Durhamites and their county commissioners are likely still weary from last week's heated five-hour meeting on whether the controversial 751 South development should be allowed to go forward. The debate among Durham commissioners will continue next Monday, August 9, and there's no telling what will happen in this so-far unpredictable process that has stretched on almost three years.
It does, appear, however, that on the eve of that yet-unpredictable vote by commissioners, Southern Durham Development President Alex Mitchell and his partners are considering additional promises to residents and county commissioners on what the final development would look like, specifically in the amount of open space and tree coverage on the site, which spans 167 acres.
Mitchell said he has spent the week since the contentious commissioners' meeting talking with several opponents of the project and trying to accommodate their criticisms of his development plan. He said some of those opponents have been members of the People's Alliance, a left-leaning group that has vocally opposed the project and even started a petition against it.
"What I'm trying to do is take people who have reasonable and logical concerns, and see what I can do to help with those," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said his company is also assessing whether it can commit to a maximum amount of impervious surface, or how much of the landscape is paved over with surfaces like concrete. Committing to a figure could allay concerns held by many about the amount of stormwater runoff from the development, and how that contributes to pollution of nearby waterways, specifically Jordan Lake.
There's another big "if" that could be looming: Mitchell said his company has been considering creating an affordable housing component to the project, but can't put that in writing because of a technicality, on which the Indy is currently seeking more information.
"That's one of the things we've put a lot of thought into," Mitchell said. "I do not want to hear of a teacher working in the school that cannot afford to live there." But if Southern Durham Development isn't able to commit to reserving a portion of its project for affordable housing, it's unclear how much sway that vision will have with residents—or more importantly, the commissioners casting votes.