Durham County Commissioner Becky Heron said today that commissioners are scheduled to meet with the planning department and county attorney at 10 a.m. Thursday to hear a report on the status of the Jordan Lake rezoning protest petition.
Heron said the board will discuss the issue in closed session. The Acting Clerk to the Board of Commssioners wasn't available this afternoon to confirm the meeting, but her assistant did confirm a meeting has been scheduled. Heron said commissioners communicated over the weekend to schedule it.
It's unclear whether the planning department or county attorney have anything new to add to a Nov. 5 announcement by County Attorney Lowell Siler that the petition was invalid. The Indy has several calls out to public officials, and will update accordingly.
UPDATE, 3:15 p.m. - County Manager Mike Ruffin received a memo late Friday from planning Director Steve Medlin regarding the Jordan Lake protest petition, Ruffin said, but Siler has advised the county that the memo isn't public because it contains confidential information protected by state law. It's unclear whether this is relative to a pending lawsuit against the county.
Ruffin also said the County Attorney has advised members of the planning department not to speak about the protest petition, and that he knows of no plans on the part of any county department to publicly outline the county's findings on the protest petition, but that county commissioners have the power to order the county to make the protest petition findings public after consulting with Siler on any legal ramifications.
Ruffin also said he couldn't confirm why commissioners are meeting Thursday, just that they're meeting in a closed session.
Chapel Hill is one of the top 15 cities for people who hate driving and long commutes, according to the U.S. News and World Report. It's the latest accolade for a town that was also recently dubbed the most livable city and one of the top places to start a business, among many other awards.
Cambridge, Mass., Pittsburgh, Boulder, Co., and Ann Arbor, Mich, were a few of the others recognized. Chapel Hill earned the honor for its public transportation options. The magazine found that 26.2 percent of residents travel without cars. You can find the full article here.
A year ago, Orange County Commissioners passed its long-awaited tethering law, which restricts the chaining of dogs for more than three hours per day. The law takes effect Nov. 19.
The Durham-based Coalition to Unchain Dogs, which lobbied for the law, will usher in the new ordinance by building a fence for two dogs in Orange County, Butch and his mother, Boo Boo. Both dogs have been chained their entire lives.
The fence building will take place at 4516 Murphy’s School Road in Orange County, Saturday, Nov. 14, at 11 a.m.
Durham passed a similar tethering law in September 2008.
The Coalition to Unchain Dogs was among the winners of the Indy's 2008 Citizen Award. Read about them here.
This week, colleague Joe Schwartz and I reported on civilian oversight of the police in Chapel Hill and Durham.
While Chapel Hill's leaders are considering whether to create a panel of citizens to examine complaints against the police, Durham has had a similar board for more than 10 years.
In an interview, Chairman David Harris of the Durham Civilian Police Review Board drew an interesting parallel between the police review board and the Durham Planning Commission. At its last meeting, members of Durham's police review board said they were concerned that city and police leaders weren't responsive to the recommendations of the board.
"Are they just pacifying us and they're not really paying attention?" pondered Harris, who joined the board just last year.
He considered whether members of the board felt something akin to the futility expressed by former Durham Planning Commission member LaDawnna Summers, who resigned last month after city and county leaders went against the recommendations of the commission in two controversial rezoning cases.
No one has threatened to resign from Durham's Civilian Police Review Board over a lack of response to its recommendations. But the board has had high turnover, and in one interview, former Chairman Ethan Hertz said members generally are concerned about the few appeals the board has received.
"When we don’t see cases, I think many of us feel somewhat discouraged as to whether we really are making a difference," Hertz said.
Durham Public Schools is holding a public forum next month to gather input on the selection of the district's new superintendent. The district's current head, Car l Harris, has accepted a job with the U.S. Department of Education and will be leaving at the end of the year.
The school board has already started the search for the new superintendent, but want to know what the public wants from school leadership, too.
The forum, part of the Kitchen Table Conversation series, will be held from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. on Tues., Dec. 1, at the Durham Public Schools Staff Development Center at 2107 Hillandale Road. Space is limited to 150 people.
Register online or call DPS Public Affairs at 560-3652 by November 30 to reserve a spot.
Durham County Commissioner Becky Heron attempted to get some answers about a controversial petition aired at last night's commissioners meeting. But her attempt was unsuccessful. County Attorney Lowell Siler recommended that the board talk about the petition in closed session, in large part due to the fact that petitioners could sue the county over the results.
"I wanted us to have an open session and just be very transparent and open to the people," Heron said.
Through the county's channels, Siler announced last week that the petition was invalid, in part because of problems with signatures. The petition was filed last month by the Haw River Assembly, with the help of the Southern Environmental Law Center, to make it more difficult for commissioners to rezone the protected area around Jordan Lake. If the petition were valid, it would have required four commissioners to vote to rezone the area, instead of the simple majority of a 3-to-2 vote. That simple majority led to the rezoning on Oct. 12.
But the planning department said the petition didn't present enough signatures. Since then, the planning department and county have been in a back-and-forth disagreement regarding whether the petition was valid, arguing on points of the land that was counted and whether the signatures were valid.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and Haw River Assembly, two groups that filed a protest petition last month in an attempt to prevent changes to the protected area around Jordan Lake, responded this morning to the county's final ruling that the petition was invalid. They criticized the county's findings, its evaluation process and its statement that further appeal of the decision would have to be presented in a lawsuit.
"That doesn’t give citizens a role in democracy that they should have," said Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly. "Suing a local govt is a very expensive proposition. It puts a very big barrier in front of citizens who are trying to hold their government accountable."
From a news release from the county, sent at 5:24 p.m. today:
Durham City-County Planning Director’s Protest Petition Ruling will be defended
County Attorney Lowell L. Siler stated today that upon receipt of an appeal, his office will defend the Durham City-County Planning Director’s determination that the Jordan Lake protest petition is invalid based on factors that include, but are not limited to the standing and authority of certain parties signing the petition submitted by the Haw River Assembly.
Siler informed the Board of County Commissioners that any legal challenge will be defended in Superior Court.
See previous post for more information.
The People's Alliance this morning released a letter it sent (pasted below) to Durham County Commissioners, Durham's county manager, planning director and county attorney supporting the validity of a protest petition filed earlier this year by two environmental groups looking to preserve development restrictions around Jordan Lake.
The petition, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Haw River Assembly, was ruled invalid one business day before Durham's County Commissioners voted 3-2 to move the protected area around the water reservoir, which will allow commercial and residential development closer to the lake. Last week, petitioners challenged the Durham planning department and its director, Steve Medlin, to take another look at the petition.
The groups who filed the petition say the county missed two parcels of land that could have affected the outcome of the petition. Medlin said this week that the planning department hadn't yet ruled on whether those parcels were mistakenly left out, but did say there was a question about the validity of the signatures.
*Reporter's note: Scroll to the bottom if you want the quickie results from Election Day (no suprises in Carrboro or Hillsborough. CHCCS followed the Indy endorsement. Chapel Hill Town Council went to Penny Rich, Ed Harrison, Laurin Easthom and Gene Pease). If you'd like to read a scene-setting piece from Chapel Hill Mayor-elect Mark Kleinschmidt's victory party, then read on.
Supporters erupted. His mother burst into tears. His sister shouted. Mark Kleinschmidt just smiled contently, arms crossed but giving the kind of ear-to-ear grin you could feel across the room, satisfaction and disbelief merging together on his face. The campaign had just received word that rival Matt Czajkowski had made his concession speech at the Franklin Hotel.
The progressive bloc had won. They'd just escaped a new, moderate business-centered group gaining traction and council seats. Not so fast.
Word came back that one precint, Patterson, was yet to report. Kleinschmidt was up a scant 168 votes. The jubiliation turned to shocked concern. It was too close to call.
"I don't want a Dewey defeats Truman headline," Kleinschmidt warned reporters at his R&R Grill party. The pack of local politicos returned to the laptop, clicking refresh again and again.
Moments later, the candidate's ever-buzzing cell phone went off once more. It was Mayor Kevin Foy calling to congratulate him.
Kleinschmidt cautioned him, but thanked him for his support. Then the results flashed on the TV screens. It was final — Kleinschmidt had won.