UPDATE, 10 p.m., May 24: Commissioners decided at a meeting Monday night they no longer needed to hold a closed session on the Board of Adjustment appeal, since Rooney withdrew it. Attorneys representing the developer had sent a memo to the Board of Commissioners requesting the public hearing be held on the latest possible date, June 24. Commissioners couldn't hold the hearing the night of June 24, and initially appeared to settle on June 23 with much protest from Commissioner Becky Heron. However, the board didn't take a final vote and said it would decide the morning of May 25, when they already are scheduled to meet for a budget work session.
A group of residents in South Durham neighborhoods bordering a proposed mixed-use development filed a protest petition (PDF) Monday afternoon that would make it harder for the developer to get the land rezoned to suit its controversial development plans. (development documents)
The petition against the rezoning of 167 acres to be developed into 751 South was filed by Kim Preslar, a resident in the Chancellor's Ridge subdivision. It includes a list of 19 signatures of what the petitioners deemed, with the help of the planning department, to be 33 people who were eligible to sign the document, according to a summary provided by the petitioners. The county's portion of the local ordinance (URL, see 3.5.13) governing the use of protest petitions requires that all owners of 20 percent of eligible properties be included.
If the petition is found to be valid, it would require a supermajority of the Board of County Commissioners (at least 4 of 5 commissioners' support) to approve the developer's request to rezone the land. In past issues dealing with the controversial development, the board's vote has been spit 3-2, with commissioners Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow strongly opposed, so it would prove difficult for developers to turn one of these votes.
As of this afternoon, a public hearing and rezoning vote is scheduled for June 1. An appeal on that public hearing and the proposed date was filed last week for hearing by the Board of Adjustment. Because an appeal was filed, the date of the public hearing could have been pushed until after the Board of Adjustment resolved the appeal.
But Commissioner Michael Page, chairman of the board, said earlier today that the commissioners were not necessarily waiting until the Board of Adjustment ruled in order to hold the public hearing. The Board of Commissioners will meet in closed session tonight to discuss whether to continue to hold the hearing June 1, or postpone because of the appeal. Commissioners could vote tonight on whether to keep June 1, or even postpone to later in June, which the development company, Southern Durham Development, might have indicated earlier that they found favorable.
Part of that conversation might now be unnecessary, because resident Melissa Rooney, who filed the appeal last week, has now withdrawn her request. With the protest petition in place this afternoon, she said, she wants the board to move forward.
"We definitely feel that getting that information forced our hand to file a protest petition it didn't make sense to wait, particularly given the way the county attorney handled the last protest petition," Rooney said. She refers to a previous petition filed in the 751 South case, which the county initially ruled invalid. Residents filed a lawsuit challenging the invalid ruling.
The development in question has been immersed in controversy because of its size (1,300 residences, shopping, office space and possibly even a school) and because of its position within the watershed of Jordan Lake, a drinking water reservoir for thousands of Triangle residents.