care of the water and soil and all of that, but we have to take care of the people. With the economy the way it is, we have got a lot of people hurting."
A protest petition signed by area residents requiring Southern Durham Development to require votes from four of five commissioners for a required zoning change for the project was ruled invalid Monday. This cleared the way for the final vote on the development.
After the project received a green light, Southern Durham Development issued a statement.
"Our development has met every regulatory and other legal standard throughout the nearly two years already invested in planning 751 South. We have made every effort to respond to each substantive suggestion offered by our opponents," the statement read.