INC NEWS - Mass-grading in South Durham -- need for TRUE 'conservation subdivisions'
mmr121570 at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 11 17:42:27 EDT 2007
I wanted to show you the mass-grading that is going on
here in South Durham: photos attached in a separate
email (which I hope our moderator will approve).
Even with a 'conservation subdivision,' the UDO
contains no restrictions against such clear-cutting of
the land. As long as the developer has 40% 'open
space' (which can include unbuildable (and cleared)
land such as powerline and sewer easements), there is
nothing to stop him/her from cutting down all the
trees on the remaining land.
We've seen far too much mass-grading in south durham,
and the effects on erosion and flooding, as well as
sedimentation and pollution of Jordan Lake are
I thought now was a good time to send this email (and
the photos), considering the meeting in Carrboro this
Thursday of the NC Division of Water Quality
regarding water quality regulations for Jordan Lake
(Carrboro Century Center this Thurday night at 6:30
For more information on this public hearing, see:
Unfortunately, there are no state requirements for
tree-saving. The call for developers to 'control
stormwater runoff' and 'leave buffers along creeks and
streams' lacks detail and teeth.
As it now stands in Durham County, developers usually
give significantly less 'buffer' (in the form of
ungraded land) than requested around streams. In fact,
in the current South Durham 'conservation subdivision'
named 'Jordan at Southpoint', a significant number of
specimen trees will have lots platted in them; a
portion of one of the creeks will have a retaining
wall with a maximum height of 8 feet; and other
streams have roads laid out on them and will probably
be piped. This plan is all the more disconcerting, in
that it need only be approved by the planning
department/DRB, thereby avoiding any citizen or gov't
The Stormwater and Erosion Control Division has
informed me that "Between July 1, 2006 and June 30,
2007, [their] office issued 8 civil penalty
assessments, totaling $139,610. All of these
assessments were issued to mass-grade residential
projects. Six of eight were issued to residential
single - family dwelling unit developments."
Though these offenses generate a fine, those funds
hardly repair the damage to the land and water
surrounding Jordan Lake. And I've been told, all too
often, that developers respond little to fines--only
time (i.e. delays) get their attention.
In addition, I've been informed that two mass-graded
sites in Durham have "voluntarily" begun working with
polyacrylamide to minimize the turbidity from soil
particles too fine to be removed by standard
sedimentation control measures. We still don't have
the full story on how well polyacrylamide works in
sedimentation control, and even more worrisome, how
polyacrylamide affects the long-term health of the
environment and its animal inhabitants (including
It's ultimately up to the county (and city) to
determine how to meet the reductions/requirements
regarding nitrogen, phosphorous, chlorophyll and
alkalinity (pH) levels in Jordan lake, as required by
the federal Clean Water Act. Jordan Lake is currently
in violation of these standards, which is why the NC
division of Water Quality is holding public hearings
-- to prepare a plan to restore the lakes health by
cutting pollution from all contributing sources.
The most effective route would be to prevent the
damage in the first instance: by restricting
clear-cutting (mass-grading) development practices,
thus requiring lot-by-lot development, and enacting
bonafide tree-save requirements with no loopholes. As
things now stand, we just seem to be wrapping bigger
and bigger bandages while simultaneously picking the
wound we are trying to heal.
Yes, it saves the developer significant money and time
to just mass-grade, build houses/roads, and then plant
some young Bradford Pears, whose root systems would
take decades to replace the ones lost to mass-grading.
But other than developers' inconvenience and financial
costs, there seems to be no good reason for
mass-grading these areas. Meanwhile, the damage to our
land (in the form of flooding and erosion) and to our
water resources (in the form of sedimentation and
pollution) is irreversible.
I hope that you will strongly consider this issue,
that you will consider attending the meeting in
Carrboro this Thursday, and that you will write your
city council members and county commissioners in this
regard, particularly those on the Joint City County
ereckhow at durhamcountync.gov,
bmheron at durhamcountync.gov, lcheek at durhamcountync.gov,
prcousin at earthlink.net, mpage at durhamcountync.gov,
Diane.Catotti at durhamnc.gov,
Cora.Cole-McFadden at durhamnc.gov,
mike.woodard at durhamnc.gov
Perhaps the INC should also consider a resolution
toward this end...
Thanks for reading (and caring),
Melissa Rooney, Ph.D.
Fairfield Community Awareness,
Communications and INC representative
Durham, NC 27713
mmr121570 at yahoo.com
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