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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mitchell: affordable housing, 10 other new commitments to be drafted in 751 South development

Posted by on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 4:06 PM

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  • courtesy Southern Durham Development

An update to a post from Monday night. (We promised to give more detail on affordable housing when it was available.)

Southern Durham Development President Alex Mitchell said he plans to meet with Durham department planning staff on Wednesday to discuss 11 more committed elements to add to site plans for his proposed project, 751 South.

These new additions to the project weren't on the table last week, when Durham County Commissioners were slated to vote on the development. But the case was continued for two weeks until August 9 because of a legal matter, which gave the developer more time to meet with opponents of the project and alter some of the plans and possibly gain more support for the controversial project, which has been debated in the county for more than two years. One of the main aspects of public opposition continues to be concerns about environmental impact of the development, which is one mile from Jordan Lake, but still in the reservoir's watershed.

Mitchell expanded upon comments he made Monday about wanting to include an element of affordable housing in plans for the site, which could bring as many as 1,300 new residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and retail space, as well as land for a school and public safety substations.

Affordable housing units would meet the county's definition based on area incomes and would likely be apartments and condos spread out through the complex, Mitchell said. Southern Durham Development would absorb the profit loss from offering for sale and for rent at lower prices. Part of the motivation for committing to put affordable units on the site came from recent conversations with Commissioner Brenda Howerton, Mitchell said.

"Commissioner Howerton emphasized to us that was an extreme concern for her," Mitchell said. "That confirmed what we were already looking into—this is on people's minds."

Mitchell didn't state any percentages or a number of units he expects to commit, and did not give specifics on the 10 other commitments he intends to work on with the planning department, but said he could make an announcement later this week. Mitchell indicated earlier that some new commitments could deal with open space, tree coverage and the amount of the site that would be paved or covered with impervious surfaces.

Mitchell also confirmed that his company will allow no retail space larger than 75,000 square feet in the proposed complex, and also said he has committed to an additional wooded buffer along the front of the property, so as not to disturb the wooded view of neighbors at nearby Chancellor's Ridge. Mitchell said these commitments had been agreed upon and communicated to the planning department, but left off planning department documents at the July 26 public hearing. Those items will be listed on the site plans by Monday, Mitchell said.

Any commitments made before or during the meeting Monday will be binding, even if they're made during the meeting verbally, said Assistant Planning Director Patrick Young. The commitments would apply to the land, so if Southern Durham Development sold the land, the new owner would have to comply with those promises, or go through the entire rezoning process all over again and get approval for a different use, Young said.

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