Second time around, council approves 54/Barbee project

Jan. 29, 2014 @ 02:24 PM

Ten months after rejecting an initial plan for the site, the City Council has given a developer permission to build up to 185 homes on the corner of Barbee Road and N.C. 54 in south Durham.
The 6-0 vote for the proposed Meadows at Southpoint came after the developers secured backing from neighbors by dropping the idea of including a self-storage business in the project.
“We thank the applicant for listening to us,” said George Brine, a former Durham Planning Commission chairman who lives in the adjoining Hunters Wood neighborhood.
Brine said neighbors had only one remaining reservation about the project, namely a city-requested driveway on Barbee Road that will allow motorists to turn into the property from either direction off the road.
They would have preferred one that barred left turns, given restrictions on motorists’ sight distance because of the way Barbee curves, Brine told council members.
But city transportaton engineer Bill Judge said officials believe the sight distance is adequate and that the neighbors’ preferred right-in, right-out driveway wouldn’t solve a problem in any event because drivers would still need to look before turning.
As construction proceeds, builders may have to install warning signs to meet city and N.C. Department of Transportation safety requirements, Judge added.
Developer Jim Anderson initially proposed building 300 units and the self-storage business on the corner site, which already hosts a small gas station.
The combination drew a formal protest from neighbors, invoking a supermajority requirement that in March that led to the application’s initial failure. Five council members favored approval, but Anderson needed support from six for the zoning to go through.
The opposition came from Mayor Bill Bell, a Hunters Wood resident, and his closest ally in city government, Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden.
This time around, Bell was absent, and Cole-McFadden joined colleagues in supporting the scaled-down request.
Bell did relay a request to Anderson and his lawyer, Ken Spaulding, that builders avoid the use of vinyl siding. Anderson agreed to that.
The new unit will most likely come in the form of townhouses, although the council’s vote also allows apartments.
The council’s decision squared with the advice it had received from the Durham Planning Commission, which backed the new plan in November on a 13-1 vote.
The dissenter on the commissioner, city delegate Rebecca Winders, said officials should have asked Anderson to reserve up to 15 percent of the new units for people making 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.
She said the site’s N.C. 54 location makes it accessible to public transit.
“I cannot support a plan amendment that increases the supply of housing units on land served by public transit unless it includes a commitment to provide some affordable housing,” Winders said.