RALEIGH—Passionate neighbors dressed in red and overflowed from the Raleigh City Council chambers Tuesday night to urge the council and planning commission to deny a rezoning request that would allow Hanson Aggregates to expand its Crabtree Quarry operation.
But the message was clear to Mayor Charles Meeker, who, in an unusual move, asked supporters and opponents to raise their hands and be counted. Meeker, council and planning members even walked into the hallway, where 150 people were watching the proceedings on a television feed.
The official tally: 20 people in support of the rezoning and 400 against it, Meeker noted.
“This is certainly the biggest crowd I’ve seen in my 10 years here,” the mayor said.
The U.S. Department of Justice settled a lawsuit with the Town of Garner today that alleges that the town violated the Fair Housing act by refusing to allow eight recovering drug and alcohol addicts to live together and receive treatment.
Federal investigators filed the discrimination suit in May 2009 after Oxford House, a nonprofit Maryland-based group that runs more than 1,200 rehabilitation centers nationwide, claimed the town and its Board of Adjustment violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to listen to their requests to increase the number of residents from six to eight. People with disabilities including drug addiction must be granted equal opportunity to housing.
Under the settlement, the town must also submit periodic reports and train their staff on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
“The Fair Housing Act requires equal access to housing for persons with disabilities,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, stated in a press release.
“The Justice Department will continue to ensure the right of people with disabilities to live in housing appropriate for their needs.”
Outgoing Chatham County commissioners voted 5-0 to opt out of the state's one-year extension for all development permits. By doing so, the commission is requiring commercial and residential developers to reapply and submit to newer environmental regulations. In response to the housing market crash, the legislature passed the 2009 Permit Extension Act, which gave developers an extra year to comply with those laws.
Planning Board chairman Jim Elza clarified the meaning of the one-year extension act, noting that the 2010 extension would have allowed some developments to avoid the more stringent regulations for six years.
“I'm uncomfortable granting another year,” said Commissioner Sally Kost, “and some of these probably do need to expire.”
Janet Butcher, a developer representing builders in Wake and Chatham counties, asked the commissioners to allow the extension. “We're putting infrastructure and dollars into land and their won't be builders to build the developments if we don't extend these permits,” she said.
Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, supported the commissioners' vote. “During the housing boom and growth era of 2004-07 there were tremendous violations of sedimentation and erosion control,” she said, “and we now have some of the best ordinances in the state.”
Commissioner George Lucier pointed out that permit extensions could be granted on an individual basis, and that the board has done so in the past.
Equally important was the last item on the agenda regarding the Western Wake Partners request to acquire easements for a eight-mile pipeline from their controversial wastewater treatment plant in New Hill to the Cape Fear River. Many Moncure residents who will lose property to the easement oppose the plan.
The Town of Cary, which, with Morrisville and Apex, is part of Western Wake Partners, could annex significant acreage east of Jordan Lake in Chatham County if commissioners don't grant the easement.
Lucier spoke out strongly on the issue saying, “We believe that the treated wastewater discharge line poses significant risks with little or no discernible benefits for our county and its residents. For these reasons, we recommend that Chatham County deny the WWP’s request to locate a discharge line through a section of the county until the Town of Cary agrees not to annex into the county without the county’s approval and this agreement is embodied in a local bill approved by the General Assembly.”
Lucier mentioned only Cary, but not Wake County, the bigger annexation threat. Kost added that the mayors of the towns making up the partnership have not responded to her numerous requests to schedule a meeting to discuss the matter.
Incoming commissioners Brian Bock, Pamela Stewart and Walter Petty ran platforms on protecting private property rights, and constituents in Moncure worry about the partners' previous handing of eminent domain and its implications for their property values and rights.
Outgoing commissioners made recommendations for the new Republican majority that will take office next month, but left the final decision to them.
This was the final meeting for incumbent Chatham County Commissioners Lucier, Tom Vanderbeck, and Carl Thompson, whose term ends Dec. 6, when Bock, Stewart and Petty will be sworn in.
In Wake, both Democrats and Republicans have poll observers, although the complaints have been about the GOP.
So who are the poll observers? The Indy requested the lists of all approved poll observers from Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties.
In Durham, only Republicans are on the list of poll observers. They include Frank Hurley, who ran for Congress in the 13th District, which covers part of Wake County, and lost in the primary to Bill Randall. He spoke at a Tax Day Tea Party event.
Laura Cox is the president of Triangle Republican Women. Carol King is the vice-chair of the North Durham Republicans. Marilyn Flanary is a member of Women for Burr Coalition.
The Rev. James Clanton, pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Hill, was selected by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) as the recipient of the network's 2010 Florenza Moore Grant Community Environmental Justice Award.
Clanton received the prestigious award at the NCEJN's 12th annual summit in Whitakers this past weekend.
Clanton has led the community and his congregation at New Hill in its ongoing fight against the siting of a $327 million wastewater treatment plant in the center of the historical, unincorporated community. The five-year struggle has pitted the primarily African-American community against the predominantly white towns of Cary, Apex and Morrisville. The towns have formed the Western Wake Partnership, which is responsible for the wastewater treatment plant.
“Recently our surrounding municipalities have begun identifying us as this group that is holding back economic development or holding up progress,” said Clanton, “and it means a lot to receive this award and realize others are supporting and recognizing our hard work — and that we are not alone.”
The town of Holly Springs has withdrawn from the Western Wake Partners, a multi-town alliance that is building a controversial sewage treatment plant in New Hill.
The town officially announced its decision Sept. 23, leaving Cary, Apex and Morrisville as the remaining partners.
But Holly Springs was never a major player in the partnership, and had planned to use only the pipes outside the treatment facility.
“This is pretty much a business decision,” said Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears, who indicated to the Indy in August that he hoped to withdraw from the contract. “Five years ago, the plant seemed to be the only viable alternative for our town, but we are seeking other options, and those will certainly save more than the $30 to $40 million needed for the New Hill plant hook-up.”
For example, Holly Springs is researching the possibility of releasing more of their effluent—treated wastewater—into Harris Lake.
Sears said the town's decision has nothing to do with the New Hill Community Association's recent filing for a contested case hearing to stop the partners from building the $327 million plant. However, it does appear that now is the best time to get out of the partnership before litigation begins.
Holly Springs will be responsible for a portion of their financial responsibility as detailed in the contract, Sears does not have a figure of what the town will owe the partners at this time.
The petition asks that a neutral third-party review the partner's actions, and make a final ruling.
The petition contests the issuance of a clean water permit for the facility by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality.
It also contends the site “has larger human and environmental justice impacts than other, more suitable alternatives, including land previously condemned by Progress Energy in the same general vicinity. Noise, odor, traffic, and light spill from the sewage treatment plant will impact the New Hill Historic District, including the predominantly African-American First Baptist Church and cemetery. Western Wake Partners reverse-engineered Site 14 by prematurely committing nearly $10 million to the site before considering its human and environmental impacts. This commitment of resources prevented an unbiased consideration of better, alternative sites in the same general vicinity.”
The plant, which was scheduled to begin construction this year, will not be built in Apex or Cary or any of the partners' towns. It will loom across the street from the New Hill Baptist Church and playground, and a half-mile from the First Baptist Church of New Hill. The plant will sit within 1,000 feet of 23 homes. But who lives in those homes is as important: 87 percent of those approximately 230 residents immediately affected by the sewage treatment plant are African-American, on fixed incomes, elderly or retired.
Rev. James E. Clanton of the First Baptist Church New Hill says it is unfortunate that the community has had to resort to litigation to have its voice heard. “We have been willing to host the partners’ sewage treatment plant so long as it was not in the middle of our community, but the partners won’t meet us halfway.”
Litigation will be expensive, and thus far the community has been able to pay those costs from a $10,000 grant from the Impact Fund, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that financially assists community groups in the areas of civil rights, environmental justice, and poverty law.
A barbeque fundraiser held by the First Baptist Church of New Hill also raised $4,648.
Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill/Carrboro were among 36 municipalities in North Carolina and almost 1,100 nationally to apply for Google Fiber, the company announced today.
The response was much more than they expected.
Now Google has launched a site that centralizes their efforts and calls on communities to translate their push for Google Fiber into a move for national and local legislation to create fiber infrastructure.
The site also features a thank you video that features, among others, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton. Does that provide any clues? We’ll have to wait to the end of the year to find out who Google has selected.
The Justice Department has charged a ninth man — this one a resident of Kosovo (part of the former Yugoslavia) — with being part of an Islamic cell based in Wake County that is accused of conspiring to commit violent crimes abroad. The man's name is Bajram Asllani. He's 29. According to a statement issued by the Justice Department:
An April 19, 2010, criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Asllani was a member of the conspiracy involving the defendants listed above. Specifically, the complaint alleges that Asllani has had repeated communications with the conspirators; solicited money from the conspirators to establish a base of operations in Kosovo for the purpose of waging violent jihad; tasked the conspirators with completing work to further these objectives and accepted funds from the conspirators to help him travel.
The full statement can be read here:Alssani_Arrest_Press_Release.pdf
Asllani has been arrested in Kosovo, and the U.S. is seeking his extradition to Raleigh for trial.
The other eight defendants, including the alleged leader Daniel Boyd and two of his sons, have been in prison for almost a year awaiting trial. Their arrests were headline news last summer. Whether there's enough evidence against them to support convictions remains to be seen.
Later, three of the eight — Daniel Boyd, his son Zakariya and Hysen Sherifi, who is a native of Kosovo with legal permanent resident status in the U.S. — were also charged in a conspiracy to commit murder on U.S. soil:
A superseding indictment returned on Sept. 24, 2009, added new charges against Daniel Patrick Boyd, Hysen Sherifi and Zakariya Boyd, alleging, among other things, that Daniel Boyd and Sherifi conspired to murder U.S. military personnel as part of a plotto attack troops at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va. These three defendants were also charged with possession of weapons in furtherance of a crime of violence and Daniel Boyd was further charged with providing a firearm to a convicted felon.
In a follow-up to our cover March 10 cover story, "Gaga for Google's fiber," we'd like to update metrics of the involvement of the Triangle's top three participants.
Durham's still ahead in Facebook presence, with 2,180 fans on its "Bring Google Fiber to Durham N.C.," page, while 935 people have signed up for "Bring Google Fiber to Raleigh!". The western part of the Triangle is not far behind: the Facebook group "Bring Google Fiber to Chapel Hill & Carrboro N.C." boasts 906 members.
The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. today at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to receive public comment regarding community interest in the fiber optic trial and how residents would use an ultra-high speed Internet network.
On Thursday, Durhamites hope to make a splash by corralling thousands of locals into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at 11 a.m. Thursday to spell out "We want Google" on the field, to pose for an aerial photograph. More here >>