Not perfect, but good

Sep. 18, 2013 @ 06:08 PM

The folks who live in Kentington Heights may be breathing a huge sigh of relief this week, and we can’t blame them.

The neighborhood has been in limbo - -and a declining limbo, at that – since the early 2000s, as the development driven by the Streets of Southpoint has been transforming the area. 

In 2002, residents of the neighborhood immediately southwest of Renaissance Parkway and Fayetteville Road persuaded the City Council to re-designate the residential area for commercial development.

The neighborhood has long been plagued by septic-tank problems, and the prospect of selling out and cashing in on development opportunities was more attractive for residents than paying the cost of connecting to the city sewer system.

But for a decade, nothing happened. At least one potential development deal fell through in recent years, when developers couldn’t figure out a way to site a Wal-Mart development without piping a stream on the property – which state regulators nixed.

Finally, Monday night, the City Council in a 6-0 vote gave the green light to plans for a South Carolina developer and Rick Hendricks car dealerships to develop a new auto park there.

As so often happens in these situations, the solution struck many as far from ideal. But it also seemed beyond doubt that the proposal was the last, best chance for the residents to escape an environment that had become more and more untenable.

As The Herald-Sun’s Ray Gronberg reported last week, Stephen Bocckino, a resident of a nearby subdivision and a frequent critic of South Durham development policy, alluded to that in a message to the council before Monday’s meeting.

“Kentington Heights isn’t really a viable neighborhood any more,” Bocckino said. “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.”
While some critics argued that a mixed-use development would be better for the Kentington Heights area – and that an auto dealership would be better located in the nearby autopark off NC 751.

But the autopark site apparently doesn’t meet the needs of the Hendrick dealership – and no mixed-use proposal seemed to be in the works.  Lewis Cheek, the lawyer for the project, probably summed up the conclusion of many when he said the dealership “may be the only opportunity” for the landowners to sell.

Before Monday’s meeting, Councilman Don Moffitt, a former planning commission chairman, offered this observation:

“It’s a land use for that area I can accept; it’s not one I would promote but 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.”

The perfect can at times be the enemy of good. In this case, it seems the council wisely opted for the achievable good rather than the elusive perfect.