Local News

Wake commissioners sued over Falls Lake watershed development

Posted May 12, 2010 10:02 a.m. EDT

— An environmental group filed suit Wednesday in an effort to block a recent move by the Wake County Board of Commissioners to open the Falls Lake watershed to more commercial development.

The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation Inc. and four members of a group called the Watershed Protection Council want the board's vote nullified, saying the decision "does not promote the public health, safety or general welfare" of area residents.

The commissioners amended the county's Unified Development Ordinance to allow property owners in the Falls Lake watershed who didn't meet zoning rules when the development rules were adopted four years ago to have the opportunity to obtain a special-use permit to redevelop the sites.

The issue was brought up by developers who want to convert a lumber yard at the intersection of N.C. Highway 98 and Old Creedmoor Road into a shopping center.

Under the revised ordinance, designated "activity centers" in the watershed would be open to a wider range of uses, including banks, restaurants and bars, commercial parking and day care centers, according to the lawsuit. Some redeveloped properties could be larger than 100,000 square feet, the lawsuit contends.

"The proposed shopping center or any other currently nonconforming use at the (lumber yard) will constitute a nuisance to the members of the Riverkeeper, the individual petitioners and other members of the public and otherwise interfere with the use and enjoyment of their property," the lawsuit states.

Falls Lake is the primary source of drinking water for Raleigh and several Wake County towns, and pollution in the lake has led federal officials to declare it an "impaired" waterway. State environmental regulators have demanded that a cleanup plan be in place by next January.

Raleigh officials opposed amending the county ordinance, saying new development in the watershed could add to the pollution in the lake.

County planning officials have said the revised rules would affect no more than 10 properties in the county.