Council waives project’s trail requirement

Aug. 08, 2014 @ 04:28 PM

City Council members have relieved a south Durham developer of a requirement that it help extend the city’s trail network into an established neighborhood next to its project.
The decision came on a 5-2 vote this week and affected a proposed link between the Chamberlynne and Woodcroft neighborhoods.
The vote eliminated a 2006 promise by Chamberlynne’s original developer to create the link, which involved acquiring crossing rights in Woodcroft as well as the new neighborhood.
The original developer is out of the picture thanks to the 2008 real-estate crash, and its successor, Southern Pacific Homes, ran into trouble when it began bargaining with the Woodcroft Community Association for crossing rights.
“We proposed many different alignments,” said Patrick Byker, Southern Pacific’s lawyer. “None of them were acceptable at the end of the day.”
The Woodcroft Association’s lawyer, Ryan Lockamy, wrote the council late last month to confirm that his client is “decidedly opposed to the construction of the trail” and favored deleting the connection requirement.
Officials agreed to the move over dissents from Councilman Steve Schewel and Councilwoman Diane Catotti.
They argued that officials shouldn’t do anything that might make it more difficult to add to the city’s trail network. The path is supposed to become part of a larger trail along a tributary of Third Fork Creek.
“We hear time and time again that people want off-road trails, they don’t want their kids on city streets,” Catotti said, noting that Woodcroft’s position was “ironic” given that neighborhood’s internal trail network.
Schewel added that the consequences for the developer of retaining the requirement were, in his view, minimal.
Without the change, Standard Pacific would’ve had to leave one home lot in Chamberlynne unsold to avoid legal liability for having failed to complete the required connection.
It also wouldn’t be able to give to Chamberlynne’s neighborhood association of the $75,000 or so that otherwise was earmarked to work on the trail. The money will now go, minus Byker’s legal fee, to the association for use as the group sees fit.
Council supporters of the deletion said Southern Pacific and two neighborhood associations appeared to have worked in good faith and simply weren’t able to agree.
One councilman, Don Moffitt, conceded he’d probably favored the connection requirement when he and other then-members of the Durham Planning Commission reviewed the original plan.
But he said he “no longer support[s]” pushing developers for concessions that involve using land they don’t actually control.
Mayor Bill Bell found the the Woodcroft association’s resistance easily explicable.
“The trails in Woodcroft today were built before people moved there,” he said. “You have a neighborhood that’s established, and you’re talking about making some changes.”