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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Medlin on petition: One land owner can't sign for three

Posted by on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 12:11 PM

The latest update from Durham's planning Director Steve Medlin: His staff is still evaluating a protest petition filed last month by the Haw River Assembly and Southern Environmental Law Center, and is looking specifically at signatures.

It appears, he said, that one property owner signed the petition for himself, but also on behalf of the two other co-owners. One person can't sign for all three, Medlin said, so his staff is trying to verify the validity of the signatures.

Meanwhile, outspoken resident Melissa Rooney sent Medlin and commissioners an e-mail yesterday urging them to validate the petition. She also challenged statements made by County Manager Mike Ruffin that indicated the petitioners would have to go to court if they wanted to further dispute the planning department's findings on the petition.

To force citizens to take the county to court in order to see that their democratic rights are protected -- even those ambiguously outlined in their own, local UDO --  is absurd and clearly unfair. If a big development company was questioning your calculations, I find it hard to believe you would force them to take the county to court in order to correct a mistake...if only because you know that they have the disposable funds to do so. County taxpayers have already paid enough time and money to have their voices heard in this case, and taking the county to court would cost them double -- because as taxpayers they would also be paying for the county's defense. If you are taken to court over this, you will lose. A mathematical error is not something that can be argued away. What is sad is the appearance that you are hoping that citizens will simply not spend the time and money to see this thing through.

BACKGROUND: The petition, filed by environmental protection groups, would have made it harder for County Commissioners to approve the rezoning of the protected area around Jordan Lake. But Medlin ruled that the petition was invalid, and commissioners shifted the protected watershed of the lake, which will allow for more intense residential and commercial development around it.

Supporters of the petition, including Commissioner Becky Heron, said last Friday they heard Medlin's staff had already determined whether the department mistakenly omitted two parcels of land when calculating petition results. But Medlin says that's not true -- he wasn't even in the office last Friday, he added.

"There has not been a determination yet," he said. Medlin said he expects to release findings on the petition this week.

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