(This story was updated Feb. 9 at 5:30 p.m.)
MONCURE—More than two dozen people spoke before the Chatham Board of County Commissioners Monday night at a public hearing a plan to run an 8.1-mile underground pipeline from Western Wake County through Southeastern Chatham County.
Western Wake Partners—the towns of Apex, Cary, Morrisville and Research Triangle Park-South—are constructing a $327 million wastewater treatment plant in unincorporated New Hill, but they need to build the pipeline to funnel treated wastewater to the Cape Fear River. About a dozen landowners would need to give up 40-foot-wide easements to bury the pipes, which are 5 feet in diameter.
Chatham County Commission Chairman Brian Bock says the board will vote on the pipeline at its next meeting, Feb. 21.
Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost says she plan to vote against the pipeline unless the only way "we were able to develop a list of concession from the partners that benefited Chatham, but as it's currently proposed I just don’t see what's in it for Chatham County." She is concerned that business expansion that occurs as a result of the wastewater treatment plant could be limited to Wake County, while Chatham County could experience largely residential growth that would worsen the area's problems with sprawl.
Many Chatham County residents were vigorously opposed over concerns about pipeline leaks, uncontrolled growth, the possibility of future annexation by Cary and decreasing property values.
However, representatives of RTP businesses supported the pipeline because they say the additional infrastructure is necessary to sustain and grow the local economy.
Bedri Kulla, the man who posed as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer to try to blackmail an undocumented immigrant into having a sexual relationship with him, was sentenced to one year in prison today.
Indy contributor Rebekah Cowell just called from the Federal Courthouse in Greensboro, where she was covering the hearing.
After Kulla, who lives in Morrisville, serves his prison term, he will be on probation for another year.
Check back for a followup blog post, plus an article in next week's Indy.
A bill that would delay state-mandated efforts to clean up Jordan Lake until 2017 but preserve much of their pollution-reduction goals cleared the House Environment and Natural Resources committee today.
“People upstream don’t want to do a thing. People downstream want a rule exactly the way it was,” said bill sponsor Pryor Gibson (D-Anson), after rubbing his eyes dramatically at the lectern. “As imperfect as it may be … it’s time for this bill to move forward.”
The unanimous committee vote sent the compromise version of the bill to the House Judiciary 1 committee, and, presuming it passes there, eventually to a House and Senate vote.
“It’s still not there. It’s still not going to protect Jordan Lake,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director for Environment North Carolina.
The bill is a modification to HB 239, “Disapprove Jordan Lake Rules,” which would have completely blocked regulations written by the N.C. Environmental Management Commission (EMC) that were intended to bring the polluted reservoir back into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.
An earlier modification, introduced last week in committee, had more significantly lowered pollution-reduction goals for the most impaired section of Jordan Lake, and based pollution controls on "measurable reductions," not actual water quality standards. The new modification replaced this version of the bill.
Read the full story at indyweek.com.
In an letter delivered to the Durham County Board of Commissioners, Friends of Durham Political Action Committee Chairman David A. Smith argues that a private developer's survey of Jordan Lake should not face a public hearing, and the county should avoid a comprehensive, independent survey of the lake.
While in general I agree with public hearings, this one seems to target a single property owner. Public hearings should be about gathering input so that the commissioners can make a policy decision, not about restricting an individual’s right to use his property as allowed by the current regulations.
That "single property owner" is real-estate developer Neal Hunter, who paid for a private survey of Jordan Lake in 2005. The revisions in Hunter's survey, which was recently approved by state regulators, would remove development restrictions on land that he later sold to Southern Durham Development. The company, which is planning the 164-acre project known as 751 Assemblage, claims Hunter as a minority shareholder.
Smith insists that Friends of Durham, though advocating on behalf of Hunter, has no connection to him.
"Mr. Hunter has never been associated with or contributed to the Friends of Durham," he writes.
While records support that claim, there is a connection between the 751 Assemblage and Friends of Durham. Campaign finance reports show that Patrick Byker--whose firm represents Southern Durham Development--has donated $700 to the Friends of Durham, including $100 in 2008. Bill Brian, another K&L Gates attorney representing Southern Durham Development, gave an additional $100 to the PAC in 2003.
Byker and Brian serve on the steering committee of the Friends of Durham, and they are both former chairmen of the PAC. When Byker ran for the City Council at-large seat in 1999, Friends of Durham donated $1,900 to his campaign, which it also loaned $1,600.
In an interview, Byker denied any connection between the Friends of Durham endorsement of Hunter's survey, and his own association with the PAC.
State regulators have approved a private developer's survey that significantly re-draws the boundaries of Jordan Lake, and the protected areas that surround the drinking-water supply reservoir. In a letter to the Durham City-County Planning Department (PDF, 580 KB) dated Feb. 4, 2009, the N.C. Division of Water Quality announced that it "accepts and approves your proposed revisions to the critical and protected area boundaries around Jordan Lake."
Julie Ventaloro, the state watershed program coordinator at DWQ, told the Indy that changing the maps is now "in Durham's hands." The County must conduct a public hearing, and vote to adopt the state-approved survey, which was commissioned by a private developer who owned land within the affected area. Adopting the change would effectively move a 164-acre tract that was owned by the developer--and now slated for dense, mixed-use development--out of Jordan Lake's critical watershed area, which severely limits development within one mile of major water supplies.
Neal Hunter, a minority partner in the company that currently owns the property, was the principle owner when he commissioned the survey and submitted it to the Durham Planning Department for approval. He also is listed as an owner of the property in a pending request to re-zone the property from low-density residential and rural-residential, to mixed-use development. (The proposed development, known as the "751 Assemblage," calls for 1,300 residential units, and 600,000 square feet of mixed commercial and office space.
Following a November 2008 decision by the Board of County Commissioners, Durham requested state approval to re-draw the boundaries of Jordan Lake, based on Hunter's survey. In 2006, former planning director Frank Duke accepted the changes without informing the board, or state regulators.
Federal contractors in the Triangle did work or provided services worth more than $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2008, according to usaspending.gov.
Congressional District 4, which includes Durham, Orange and slices of Wake and Chatham counties, led the way, accounting for about half of the federal contracting dollars. U.S. Rep. David Price represents the district, which includes Research Triangle Park.
The Web site usaspending.gov tracks federal agencies and their expenditures with contractors. You can search the database by state, congressional district, contracting agency, contractor, product or service provided and level of competition for the bid.
The top federal contractor in District 4 is Research Triangle Institute, which conducts research on several topics, including health, technology, energy and economics. Morrisville-based defense contractor USfalcon, ranked second, followed by SRA International, which provides technical consulting and services for national security, federal agencies and global health; Chapel Hill biotech company Rho, Inc.; and UNC.
The top government agencies buying those services are the National Institutes of Health, the Army, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and the EPA.
While this sounds like a lot of money, North Carolina ranks only 30th in federal contracts. Virginia, California and Texas round out the top three.
Morrisville's Board of Commissioners (as of Monday, renamed Town Council) is considering a proposal to give the town's planning director the authority to approve development proposals for a long list of projects -- from single-family subdivisions to office and commercial buildings under 40,000 square feet -- so long as they conform to current zoning regulations and other ordinances. Also on the list of projects: hotels, public buildings such as schools and rec centers, and projects in the town center. There would be no public hearings on the proposed developments, just public notice on the town's Web site. (Click here for a PDF of the administrative proposal.)
An anonymous blogger at Citizens For Morrisville thinks this is a bad idea. "The proposal removes public oversight on most of the future building projects in Morrisville," the blogger writes.
The little town near the RDU airport is growing fast these days. It's in the middle of evaluating its Land Use Transportation Plan, which will set a development course for many years to come. The next meeting on the LUTP will happen next Tuesday, Sept. 2, and the next public hearing is Oct. 28.