Durham's City Council voted to put off any action on utility extension or annexation for the proposed 751 South subdivision until a pending lawsuit is resolved.
The vote came at the end of a two-hour meeting on the developer's requests.
Currently, zoning that would allow the town-size project is the subject of a lawsuit against Durham County. A number of property owners near the project site hold that their protest petition against the zoning was improperly ruled invalid.
After the suit was filed in 2010, Southern Durham Development requested annexation by the city, or an agreement for connections to the city water and sewer systems without being annexed.
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in November.
"I don't understand why the pressure point has fallen on us," said Councilman Mike Woodard, who introduced the motion to "take no action until all pending legal issues are resolved."
His motion passed. Councilman Howard Clement favored proceeding with a water-sewer agreement as long as it could be written so as to have no effect on the lawsuit, but his motion died for lack of a second.
Councilman Farad Ali was absent.
"Of all the issues I've encountered," said Councilman Eugene Brown, "this is the one I lay a wkae at night worrying about."
Since its proposal in early 2008, 751 South has generated fierce controversy over environmental, economic, political, ethical and legal issues. Some of the latter have been carried as far as the state Attorney General's office.