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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bizarre letter from Jordan Lake developer accuses county attorney of heresy

Posted by on Thu, Mar 5, 2009 at 7:03 PM

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Because Durham County Attorney Chuck Kitchen has insisted on conducting a public hearing before the county changes its watershed and zoning maps, a lawyer representing Southern Durham Development has accused Kitchen of a conspiracy to thwart his client's efforts to build a mega-development that, much like Jericho, would be located on the shores of a body of water named Jordan.

"We cannot understand why you have adopted such a strained reading of the ordinances in question unless you are trying to delay or derail our client's pending rezoning request," writes William Brian of K&L Gates, the law firm representing Southern Durham Development, in a letter dated March 4 (PDF, 272 KB) . "The only reason for you to do this would be to assist those who oppose the proposed project in a manner which is outside the scope of your official duties."

One other reason, which Kitchen cited in his reply to an earlier letter from Brian, would be to comply with state open-meetings laws and the Unified Development Ordinance.

As if accusations of conspiracy weren't enough, Brian makes a bizarre analogy that compares the Unified Development Ordinance to the Bible, and the county's zoning atlas to illustrations in a children's version of the Holy Writ.

No, we're not kidding:

By your analysis, a "land use map" that incorrectly showed the boundaries of a district or overlay which was described by metes and bounds in the ordinance by which it was adopted would trump those metes and bounds, or at the very least would require an extensive public hearing process before it could be corrected. This is like saying that the illustrations in a children's Bible trump the Scripture.

By Brian's measure, the children's illustrations, or U.S. Geological Survey maps, "incorrectly showed the boundaries" of Jordan Lake, until a 2006 decision, by former planning director Frank Duke (who by the way, helped author the analogous Holy Book), revealed the light by ushering through Hunter's survey without any bothersome public hearings, let alone state or local review. No matter that Duke's approval was later found by the N.C. Division of Water Quality to be in violation of the state's administrative code. It was nothing less than the Word of God. And Chuck Kitchen is trying to challenge that--with pictures?

Pursuant to Section 3.1.1.B, the Planning Director is the official interpreter of the UDO. Neither you nor your office have any such authority. In this case, the Planning Director made his interpretation on January 6, 2006. Any dispute of that interpretation should have been taken to the Board of Adjustment within 30 days by appeal pursuant to UDO Section 3.16 and N.C. Gen Stat. 153A-345. It was not. Therefore it is absolutely final.

Except that Duke didn't vet his prophecy--er, decision--through any of the proper channels, including the Board of County Commissioners, or the state Environmental Management Commission. Which is why the Board of County Commissioners had a public hearing to re-submit Hunter's survey, and must now convene again to change the county map.

According to Angela McIver, a staff specialist in the county clerk's office, the BOCC is set to discuss Jordan Lake during its work session on March 23, at 3:30.

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