INC NEWS - City draws fire for downtown land transfer (Herald-Sun)
bwatu at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 15 08:58:59 EDT 2007
Seems like we need more transparency when the City is
involved with real estate deals.
City draws fire for downtown land transfer
By Ray Gronberg, Herald-Sun, 15 July 2007
City officials are drawing fire over plans to transfer
two properties on the edge of downtown Durham to
nonprofits that would build housing on them for
troubled youth and the formerly homeless.
The complaints are coming from residents of the
Cleveland-Holloway historic district. The area, on the
edge of North-East Central Durham, lies off Holloway
Street just to the east of the county's main library
and the WTVD building.
Residents say officials didn't consult them before
offering the properties last month for $1 apiece to
Housing for New Hope Inc. and Dominion Ministries Inc.
They also allege that administrators ignored other
purchase feelers for the properties and are
undermining local policy that counsels against
concentrating a large amount of low-cost housing and
social-service offerings in a single neighborhood.
The complaints emerged in a stormy meeting Wednesday
involving residents, city administrators and City
Councilman Mike Woodard, who afterward said the
session had been "very tough."
City Manager Patrick Baker attended and promised to
re-examine the deals, including whether the city
government had ignored other offers for the
Woodard said the tone for the session was set early
when a resident distributed an agenda that attacked
the city government.
"As members of this community, we can all share
stories of how we have been treated by the city of
Durham," it read. "They ignore our problems, treat us
like we don't matter and just generally disrespect the
people who live here. They want to tear down our
houses and stores, move the library and have now sold
land to outside developers without consulting the
people who matter, the people who live here."
The smaller of the two tracts, the one earmarked for
Dominion Ministries, lies at the corner of Dillard and
The vacant parcel has been city land since 1970.
Dominion officials want to place on it a 12-bed home
for youth with "severe behavioral and emotional
problems," according to a memo from the city Community
The building will be a "lockdown facility" with
restricted access around the clock, department
Associate Director Larry Jarvis said. Dominion already
has acquired land next door and a $200,000 subsidy
from the Durham Center, the county's mental-health
Housing for New Hope's plan targets a 1.5-acre tract
along North Roxboro Street a long block away from the
Dominion tract. It intends to build 10 efficiency
apartments there for formerly homeless people who have
special needs, according to a Community Development
The prospective transfers are coming as part of a City
Council-approved effort to put some of the city's
varied land holdings into the hands of housing
nonprofits. In theory, the tracts involved are ones
the city has found hard to market.
But residents claim the city hasn't tried very hard to
find other buyers, and ignored purchase feelers along
One man, Matthew Flynn, said in a posting to the Old
North Durham e-mail list that he'd inquired about the
Roxboro Street property several times and been told
officials had to appraise it first. The next he heard,
the city had lined up a deal with Housing for New
"I thought there was an official process for selling
city-owned property, advertisement and then open to
the highest bidders," Flynn said. "Seems like someone
pulled some strings to prevent this from happening."
Jarvis said officials did advertise the availability
of the properties via newspaper and the Web, and told
local nonprofits about them.
But the larger complaint is with the idea of putting
the projects -- the youth home especially -- in an
area that already contains a lot of social-service
facilities and low-income housing.
The Durham Housing Authority's Liberty Street public
housing complex is only a block away, as is the Urban
Ministries of Durham shelter and the Durham Crisis
An activist helping the residents, Gary Kueber, says
the city and the nonprofits are violating Durham's
"comprehensive plan" by concentrating so many such
uses in so small an area.
Kueber also says officials have done a poor job of
refereeing the nonprofits, and of protecting the
interests of North-East Central Durham neighborhoods
that are only weakly organized.
Both efforts are necessary, he said, if mixed-income
neighborhoods are to emerge as the area redevelops.
"What is happening now is economic segregation: rich
enclaves in one part of town, and the
government-subsidized creation of the new ghettos in
another part of town," Kueber said on his blog,
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