Durham County

Kids oppose rezoning that could lead to Publix, mixed-use development

Rachael Riley; rriley@heraldsun.com

DURHAM -- Residents for and against a rezoning request that could lead to a Publix grocery store coming to Durham have taken to both social media and council e-mail to voice their opinions.

Yet on the eve of when the city’s planning commission is expected to recommend or deny the request to rezone 29.8 acres on the southeast quadrant of Guess and Latta roads, kids protested against the rezoning.

Donning a box painted with the words “Kids vs. rezoning,” and chanting “no rezoning,” was 9-year-old Nora Plourde.

“We live here because we like it calm,and we don’t want to have a lot of traffic, and we also like where we live, and it’s a residential neighborhood,” Nora said.

She said she would be upset if the rezoning is approved, because she’s lived in the area her whole life.

“We’re not thinking of moving anytime soon,” Nora said. “So I’ll have to live here. So I just want to make sure that I get to live in a place I like.”

The planning commission will hold a public hearing at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday at Durham City Hall, 101 Plaza Drive.

The developer, Halvorsen Development Corp., is requesting a zoninb change from residential suburban 20 to mixed use with a development plan.

The future land use map of the comprehensive plan designates the site as low density residential.

The application proposes 67,000 to 90,000 square feet of commercial space and single-family structures

Both a North River Village Mix Use Development Facebook page and website tout Publix expressing an interest in coming to Durham, if the site is rezoned.

Roxanne VanFarowe’s children are among the opposition.

The VanFarowe’s moved to the neighborhood about eight years ago.

“We anticipate a lot more traffic, and there’s (currently) no sidewalks,” VanFarowe said. “With five kids, getting outside, crossing traffic and the noise pollution is a concern.”

According to a traffic study required of the developer, Latta Road’s latest traffic volume count is 9,900, and the development is projected to bring another 1,513 vehicles. The study states that is below the road’s capacity of 12,700.

For Guess Road, the traffic study indicates the latest numbers are 21,000, compared to a capacity of 39,800, and the development is projected to bring 3,279 more vehicles.

On the Facebook page, representatives of the developer state the developer will incur $2.1 million worth of transportation improvements.

City documents based on staff determinations state the density of the single-family portion of the site meets the city’s uniformed development ordinance. However, two separate and distinct areas -- large-scale commercial and single- family residential -- “may not be immediately recognized as compatible.”

“Staff is unable to determine whether the request is consistent with the comprehensive plan or the UDO - Mixed Use District intent statement,” city documents state. “The plans, as submitted, do not provide sufficient information to indicate how the project is consistent with the comprehensive Plan and MU district statement.”

Patrick Byker, an attorney for the developer, told The News and Observer the developer is offering to make traffic improvements and a walking path to Easley Elementary if the school system wants it.

Still, 10-year-old Joel VanFarowe, who banged a tambourine in protest Monday night, is not convinced.

“We really like walking in the woods and if they build that Publix place, we won’t be able to do it anymore, and that means a lot to me,” Joel said. “Also it would be killing a bunch of animals if they cut a bunch of trees down, because they live in these woods.”

Residents for the rezoning:

Through the Facebook page, at least 23 residents have publicly written to support the project -- including Ted Maynor.

“ Growth will happen no matter what you wish or complain and this development is much more desirable than alternatives,” Maynor wrote. “ I gave up my land for (four) lanes and a sidewalk for progress.”

In council e-mails, at least three residents including Bonnie Belk said said they, too, support the project.

“ I also hope and believe that whatever is decided will not be the result of successful lobbying, but will be based on what is good for the future of North Durham -- recognizing that planning documents must frequently be revised to conform with unanticipated and unprecedented growth patterns,” Belk wrote.

Residents against rezoning:

Through the Facebook page at least 10 residents publicly wrote in opposition of the project.

Kenny Pojman said there are four grocery stores within five miles.

Jessica Edwards wrote Publix would be nice in the area, but not near her neighborhood.

“There is other areas where large land is available for purchase that would be better suited for this type of mixed-use development,” Edwards wrote.

In council e-mails, another nine residents said they do not want the rezoning.

“I am not broadly opposed to development, particularly, residential, understanding that it is part of growth,” Janet Reed wrote. “However, I do not see a great need for yet another grocery store and strip mall-type development like that being proposed.”

Taking a more neutral approach, Donna Dyer said she doesn’t completely oppose the development but is concerned about an additional grocery store in North Durham.

She requested an independent market study of North Durham.