[Durham INC] heraldsun.com: original owners miffed over J. Lake survey's impact on land value
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Mon Aug 17 18:46:24 EDT 2009
See HS article below. Please write letters to the Herald Sun editor with your concerns -- it only takes a few minutes, and you can submit them online ;)
Family miffed over Jordan Lake survey's impact on land value
By Ray Gronberg : The Herald-Sun
gronberg at heraldsun.com
Aug 17, 2009
DURHAM -- A family that formerly owned a piece of the 165-acre tract along N.C. 751 next to Jordan Lake appears to be grumbling about being shut out of the windfall that accompanied a ruling that could open the site to dense development.
A Richmond, Va., man, Paul Harris, showed up for a recent Durham Planning Commission hearing on the site's zoning and said he'd registered concerns with County Attorney Lowell Siler and the entrepreneur who secured the 2006 ruling, Cree Inc. co-founder Neal Hunter.
Siler later confirmed talking with Harris, whose parents sold 66.2 acres at the site to Hunter in the summer of 2000.
The land's development potential was at the time and for now remains limited by watershed restrictions Durham imposes on property within a mile of the lake's supposed normal pool.
Hunter in 2005 and early 2006 used a privately funded survey to convince former City/County Planning Director Frank Duke the lake's edge was far enough to the west that the restrictions should no longer apply.
He has since sold the former Harris property and three other parcels to Southern Durham Development Inc., which is battling to uphold Duke's ruling and the right to more intensively develop the tract.
County land records show Southern Durham Development paid Hunter $17.8 million for the entire 165-acre site. That translates into $107,888 an acre.
The Harrises received $850,000 from Hunter -- about $12,836 an acre. Their son has hinted they're not happy about the discrepancy.
"I think he was making the argument that his family had detrimentally relied on officials' saying [the land] could only be used for a certain, limited purpose," Siler said.
Harris used the same phrase in his comments to the Planning Commission.
"The survey my parents relied on when they made their transaction was the survey the people in the [City/County] Planning Department at the time said would stand," he added. "I think it was pretty well established.
"Now these new surveys are the topic, and I just think there was a lot of detrimental reliance by people on surveys, and when they make business decisions and things like that, you can't just go change them without a lot of consideration."
Harris -- who said he was representing himself and his parents -- declined after the meeting to elaborate on the point or say what issues his family might have with Hunter and the county.
"It's a private matter at this point," he said.
Hunter's attorney, Lacy Reaves, declined comment Friday, saying his client hadn't authorized him to talk to the press about his affairs.
Reaves said he'd check with Hunter and either call back himself or have Hunter call if the Cree co-founder had anything to say. Neither was heard from again on Friday.
County records show that Hunter paid $2.9 million for the four properties, acquiring them from May 2000 to March 2001.
In those deals Jack and Shirley Harris received the lowest per-acre price for their land, which has become the north end of the project site opposite the Woodlands of Chancellor's Ridge townhomes.
A preliminary sketch of the project prepared last year for Southern Durham Development showed townhouses, an elementary school, a YMCA and a parking deck occupying the former Harris land.
© 2009 by The Durham Herald Company. All rights reserved.
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