Rezoning for a 240-unit apartment complex between Guess and Hillandale roads got the Durham City Council's stamp of approval Monday night.
The council's 5-2 vote came after a protest petition that had been signed by more than 40 nearby property owners was ruled invalid due to removal of signatures. With the protest petition in force, the rezoning would have needed six yea votes to pass.
Mayor Bill Bell and Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden cast the no votes.
A dozen residents spoke against the proposed Fairfield at Hillandale project which the developers' attorney, Patrick Byker, described as a luxury complex catering to employees at the nearby Duke Medical Center. The apartments are planned to rent at $1,250 to $1,300 per month.
The developer, Fairfield Developers of Bethesda, Md., has committed to almost $1 million in traffic-calming and street-improvement measures in the neighborhood. The project site is a wooded 16.6-acre tract just north of Interstate 85, between the Loehmann's Plaza shopping center and a commercial strip on Guess Road.
Residents said they were afraid the apartments would wreck the quality of life in a neighborhood they described as an "oasis" in the middle of heavily traveled thoroughfares. They also feared the apartments will depreciate their property and bring crime into the area.
Council member Eugene Brown acknowledged the issue was "emotional," but cautioned that what could be built on the site under present zoning could bring even more traffic and would not come with Fairfield's commitments. He also said the site is within the Durham Comprehensive Plan's "urban tier."
"In the urban tier, folks, we share the oasis," he said.
Departing City Hall after the vote, the neighbors did not seem mollified.