[Durham INC] Fw: heraldsun.com article
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Fri Mar 20 18:19:58 EDT 2009
Residents, officials discuss planning issues
BY MATTHEW E. MILLIKEN :
mmilliken at heraldsun.com
Mar 20, 2009
DURHAM -- Some 50 Southern Durham residents asked questions and aired views on local development and planning issues Thursday evening.
The meeting, a sequel to a get-together with then-county Commissioners-elect Joe Bowser and Brenda Howerton that Nancy Cox and Melissa Rooney organized in November, was headlined by Steve Medlin, director of city-county planning. But County Commissioners Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow both spoke about remapping the Urban Growth Area boundary, adjusting the watershed protection areas around Jordan Lake, and other issues.
The moment that summarized the group's attitude occurred when Rooney asked who wanted Southern Durham to retain its rural quality. Virtually everyone raised a hand.
That viewpoint translated into antipathy toward a Durham Public Schools proposal to build one or two schools off of Scott King Road. It also translated into hostility toward adjusting planning maps and documents to reflect the results of developer-funded surveys that would allow relatively dense development of a large property about one mile from Jordan Lake.
George McGinn, a Woodlake resident, compared the latter process to having a fox inspect a chicken coop -- that is, influenced by self-interest.
"Don't worry about your chicken coop fence," McGinn said in character as a vulpine inspector. "It's all perfect! No repairs needed."
Medlin did not directly denigrate the surveys, but he stood by a past recommendation -- made in concert with the county manager and the county engineering department -- that an independent surveyor conduct a new survey not just of part of Jordan Lake but all of it. Reckhow and Heron agree.
Also, when reflecting on lessons from the controversy watershed boundary controversy, Medlin said: "We realize that the survey points need to be at a consistent interval in order to get a clear delineation."
He noted that an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance is being prepared. It would require developers to pay for a county-selected surveyor in future situations that parallel this dispute.
The surveys in question won approval from the state's Division of Water Quality. Medlin acknowledged that there was a very real margin for error in the county's extant maps of Jordan Lake because they relied on United States Geological Survey maps that have intervals of 10 feet between elevations. The lake's shoreline is 216 feet above sea level.
"There had to be a large degree of interpolation done by the staff -- manipulation if you want," Medlin said of the Planning Department's creation of the maps in 1994.
"I hate to say 'guess,' but [the map] was based on our best estimate of where the reservoir was," Medlin added.
The matter will be the subject of a Board of County Commissioners work session Monday afternoon. Rooney and Heron encouraged interested citizens to attend and bring signs, although they will likely not be allowed to speak.
When talk turned to the proposed school site, which some say would bring traffic congestion as well as spoil a natural environment, Heron suggested that the county could clamp down on future development by allowing only very limited utility service. "This is something we might have to hang our hat on" when it comes to stopping development around Scott King Road, Heron said.
In other matters:
* Gwendolyn Blackshire suggested putting a school in Kentington Heights, where residential property owners may sell to a developer that builds Wal-Marts. Others in the audience liked the idea.
* After Cox complained about stormwater runoff, Medlin said: "I hate to say this -- we didn't get in front of this as early as we should have." Medlin said the county's thinking on stormwater issues had been piecemeal, not holistic.
© 2009 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.
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