11/04 Your letters: Dan Welch on Old West Durham

Protecting Old West Durham

Old West Durham is pursuing a Neighborhood Protection Overlay (NPO) to preserve and protect the character of our neighborhood. Recently, a corporate opponent of the NPO has posted yard signs across the neighborhood urging residents to vote No. The organized opposition largely consists of outside developers and real estate professionals who have a financial stake in our neighborhood.

In addition to making and posting signs, these outside interests have paid staff circulating petitions and they have hired a legal team to advocate for their interests at the city offices.

In contrast, the effort to create the NPO originated from resident-volunteers who actually live in our neighborhood. The effort sprang from the Neighborhood Board and every member of the NPO Working Group is a volunteer who lives in Old West.

The many recent tear downs make it that outside developers are having a major impact on shaping the future outcomes of Old West. And who can blame them – these are the same real-estate professionals who make large profits on these tear downs and over-sized replacements. They have a business model that allows them to pocket thousands of dollars in profits each month for each of the many properties they tear down and replace. One developer alone owns more than fifty properties in Old West and what happens to these properties will affect us all.

But just because there is profit to be made, doesn’t mean this teardown trend is good for the homeowners and renters who actually live here. The city has given us a tool – the NPO – that allows us to SHAPE the future of our own neighborhood. We can choose to use that tool or we can let the future of Old West be shaped only by the motive of profit.

It has taken us five years to get our NPO through the application and drafting stage and arrive at this point. In those five years, old historic homes and a multitude of trees have been torn down to make way for huge structures that only the well-off can afford. We have an opportunity to slow this trend down if we will only seize it.

Please come to the Public Meeting at E.K. Powe at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov, 8. We need your support to preserve and protect the neighborhood – our neighborhood – from outside interests.

Dan Welch