Durham’s county commissioners finalized the date today: they’ll hold a public hearing on the controversial 751 Assemblage rezoning case at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 23. The 167 acres to be rezoned is in the watershed of Jordan Lake and at the center of a long-brewing controversy about whether to build a dense community of homes, offices and shopping areas there.
Much to the suspicions of critics, the commissioners have scheduled and rescheduled the public hearing twice in the past two weeks. Attempting to settle the matter last night, commissioners couldn’t choose a date due to scheduling conflicts. Other obstacles have thrust themselves in the way of choosing a date, not the least of which was the deferral request by resident Melissa Rooney… Which resulted in an appeal to the Board of Adjustment. Which was withdrawn yesterday.
The decision comes a day after a memo (PDF) from K&L Gates (attorneys for developer Southern Durham Development) to the Board of County Commissioners, poking holes in Rooney’s appeal and asking commissioners to defer the hearing until the latest possible date, June 24.
Residents near the area proposed for rezoning submitted a protest petition to commissioners yesterday, which will make it more difficult for the developer in this case to win rezoning. If the petition is deemed valid, it would require four of five county commissioners to support it, instead of a simple majority that would require only three supportive votes.
Because the public hearing has been moved to June 23, the official due date of the protest petition is June 16, Steve Medlin explained in an e-mail to the Indy Tuesday. Therefore, the planning department won’t be determining the validity of the protest petition until around June 21, Medlin wrote.
Whether the planning department finds that citizens have met protest petition requirements is a sensitive subject, considering what happened the last time such a petition was filed in this case. (See tag “protest petition” for details.)