Land acquisition good deal for Durham

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 08:55 PM

It’s understandable – and commendable – that Durham County Commission Chairman Fred Foster and Commissioner Brenda Howerton should feel unease about going in with Wake County on a nearly $1 million chunk of open space near Falls Lake.

We are in tricky economic times, entering the annual budget-planning phase with talk of state-level cuts and federal sequestration that may have wide-reaching effects (or few at all, depending on whom one asks).

“I think we could have better spent that money on the people that are going to be affected by some of the decisions coming out of Raleigh, as well as our own budget shortfall,” Foster said during a meeting on Tuesday.

But we think that commissioners Ellen Reckhow, Wendy Jacobs and Michael Page made the right move in voting for this purchase. Durham County commits $650,000 while the city of Raleigh pays its share of $300,000, taking the 260-acre Santee Road tract off the list of available land for development and providing a buffer for a critical water supply reservoir.

It also provides the added bonus of giving residents of eastern Durham County a new source of open space and recreation.

“Eastern Durham County has been a real growth area for the past 10 years,” Reckhow said during the board’s meeting. “It’s important for the citizens in that part of the county to have open space and recreation opportunities similar to the opportunities residents have in other parts of the county.”

Luckily, the county isn’t investing money it didn’t already have for this purpose. Funds for a purchase such as this have been available in the county’s construction and maintenance reserve.

In tight budget times, it’s understandable that some county leaders might balk at this deal. But, long-term, this seems like a prudent investment that could pay dividends for the environment and for residents in eastern Durham County.