Below are some comments for the Durham City Council meeting tonight, August 1st, and there will be several other rezoning/annexation hearings this month, including for 4150 Old Chapel Hill Road [, at the corner with Garrett Road, among other sites,] August 9th [this is actually a Planning Commission hearing], and the Courtyards at Farrington Civil War Trails site, by the old [Patterson’s Mill] country store, August 15; see: www.durhamnc.gov/AgendaCenter/City-Council-4 [www.durhamnc.gov/AgendaCenter/Planning-Commission-15 ] There is also a Durham Rail Trail comment period and information about ShotSpotter implementation in the news.
Durham County Utility Building at the corner of Highway 55 and TW Alexander Drive
I mentioned this project in a previous post: www.northeastcreek.org/wordpress/where-the-red-fire-pink-blows-and-other-campions-in-the-triangle/ Neither community consultation meeting provided much information, though I felt somewhat better about participating in the second meeting. I thought the County was buying the site to expand the Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant, and that is what Planning Commission members seemed to think, yet now it is supposed to be a County administrative building. I think WWTP expansion was denied at the meetings, but I could be mistaken. Given that the site was a large hill, there is probably very hard, possibly igneous, bedrock just under the surface and it would be difficult to build on. The treatment plant was rattled back then, according to the staff, and there might be the possibility of damage from renewed blasting. The area is “culturally significant” for me, and presumably for the people who once lived there, and it wasn’t merely clearcut – a large, wooded hill was blasted away night and day more than 10 years ago to build something like 540, with the remainder reportedly being dumped in the abandoned claypit across 55, now acres of mass grading at “55-Hopson” and most likely the reason Northeast Creek is quite opaque yellow at the Grandale Road bridge.
It would be good to preserve the old farmpond on the County site, where I have seen people fishing, which relates to the Community Goals and Objectives about food, accessibility, etc., though those people were probably displaced by the Council’s friends at the nearby Social Security Administration printing facility, as they have tried to do to me. These are apparently still publically-owned roads and the SSA doesn’t own any land south of the railroad tracks, on “Experiment Drive.”
I don’t know that there are any rare species on the County land now, but rare plants grow very close by and red fire pinks, seemingly very rare in Durham, grew just beyond the property lines and probably still grow somewhere in the vicinity. They might like the new openness of the site. Buttercups have been common in the still mostly treeless field where the wooded hill once was. Given that the field doesn’t seem to be mowed, is it treeless after about a decade because there is very little soil? It seems like potential open habitat for meadowlarks, a bird in decline in North Carolina.
The landscaping of an administrative building and the naming could relate to the ‘flavor’ of the local area and/or areas not built on could be managed in a way beneficial for plants such as fire pinks, but that is not addressed at community consultation meetings and probably not at Council hearings. If the site is rocky and denuded of topsoil, it might also be difficult to landscape conventionally and might require more water than usual to sustain lawn grasses and ornamentals. The Main Library had an example of probably xeric herb gardening at the entrance. A large area of mown lawn, with the lake across 55 at the WWTP, would probably attract Canada geese, possibly onto the roads.
This is also a gateway to Durham, formerly with trees and April-blooming blackberries. Other woods were cut on the north side of TW Alexander for a residential area recently and there was a residential rezoning of the old house east of the County site, another area with some wildflowers, mainly early spring woodland species, as well as some ornamental roses, though there is also invasive Vinca minor. Water from the County site drains both north and south, possiby mainly north, so where would the stormwater pond be located? The State Employees’ Credit Union branch a short distance north at the corner of 54 and Alston seems like a good example of stormwater retention pond landscaping, also attracting flocks of geese.
The farmpond drains into a clear, rocky small stream. Despite the small size of the waterway it apparently doesn’t dry up completely during the summer and so supports sunfish of some kind, possibly somewhat rare salamanders, and an abundance of crayfish, as well as having waterfalls over the igneous rock and many wildflowers.
Light pollution from the County site and 55-Hopson would impact the large area of gameland along Northeast Creek on the other side of 55. Would there be large parking lots for County vehicles, lit all night? Again I can’t remember what was said at the meetings about the storage of County equipment; maybe there won’t be storage there. Lit-up parking lots could be a hazard for migrating birds. There seem to be a lot of moths in the area, which would be adversely impacted by adding more lights. Annual National Moth Week was just a last week.
What about chemical spills near Northeast Creek, including road salt and oil or gasoline from County equipment? There might be few beaver ponds in the area to intercept a spill before it reaches the main Creek.
What does 55-Hopson plan to build across 55 near the County site? They voluntarily renounced some uses at 55-Hopson – except along 55, so what are they planning? The government allowed a text-only development plan, so there is no way of knowing now without a whistleblower, and there was just a whistleblower appreciation week. I am observing and will report any possible violations. After recent rains Northeast Creek is very opaque and yellow at Grandale Road from some source, and the hundreds or thousands of people using the Tobacco Trail every week must see it as well. Unlike in other nearby towns the land in southern Durham County seems to bleed readily when mass graded, and everyone can see.
In addition, local government wants to increase traffic on Grandale, and the DOT sprayed herbicide all over, but there is still a danger that someone will be hit by a vehicle at the narrow bridge. Given the the area is already dangerous and a known corridor for wildlife, why do the DCHCMPO’s planners think increasing traffic is a good idea?
It might be good to have an access to the County site on Experiment Drive, unless the County brings in security contractors/domestic mercenaries who behave like the SSA’s, I’m not going to be “displaced.” I think that is where the driveway to the farmhouse on the hill once was. Maybe 55-Hopson will bring over-zealous faceless corporate entity security contractors even closer, in addition to the vigilantes and the policing establishment.
Regarding East Cornwallis, from the aerial photo it does seem to be a residential area, or residential adjacent to industrial, though I didn’t know there were Cannabis growing operations in Durham. A car dealership would probably be very bright at night and there would be few trees buffering it, judging by the larger dealerships near Southpoint. On the other hand the site might already be very lit up if there are greenhouses nearby. What about the risk of oil and other toxic spills in the headwaters of Northeast Creek? A car dealership would probably heat up the surrounding area. Climate change is contributing to unusual heat waves, fires, floods, and crop losses filling the news around the world this year, but cutting trees and paving the land will increase local heating quickly and increase electricity demand. Someone commented at the community meeting about the need for sidewalks there, which is probably a good idea.
As with Hopson-55 the Morningstar Law Group is saying that they renounce some uses, leaving unclear what the intention is, though in this case it is a much smaller area and not on the edge of Durham, next to parkland. Too late to comment on Hopson-55 I heard that bobcats and coyotes have been seen adjacent, but it isn’t clear if they will still be there in a few years. I also began to worry about how much earthmoving is envisioned along 55, where there no commitments were made. Has the small area north of the powerline been cleared? They even offered not to build there at the Planning Commission meetiing if not at the City Council hearing, but it was not made a committed element, so did they clear it anyway, and for what purpose? Was all that land clearcut to create biomass fuel for European powerplants? This fuel source has been condemned by some groups. There is what looks like a very large chipper installed across from the construction entrance.
On Garrett Road the application is for only a few townhomes, but paying a fee-in-lieu of open space requirements doesn’t sound good. While there is a vast area of what I assume is protected New Hope Creek floodplain “encumbrance” around the site, if animals need upland areas as well, those have probably largely been built on, as shown in the aerial photo. My impression is that most City or County parks are for things like athletic use, rather than to protect land that would otherwise be built on. There are parks in the Triangle that are supposed to have Catesby’s trilliums in the spring, but I have long wondered why there aren’t any in my area. If they prefer the dry uplands maybe they were plowed under by agriculture and building long ago, though for some reason not in northern Durham and Orange counties.
I expect there is a long history of people living along Garret Road, similar to how people long lived along Fayetteville Road, but they left in recent decades and the old houses have since been razed or covered up. There are also obviously thousands of years of human habitation buried in the ground, and maybe it is a matter of who knows what is buried where and a bulldozer operator probably won’t notice what gets scooped up.
The Courtyards at Farrington
Regarding the Courtyards at Farrington, coming up at the August 15th Council meeting, how can Durham allow the destruction of what is apparently the only Civil War battleground in Durham, with historic buildings, part of the national Civil War Trail and probably with designated historic buildings? What is the exact nature of the Civil War Trail designations on Farrington and at Leigh Farm, cut through by I-40? It reminds me of the NC NHP reports in relation to 55-Hopson. I saw a meadowlark near Farrington Road once, so they could be present on this grassy old farm. Unlike 100′ of woods on Farrington Road, the large hill on the County site probably did block a lot of traffic noise.