Simply bad planning
751 South (DN July 18) is the wrong project in the wrong place.
Development in Durham is guided by the Comprehensive Plan, developed by stakeholders from across the community. It envisions growth happening in an orderly manner so that in 30 years the entire city and county – not just parts of them – continue to be places where great things happen and people want to live.
Intense development is designed to occur in nodes, which in the future will surround transit stations. Developing property in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan is smart growth. If 751 South gets built it will lie far from supporting infrastructure and require many car trips daily. It will be another step toward the intense congestion of cities like Atlanta, where the roads are inadequate and driving is a nightmare. 751 South is simply bad planning.
The village concept is conceptual at best. People buy homes in a “village” and commute to their jobs elsewhere, and people work in the “village” while commuting from their homes in other developments. There may be retail shops, but people climb in their cars and drive to the stores they prefer, wherever those stores may be.
In any case, the developers of 751 South talk a good game but absolutely refuse to commit to building their village. Why? There’s too much uncertainty in the marketplace and they need the flexibility to build a project that will actually succeed. Economic necessity will dictate the final project, not pretty pictures. The rezoning approved by three county commissioners allows SDD to build a massive commercial center (up to 500,000 square feet) or a massive housing development (up to 750 homes), and does not require them to build both up to that point. They need to make binding commitments.
As for job creation, those jobs will be reserved for people with cars or who can afford to live there. 751 South lies far outside any bus service, putting it out of reach of those that actually need those jobs.
During my tenure on the Planning Commission we heard a lot of cases – and recommended approval for most of them. One of the cases we supported was a development with very similar intensity on Page Road. That project is located in keeping with the precepts of the Comprehensive Plan, where roads, water and sewer, as well as the many needs of the people who will live and work there, are sufficient for the project. For the reasons above, though, 751 South received a resounding recommendation of denial.
The right decision on 751 South is to stop it now, and the right decision on growth in Durham County is to continue to guide it thoughtfully, following the precepts of the Comprehensive Plan.Don Moffitt DurhamA remarkable pitch
It’s remarkable to read that 751 South developer Alex Mitchell is still pitching his project as a choice between smart growth and no growth (DN July 18).
Smart growth for Durham would be finally getting some tenants in a refurbished CCB building. Smart growth would be finding a better use for the dozens of acres of surface parking lots in the downtown district. Smart growth would be increasing bus service along our busiest thoroughfares to reduce traffic volumes. Smart growth would be redeveloping some of our outdated strip malls on North Roxboro Street, which are currently anchored by hundreds of thousands of square feet of abandoned big box retail. Smart growth would be finding projects to build in East Durham where the soon-to-be-constructed East End connector will open up hundreds of acres to profitable uses.
Building another automobile-dependent development on the county’s edge, with up to 70 percent impervious surface adjacent to one of the region’s main water supplies, isn’t smart growth by any definition of the words. His efforts to buy approval of his project by getting his water carriers on the Board of County Commissioners to appoint the likes of Teiji Kimball and Ricky Padgett to the Planning Commission may bear him some fruit. But that’s a whole different ballgame than building smart growth development projects that benefit the entire county, not just a handful of developers who don’t even live in Durham.Barry Ragin DurhamTrafficking awareness
I was so pleased to see your article on human trafficking (DN July 18), a crime and human rights violation that generates $32 billion in profit annually, according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime.
As you note, North Carolina is particularly attractive to human traffickers given our geographic location and major inter- and intra-state highways, as well as some of our large industries, which depend on pools of low-wage, vulnerable labor. Orange County state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird has been the catalyst in developing anti-human trafficking legislation for North Carolina.
I was unpleasantly surprised, though, that you did not mention two statewide anti-human trafficking coalitions. The N.C. Coalition against Human Trafficking was formed in 2004. Members are professionals from multiple fields – including law enforcement, legal services, social services, policy, etc. – and raise awareness about trafficking, support efforts to prosecute traffickers, and provide necessary services to victims. A team of NCCHAT members worked diligently for almost two years to have law enforcement training on human trafficking included in the Basic Law Enforcement Training curriculum at the N.C. Justice Academy; North Carolina is one of the first states in the country to mandate law enforcement training through the BLET process.
NC Stop Human Trafficking serves as an umbrella coalition to assist civic and community groups, faith-based organizations and interested individuals who want to help fight human trafficking in our state. Its members are involved in volunteer work in agencies that provide services to victims, prevention and intervention initiatives, fundraising activities, community awareness and education, legislative advocacy, and more. NC Stop is in the process of becoming a 501c3 agency to better facilitate this work.
Several organizations mentioned in your article are members of one or both coalitions. I hope the important work of these coalitions can be featured in your follow-up reporting on this issue. Thank you for continuing to inform the public about the presence of human trafficking in our state.Donna M. Bickford Chapel HillNot the city’s role
I live in downtown’s legendary Burch Ave. neighborhood. I am a proud Durhamite, a Durham Farmers’ Market addict and a hearty eater of local food truck food. I was very surprised to hear about the draft food truck ordinance (DN July 11) and the possibility that our City Council might be trying to limit their abilities to thrive. Has not Durham throughout history been a fierce supporter of enterprising small business development?
What is particularly disappointing is that this ordinance is trying to manage competition, which is not the role of the City of Durham. All it would do is damage the culture of innovation for which Durham stands.
The draft ordinance also explicitly discriminates against food trucks, because it imposes limitations only on them and not on other types of businesses. In the words of Scott Harmon:
“Would the city prohibit me from opening a restaurant next to a different restaurant? Would the city require a restaurant, already located in the buffer zone around the Farmers’ Market, to close when the Farmers’ Market is in session? Would the city try to manage competition in order to give one business an advantage over another, when such matters are best left to the consumer? Of course it wouldn’t.”
Please, City Council, let our local economy grow and develop instead of putting onerous restrictions on mobile entrepreneurs. I would really appreciate it if you discarded this draft ordinance entirely.Crystal Dreisbach Durham
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