Advocates prep for Kentington Heights hearing

Some neighbors supporting plan for car dealership
Sep. 12, 2013 @ 01:34 PM

With a hearing coming up Monday night, City Council members are hearing from supporters and opponents of a planned car dealership in the Kentington Heights neighborhood near The Streets at Southpoint mall.

The project got an endorsement this week from Steve Bocckino, a longtime critic of the city's approach to development in south Durham.

Bocckino said approval of the proposed Rick Hendrick dealership would allow property owners in Kentington Heights to turn the page after years of waiting for a project to come together. The neighborhood suffers from septic-system problems; the City Council at the request of property owners there in 2002 labeled it suitable for commercial development.

Since then, "few improvements have been made to the residences, many now rentals," said Bocckino, who lives in an adjoining subdivision. "As a result, Kentington Heights isn't really a viable neighborhood any more. Water and sewer problems still plague the residents, and crime has started to be a problem. A few years back, a body was dumped on Kentington Road, and a rash of daylight burglaries has victimized my neighborhood — the thieves parked in sparsely populated Kentington Heights."

Bocckino said a car dealership is "better for us in many ways than alternative commercial uses," as its traffic impact would be "minuscule" and there would be no more runoff-shedding pavement than in a "comparable mall development."

But he urged council members to make sure they address the effects the project could have on a family that lives nearby and has signed a formal protest against the rezoning developers need.

The project has had opponents within Kentington Heights who are upset because the it doesn't include all the property in the neighborhood. Durham landscape architect George Stanziale has also been lobbying against it, arguing that a dealership more properly belongs in the Southpoint Auto Park north of Interstate 40.

Durham Planning Commission member Charlie Gibbs wrote council members to support Stanziale's argument.

Gibbs, a county delegate on the Planning Commission, said he would prefer a mixed-use development at Kentington Heights. He also believes its septic problems "should and could be dealt with in another way."

But City Councilman Don Moffitt, a former Planning Commission chairman, is leaning toward approving the project.

"It’s a land use for that area I can accept," Moffitt said; "it’s not one I would promote but it’s it’s one I would accept and it’s really important we do what we can to move all those landowners in Kentington Heights out of purgatory. They’ve just been on hold for so long. They can’t get loans to improve their houses. It’s time to see that change."