Greenfire Development, owner of the Liberty Warehouse near Durham Central Park, must fix the decaying structure by October, according to a ruling (PDF) Wednesday from Durham's planning director, Steve Medlin. According to city ordinances, damage caused by neglect has essentially demolished the historic landmark, Medlin ruled. The former tobacco auction warehouse actually comprises two separate buildings at 611 and 613 Rigsbee Ave. It's the portion at 611 that has been neglected, Medlin found.
The company must develop a rehabilitation plan with city planners within 30 days and repair a slew of problems, including peeling paint, rotting beams and a hole where the roof collapsed last May during a heavy rainstorm. If the company wants to challenge the findings or argue that it is suffering from economic hardship and can't afford the repairs, representatives need to notify the city within 30 days, according to a letter from Medlin to Greenfire Managing Partner Paul Smith.
If the company fails to act, the city could resort to civil action, including levying fines of $500 per day until the building is repaired.
Greenfire is reviewing the city's findings and will meet with officials soon to discuss them, Smith wrote to the Indy in an email Wednesday.
Her voice cracking and swerving in pitch due to illness, suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline persuaded a judge Monday to give her another week to prepare for a hearing on whether she should be stripped of her title. Cline was recovering from pneumonia, she said, and also had yet to find an attorney to represent her who wouldn't have a conflict of interest in the case.
After about an hour of proceedings—during which Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood twice advised Cline to sit for a moment, sip some water and try and recover her wobbly voice—the judge decided the hearing should continue Monday, Feb. 20, at 10 a.m.
Cline is facing a legal petition alleging that she's unable to do her job—that an ongoing conflict between Cline and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, in which Cline has tried to have Hudson removed from her cases because of alleged bias, has brought the DA's office into disrepute, and is "prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton filed the petition Jan. 18 to have Cline removed. Cline was suspended with pay until a judge could hear Sutton's complaint and Cline's response. Although Sutton said she was prepared to begin showing evidence today in court, Cline was not. So Hobgood tried to first address some motions that attorneys had filed to quash some of the dozen subpoenas Cline said she had filed to bring in witnesses.
Among the people called to court were reporter J. Andrew Curliss and editors John Drescher and Steve Riley of The News & Observer, whom Cline wanted to appear to speak to information contained in several news articles the Raleigh newspaper published in September 2011 about some of Cline's cases.
This post has been modified from its original form. See deletions and italicized phrases below.
Despite initial plans to wait until a civil lawsuit was over, Durham's City Council has now decided it will consider at a meeting Feb. 20 whether to grant utilities to Southern Durham Development. The company wants to build 751 South, a large mixed-use project in southwest Durham controversial in part because of its proximity to Jordan Lake.
The council met during a closed session Thursday with City Attorney Patrick Baker to consider a request from SDD to grant water lines and the use of storm drainage and sewer systems for the project. Baker said the session was not public because he was providing legal advice to the council covered by attorney-client privilege.
SDD made the original request in April 2010, but city council members decided in August 2011 that they wanted to wait until a civil lawsuit related to the development had been resolved. A judge recently dismissed the lawsuit the plaintiffs, Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association, brought against Durham County. The plaintiffs announced they would appeal.
In the meeting, council members indicated that they wanted to delay their decision until after the appeals process had concluded. The council isn't bound by its August decision and is free to change course, Baker said Thursday.
The council also isn't required to hold a public hearing on the utility extension agreement, Baker said. The council could opt to allow public comment at the meeting, and could vote on that date, or defer the matter.
But the application has already been deferred by 21 months, Cal Cunningham, an attorney for SDD, pointed out in a recent letter to Baker (PDF). The company paid the appropriate fees to the city when it filed the application in April 2010, Cunningham wrote, and the application materials indicated a decision would be made within five months.
SDD had originally asked the council to consider annexing the 167 acres on which 751 South would be built. Becoming part of the city limits would entitle the property to services such as water, wastewater treatment, police and fire services. But a city analysis determined that the city could potentially spend as much as $1 million by providing services to the property before the tax revenue from the project would help the city break even.
When it became evident the numbers wouldn't add up in the city's favor, SDD
changed its request. Instead of asking for annexation, it just asked the city to consider providing provide water, stormwater and sewer services without annexation. That's the request discussion that was tabled in August, and is now coming before council again Feb. 20.
A group of 20 anti-capitalist protesters occupied CVS-owned in property in downtown Carrboro for three hours Saturday night before walking out at the strong encouragement of town police and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, who each told them they would be charged with breaking and entering if they did not leave.
The demonstration concerned a forthcoming rezoning application from CVS to build a two-story, 24,000 square foot building at 201 N. Greensboro St., to house a 24-hour drug store and office space.
The anarchist demonstrators, who call themselves "Carrboro Commune" and align with "Occupy Everything," would rather the site be used for a community center, free school, health clinic or performance space.
Maria Rowan stood outside the building handing out fliers inviting passersby to an open assembly at 4 p.m. Sunday to discuss what to do with the building.
"It's my personal hope that the community reclaims our vision for this land and make it clear that multinational corporations and their money are not more important than people," she said
Upon exiting at 7:10 p.m. wearing black bandanas for masks and carrying black flags, Carrboro Commune members promised more occupations and engaged in a heated discussion with Chilton.
They derided the mayor for enforcing property law. Some hurled expletives at him. They said police are one command away from being Nazis.
"I don't think treating your fellow human beings that way is going to get us anywhere," Chilton fired back.
"Look under here, it's skin" he said, pointing to his shirt.
Press release below. More to come, I'm sure.
Durham’s planning department held a public meeting Thursday to determine whether Greenfire Development, which owns more than 25 properties downtown, neglected its historic Liberty Warehouse property on Rigsbee Avenue. Part of the roof over one of the two adjoining warehouses at 611 and 613 Rigsbee Avenue collapsed in heavy rains last May, displacing several artists and art nonprofits. (See a map on all Greenfire Development properties)
The incident also generated questions about the management of Greenfire’s historic properties, and whether the local company was on track with its large-scale redevelopment plans for downtown; They include the renovation of the former SunTrust building into a boutique hotel, the redevelopment of an adjacent Main Street site that used to house a Woolworth’s store, and a newly announced venture to build 88 apartments on an acre just north of the American Tobacco campus.
If Durham’s planning officials find that Greenfire didn’t do enough to maintain its historic property (called demolition by neglect, see p. 85 of the Unified Development Ordinance) and the company fails to meet future deadlines for repairs, it could be subject to civil fines of $500 a day and other legal action. Planning Director Steve Medlin said he expects to make a decision by the end of next week. If he does find Greenfire neglected the property, he’ll set a final deadline for the repairs. The city would take civil action only if the company misses those new deadlines, Medlin said. The goal isn’t to fine Greenfire, he said—it’s just to get the building fixed.
Greenfire has had seven months to repair damage inside the former tobacco auction warehouses from what city inspectors determined to be longtime leaks resulting in water damage and wood rot. After the collapse and subsequent inspections, the city condemned the building and two organizations central to the area’s arts community, including The Scrap Exchange and a portion of the operations for the Liberty Arts bronze-casting foundry were forced to relocate.
Medlin began his “demolition by neglect” investigation soon after the collapse, but suspended it and allowed the company to make the necessary repairs by the end of January. Now that the repairs still aren’t complete, Medlin said he had to resume the investigation.
“To my knowledge they did not do any repairs to the portion of the building where the roof collapsed,” Medlin said, adding that, as of last month when he entered the building, there was still a tarp covering the roof breach in the building at 611 Rigsbee Ave.
Greenfire has so far spent $105,000 to stabilize the building and has committed another $20,000 for more repairs, said Managing Partner Paul Smith. But there’s still that hole, covered by a tarp. Economically, it doesn’t make sense to replace the roof at a cost of more than $1 million when the company has long-term plans to totally redevelop the site, Smith said.
Erskine Bowles announced today that he won’t run for governor.
The former UNC-system president who served as chief of staff in the Clinton Administration and twice ran for U.S. Senate and said there are other ways besides serving in Raleigh to make a difference.
Bowles’s name recognition and status as a successful investment banker and co-chairman of a President Obama’s bipartisan budget deficit commission made him an obvious choice for the position once Gov. Bev Perdue made her announcement last week that she won’t seek a second term.
In a poll released earlier this week, Public Policy Polling found Bowles as the most likely Democrat to defeat Republican hopeful Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who Perdue beat in 2008.
N.C. House Rep. Bill Faison, D-Caswell, Orange, and Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton are the only two candidates to jump in the raise so far, though a gaggle of contenders were waiting to see what Bowles would do before making their intentions known.
Dalton released a statement offering his respect and admiration for Bowles.
“We’ve worked together throughout the years on many issues and he’s a true public servant,” it reads. “I feel confident he will remain an influential voice in state and national policy.”
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction released reports today on school discipline and high school dropouts. The rate of dropouts decreased statewide and in Durham, Orange, Wake and Chatham counties. The rate increased slightly in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools.
Statewide, the numbers of suspensions and expulsions of students decreased, as well, according to a statement from N.C. DPI.
N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced his retirement this morning, opting not to wage a re-election campaign against long-time colleague Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
The two veteran legislators were drawn into the same district, the 56th, by the Republican-produced new maps last year.
Hackney has served 16 terms, 32 years, in the General Assembly representing the 54th district, which includes Orange, Chatham and Moore counties. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2007 following Jim Black’s removal. He severed as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.