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County cuts tax-rate hike

Durham County's commissioners finished deliberations on the 2010-11 budget today, cutting a 4.29-cent increase on the property-tax rate to 3.78 cents.

That puts the county rate at 74.59 cents per $100 of property valuation, increasing the tax on a $200,000 house by $75.60 to $1,491.80. The City of Durham is adding 2.2 cents per $100 to its property-tax rate, raising its bill for the same house to $1,124.

The commissioners' final tinkering cut some spending from County Manager Mike Ruffin's recommended budget of $461 million, including a $339.3 million general-fund appropriation for the county's day-to-day operation. It also added some previously unfunded items, among them:

  • $182,516 to match a city appropriation to pay warrant-control clerks;
  • $20,000 for the People's Channel public-access television;
  • $8,873 for the Triangle Champions Track Club.

Ruffin had recommended no funding for the People's Channel or the track club, but supporters of the nonprofits made persuasive pitches at the commissioners' budget hearing Monday night.

The budget's formal approval is scheduled for the commissioners' regular meeting June 28.

About that 751 South hearing, now --

A rezoning hearing for the proposed 751 South subdivision was rescheduled for the fourth time Monday. Now it has not just one date, but two.

And they didn't come easy.

751 developers want hearing deferred - again

The county commissioners’ public hearing on the 751 South rezoning, which was supposed to be held June 23, is being rescheduled yet again.

Attorney Patrick Byker, representing the project developer, requested a 30-day deferral on Friday. Under Durham’s Unified Development Ordinance, the request must be honored – as was project opponent Melissa Rooney’s request that deferred the hearing from its original date in May.

Since Rooney’s request, the hearing has been set for June 14, June 1 and June 23. Meantime, the date was apparently headed through a Board of Adjustment hearing in late July until Rooney dropped her appeal of the June 1 date after other opponents filed a protest petition which, if valid, would require a 4-1 commissioners vote to pass the rezoning.

At the same time, the Durham People’s Alliance – which opposes the project – arranged a protest relay run that is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

For the time being, that is. The run was scheduled to precede the June 23 hearing, and had already been rescheduled once due to the movable dates.

The People's Alliance relay starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Holton Career Resource Center at 401 N. Driver St. and finishes at 7:30 at 8606 Fayetteville St. Runners are going by way of the County Administrative Complex on Main Street, the American Tobacco Trail and Fayetteville Street.

Protest petition in, hearing appeal out, on 751 South rezoning

South Durham resident Kim Preslar filed a protest petition against the 751 South rezoning today, even as the Durham County commissioners scheduled a closed meeting for tonight regarding Melissa Rooney's appeal of the rezoning's hearing date.

Rooney's appeal of the scheduled June 1 date would have delayed action until after a Board of Adjustment ruling in late July.

The petition carries 20 signatures, most from the Chancellor's Ridge subdivision just across N.C. 751 from the proposed 751 South site.

If valid, the petition would require four of the five commissioners to approve the rezoning, which is necessary for Southern Durham Development Inc. to proceed with its mixed-use project of up to 1,300 residences, 500,000 square feet of offices and 500,000 square feet of retail space.

751 South snagged again

A town-sized subdivision project in southwest Durham has hit another delay.

Due to an appeal by project opponent Melissa Rooney, the county commissioners' scheduled hearing on a rezoning necessary for 751 South has been postponed until August at the earliest.

City/County Planning Director Steve Medlin informed commissioners by email this morning.

Rooney is appealing the commissioners' decision to defer the hearing from May 24 to June 1.  Her appeal, according to Medlin, requires a quasi-judicial hearing by the Durham Board of Adjustment. The next available spot on a BoA agenda is July 27.

The first county commissioners' meeting after the Board of Adjustment meeting is Aug. 9.

For more, see

Discord, thy name is 751 South?

Discord is swelling again over 751 South, Southern Durham Development's proposed village near Jordan Lake.

On May 7, project opponent Melissa Rooney requested a deferral of the county commissioners' hearing on a rezoning for it. Since city/county ordinance requires such a request to be granted, at their meeting this week the commissioners switched it from the original May 24 date to June 14 at 4 p.m. -- sandwiched between a work session and a public hearing on next year's county budget.

Then, overnight, commissioners' Chairman Michael Page had a change of mind and, with the consent of commissioners Joe Bowser and Brenda Howerton, switched the date to June 1. Commissioner Becky Heron was not pleased.

"I did not agree," Heron wrote in an email to Bull's Eye. "This is unfair to the public and the commissioners to change the meeting when we had agreed on a date. Who does the chairman represent?"

Heron and Commissioner Ellen Reckhow had, the previous evening, argued against June 1 as it would leave Rooney little time to assemble her case against the project.

The ordinance only requires that a hearing be rescheduled within 30 days of the original date.

Meantime, the Durham People's Alliance, which has also opposed 751 South, has opened an online petition calling for its rejection both by the county commissioners and the City of Durham, which has an annexation request and water/sewer connections to approve or deny at some point.

Southern Durham's project has excited controversy, often heated, since the firm announced it in early 2008. So far, it has spawned three legal actions and months of rancorous discussion.

Environmentalists claim it would endanger water quality in already polluted Jordan Lake -- for which Durham taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in cleanup expenses. The developers claim their designs are environmentally benign and that the subdivision will create hundreds of new jobs.

751 South rezoning moved to June 1

On second thought, the Durham County commissioners have decided to hear the 751 South rezoning case at 7 p.m. June 1.

Their previous date, 4 p.m. June 14, sandwiched the 751 public hearing between a work session on next year's budget and the public hearing on that budget.

Originally, the 751 South case -- a rezoning to permit a 1,300-dwelling subdivision with up to 300,000 square feet each of office and retail space on N.C. 751 near Jordan Lake -- was on the commissioners' agenda for May 24.

However, subdivision opponent Melissa Rooney requested a deferral. County ordinance requires such a citizen's request in a rezoning case be granted.

751 South rezoning moved to June 14

The Durham County commissioners have rescheduled their public hearing on the 751 South rezoning to June 14 at 4 p.m.

It had been scheduled for the commissioners' regular meeting May 24, but had to be reset after rezoning opponent Melissa Rooney requested a deferral.

Strategic plan? Show us the money - Heron

The Durham County Commissioners are having a chat this afternoon about strategic planning.

After hearing banker Henry McKoy and city strategic issues coordinator Jay Reinstein describe how to do such a thing, Commissioner Becky Heron (right) had a comment.

"A strategic plan is OK, but I've got two or three of them on the shelf," she said. "To develop a plan is all well and good, but what's the strategic plan to get us some money?"

Legislators cool to county commuter tax

The notion of a payroll tax on people who work in Durham County but live elsewhere got a cool reception this morning from Durham County’s delegation to the state legislature.

“Why do you want to put that on us?” said state Rep. Mickey Michaux, the delegation’s senior member, when the proposition came up during the delegates’ pre-session meeting with the Durham County Board of Commissioners.

However, the legislators were warm to another idea for bringing more revenue into Durham County: sharing in the sales taxes collected at Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Currently, those receipts all go to Wake County.

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