Published: Aug 09, 2012 06:08 PM
Modified: Aug 09, 2012 06:09 PM
Bob Wilson’s selective commentary about 751 South and the General Assembly exposes his agenda and the hypocrisy of those who favor no growth over planned, smart growth in Durham (DN, July 8, bit.ly/OBk7eg
Progressive New Urbanism preaches the development of walkable communities, where residents can live, work, play, study and shop in one place. 751 South is a model for these responsible, common-sense principles. Our plans comply with every federal, state, county and local environmental rule and regulation, and often go even further in order to protect our environment. In addition to being a progressive development following the ideals of New Urbanism, the project will also create an estimated 3,000 jobs and add $450 million to the tax base.
There will always be a small group of people who oppose growth even when it is good, responsible growth that adds value to our community. We’ve seen them before as they fought against Southpoint mall, Treyburn, and the Durham Performing Arts Center. I can’t imagine our community without these special places. And so, one day soon, we, as a community, will feel the same way about 751 South – it too will be a special place that we can’t imagine Durham without.
With respect to 751 South and the General Assembly, it is important to understand context. In his column, Mr. Wilson fails to mention that on the same June day members of my team were meeting with Durham County officials to negotiate a utility contract, the League of Municipalities was sneaking a bill through the House Government Committee without discussion or debate. The effect of Senate Bill 231 would have been to give the City of Durham a veto over the very utility contract we were negotiating with the county. Durham city officials sit on the league board.
It never occurred to us to take our case to the General Assembly. The only reason we ever told our story to legislators is because Senate Bill 231 appeared designed to stop 751 South. It could have even stopped Durham County from selling utility service in Research Triangle Park. Where was Bob Wilson’s outrage at that sneaky and underhanded effort? Mr. Wilson’s righteous indignation needs to be fairly distributed to those who went to the legislature first – it certainly wasn’t us.
The fact is that the use of water and sewer as a planning tool flies in the face of an ongoing property rights movement in the General Assembly. Many of the same legislators who just significantly changed our annexation laws see this as the next phase of this debate. More than a few legislators expressed concern that their cities will be next to use water and sewer to discriminate between land owners. Historically, North Carolina courts have disagreed with efforts by municipalities to control property rights in this manner. The General Assembly is almost certain to weigh in, sooner or later.
We respect those like Bob Wilson who oppose growth in Durham, however, we disagree and believe that it is good for our community. We continue to believe 751 South is the type of development necessary for Durham to sustain its tax base and quality of life. We look forward to partnering with community leaders and obtaining the final approvals that make the development possible. Durham is and will continue to be a thriving and growing community. I believe Durham’s successful future lies in “Smart Growth,” like 751 South, not “no growth.”