The Durham City Council struggled this afternoon through a development ordinance revision that brings Durham's law on stream buffers into line with the state's Jordan Lake regulations.
Most of the struggle involved council members' attempts to understand three versions of the proposed ordinance, each 41 pages long, and city-county planners' attempts to explain them.
"That's an awful lot to comprehend, for me," said Mayor Bill Bell during the council's work session.
The ordinance had been deferred from Monday's regular council meeting, after council members wanted the language revised to delete any provisions that exceeded state requirements.
"Why should this council go beyond what the state was mandating?" said Councilman Eugene Brown. "Some people were saying we need to demonstrate or show, raleigh especially, that we were serious about ... water quality and so on"
then he pointed out that, on Monday night, the Raleigh City Council rejected an ordinance to restrict building in floodplains.
Durham already restricts floodplain development, which can aggravate water pollution by erosion and stormwater runoff.
"A floodplain," Brown said, "is a natural stream buffer."
Revising the original revision was easier said than done, though. The state's Environmental Management Commission has a model riparian-buffer ordinance that local jurisdictions may adopt as a stand-alone ordinance, planner Aaron Cain said.
Durham's planning department, however, was incorporating the state rules into the comprehensive development ordinance. That required revisions in multiple places to avoid the UDO contradicting itself.
"I feel a little isolated on this issue," said Councilman Eugene Brown. "We're trying to negotiate the more important issue of Falls Lake and Jordan Lake, and the water-purity issue and the buffer issue should be part of all that."
Implementing the new regulations for reducing pollution in Jordan Lake, and upcoming rules for Falls, are anticipated to cost Durham taxpayers more than $1 billion over the next 30 to 35 years. Falls Lake has been a point of contention between Durham and Raleigh, since the lake supplies Raleigh's drinking water but most of its water flows into the lake through Durham County.