At the Tuesday, October 12th meeting the Planning Commission voted 12-0 against recommending the Industrial Light rezoning around the intersection of Hopson Road and 55, bordering RTP and extending west, south across Northeast Creek from several communities. Members of the public had about 3 minutes each to comment and a few neighbors and I spoke. As I recall the comments were generally questions or negative on the proposed rezoning and there were not any ringing endorsements. I wasn’t the only person to bring up light pollution and I think noise was an issue at the community consultation meeting in January if not on the 12th. One or more neighbors mentioned concern for wildlife, and mentioned seeing a bald eagle in their yard, but without noting that the adjacent gameland was inventoried by the NC Natural Heritage Program as an important natural area in Durham County and greater Jordan Lake that ideally should not be disturbed further and is also used for hunting and fishing. There was a proposal to move to a text-only development plan addressing some of the concerns brought up at the hearing, to be heard again in 60 days, but the original application was voted upon in the end. Despite this negative recommendation by the Commission the proposed rezoning could soon go to City Council. So far nothing has been announced.
The applicant said that their plan is to build a business park housing valuable biomedical companies, but I wonder if the research and development component of an Industrial Light zoning would allow large greenhouses, similar to those on TW Alexander Drive and Davis Drive. When there are low clouds light reflected from large greenhouses is conspicuous for miles and when it is clear the light isn’t so obvious but still contributes to light pollution obscuring the night sky over the Triangle. Humanity has been able to look up and see the Milky Way as well as other galaxies for thousands of years, but I’m not sure if I have ever been able to see our greater galaxy from the Triangle or anywhere. An Industrial Light zoning allows many uses, including warehouses, recycling centers, junkyards, wholesale trade, etc. Some of these uses would probably increase windbown litter, traffic, noise, and air pollution.
Would there be a risk of hazardous material spills? Early in the applicant’s presentation to the Commission the relatively large distance between this site and neighborhoods to the north was compared with the distance between the nearby Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant on 55 and the neighborhoods. Not so long ago the Triangle Wastewater Treatment Plant used chlorine for disinfection, leaving Northeast Creek with a chlorinated smell far downstream, so presumably there was a supply of chlorine gas on site. If there had been a leak houses were probably dangerously nearby and today houses have been built even closer. The rezoning application predicts additional residential building just west of the site, along Grandale. It should also be noted that while houses are relatively far, Northeast Creek is very close to parts of the site and is the reason there is a buffer of forest between the site and the north neighborhoods.
Besides whatever noise would come from the construction and operation of whatever is built, a large area would hear and maybe feel the blasting and earthmoving necessary to cut through the ridge at the corner of 55 and Hopson and other hills for a new road. The DOT would probably want a road similar to Hopson, which has four divided lanes cutting through a ridge on the east side of 55. Earlier this month the BBC talked about the climate change impact of new building construction, and here is a plan to build a major new road when there are already roads connecting 55 to Grandale. Ignoring the impact on wildlife, would a new road significantly reduce traffic on existing roads and would that be the end of major road building along Northeast Creek at the very south margin of Durham County? A railroad, which is probably less carbon-intensive than trucking, is on the other side of 55 from the majority of the site. Local governments claim to be trying to reduce Durham’s contributions to climate change.
There is very little information about what would actually be built and where and the opportunity for regular public input ends once the City Council approves a rezoning.