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Not in my backyard: Residents oppose development in affluent Durham neighborhood

A plan for a new development in Durham is stirring up mixed emotions from residents in one of the city's most affluent neighborhoods.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A plan for a new development in Durham is stirring up mixed emotions from residents in one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Many residents said they have just learned of the plan to build homes on the 12.5 acre estate in the Forest Hills neighborhood. The community would consist of dozens of homes on the site of the Pinecrest Estate, which was once home to a well-known philanthropist and Duke heiress.

“The main concern is that we would like to be part of the process. We’re concerned things have moved along without the input of the neighborhood,” said resident Dr. Anjen Chenn.

The developer’s plan calls for 57 new homes that would be a mix of single-family houses, townhomes and duplexes. The existing home on the property, which once belonged to Duke heiress Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, would remain.

Several neighbors expressed concern that, in their eyes, the neighborhood was not informed about the project soon enough. They also worry that a high density development doesn’t fit in the area.

“Forest Hills is one of the finest neighborhoods in Durham. The houses are terrific. It’s a gem in and of itself, so we’ve got to live up to that, to do something that’s worthy of Forest Hills and also try to do something that respects and is worthy of the reputation of the family,” said development coordinator Bob Chapman.

Chapman said he’s lived in Durham for 45 years and was friends with Semans. He’s confident neighbors will eventually support the proposal.

“I think people, a lot of them are going from NIMBY, not in my backyard, to YIMBY, yes in my backyard, and it’s a good feeling,” he said.

A public meeting about the proposal is scheduled for Monday. Officials would have to approve a rezoning of the property for the project to go forward.


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