The People’s Alliance this morning released a letter it sent (pasted below) to Durham County Commissioners, Durham’s county manager, planning director and county attorney supporting the validity of a protest petition filed earlier this year by two environmental groups looking to preserve development restrictions around Jordan Lake.

The petition, filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Haw River Assembly, was ruled invalid one business day before Durham’s County Commissioners voted 3-2 to move the protected area around the water reservoir, which will allow commercial and residential development closer to the lake. Last week, petitioners challenged the Durham planning department and its director, Steve Medlin, to take another look at the petition.

The groups who filed the petition say the county missed two parcels of land that could have affected the outcome of the petition. Medlin said this week that the planning department hadn’t yet ruled on whether those parcels were mistakenly left out, but did say there was a question about the validity of the signatures.

Calls to Medlin and County Manager Mike Ruffin yesterday were referred to County Attorney Lowell Siler, who has not yet returned our call from yesterday.

Still with us? Here’s the People’s Alliance letter:

People’s Alliance position on the Planning Department’s Rejection of the Protest Petition related to Jordan Lake Critical Area boundary changes

November 4, 2009

TO: County Manager Mike Ruffin

Planning Director Steve Medlin

CC: Commission Chair Michael Page, Commission member Joe Bower, Becky Heron, Brenda Howerton, Ellen Reckhow

Dear Manager Ruffin and Director Medlin:

In our view, the County was wrong in its failure to validate the protest petition submitted by the Haw River Assembly and the Southern Environmental Law Center. If recent accounts are correct (Manager Ruffin quoted in the Herald-Sun on Friday October 30;), the County is refusing to admit its errors (including failing to account for two parcels).

When asked about the County’s position, Manager Ruffin was quoted as saying ‘it needs to get settled (in court)”. This position is unfair to the citizens of Durham.

The Durham People’s Alliance urges:

1. That the Planning Department and the County Attorney admit their mistakes, and validate the protest petition.

2. That the BOCC vote of 3-2 on October 12 should stand, but it should now be deemed insufficient to approve the rezoning, considering that the protest petition is valid (and would thereby require 4 votes for an approval of the rezoning).

3. That the citizens of Durham should not be asked to bear the costs of legal action to remedy errors by the Planning Department and County Attorney.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

2009 Coordinating Committee of the Durham People’s Alliance: David Harris, President; Page McCullough, Vice President; Melvin Whitley, Treasurer; Milo Pyne; Gordon Mantler; Kathryn Spann; Jenny Edmonds; James Hill