This timeline has been updated since it was originally published to reflect new developments in the case.
2005: Developer Neal Hunter commissions a survey that shows Jordan Lake’s watershed is more than 100 acres west of where county maps show it. The survey excludes Hunter’s property from the lake’s immediate watershed, which is protected against dense development.
2006: Durham Planning Director Frank Duke grants Hunter’s request to relocate the watershed boundary, based on his survey.
January 2008: Southern Durham Development (SDD) agrees to pay Hunter roughly $18 million for 164 acres. Hunter is also a minority shareholder in SDD. PDF: January 2008 Zoning Map Change Application
November 2008: Durham County commissioners submit Hunter’s surveys to the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) for inspection. Durham county commissioners vote 3-2 to not hire an independent surveyor, which could cost $85,000. Commissioners Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow cast the dissenting votes; Michael Page, Philip Cousin and Lewis Cheek vote for it.
February 2009: DWQ tells Durham’s planning department that it accepts and approves proposed map changes to the Jordan Lake watershed.
June 2009: Commissioners delay a vote on whether to rezone the watershed because the county must notify the more than 300 residents who could be affected by the boundary change. SDD sues Durham County, alleging it has violated the company’s property rights and is attempting to undermine the development. SDD seeks at least $20,000 in damages and attorney fees. Durham County Attorney Chuck Kitchen announces his early retirement, but says it’s not because of the lawsuit in which he is named. The Haw River Assembly releases a new watershed survey that shows vastly different boundaries for the Jordan Lake watershed as compared with Hunter’s survey.
July 2009: Lewis Cheek, a former Durham County commissioner who voted in 2008 not to pay for an independent survey of Jordan Lake, joins K&L Gates, the law firm representing SDD and suing the county.
August 2009: Durham’s planning commission unanimously advises the county against changing the maps showing the Jordan Lake watershed.
October 2009: Residents near the Jordan Lake watershed file a protest petition with Durham County on the rezoning. A valid petition would require four of five commissioners to approve the rezoning for it to pass. But Durham Planning Director Steve Medlin says the petition is invalid because it lacks enough signatures. Durham commissioners vote 3-2 to redraw the watershed boundaries to match Hunter’s survey. The next day, LaDawna Summers resigns from the Durham Planning Commission, citing the county’s decision on the watershed as one of the reasons.
November 2009: Durham County Attorney Lowell Siler defends the county’s findings that the petition is invalid. But days later, Medlin announces his department was wrong and that the October protest petition is valid.
December 2009: A small group of signatories of the protest petition sue Durham County for its error in judging the protest petition. Days later, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning rules in favor of SDD in the other lawsuit, saying the map changes Duke made in 2006 to the Jordan Lake watershed are binding.
April 2010: Durham Planning Commission votes 11-1 against the county rezoning request that would allow SDD to build 751 South.
May 2010: Several property owners file another protest petition asking county commissioners not to grant SDD’s rezoning request. Some Chancellor’s Ridge residents ask their homeowners association to remove its signature from the petition or face legal action.
June 2010: Durham County commissioners defer the public hearing on whether to rezone the land to July 26.
July 2010: Medlin finds the May protest petition valid. On the same day, the N.C. Department of Transportation accepts a land gift from SDD that nullifies the valid protest petition on a technicality. Once N.C. DOT officials learn they have inadvertently interfered in a local rezoning case, they revoke their acceptance of the land gift from the developer. Durham County Attorney Lowell Siler requests a delay while he considers the legality of their actions.
August 2010: Siler announces that the N.C. DOT didn’t have the authority to rescind the land gift. Commissioners pass the development proposal 3-2. Opponents announce that they plan to sue Durham County and Siler for their decisions.
September 2010: Some opponents of the project and the Chancellor’s Ridge Homeowners Association challenge the August decision by county commissioners to rezone the land by filing an appeal to the Durham Board of Adjustment (PDF). They argue that the N.C. DOT effectively rejected the land gift from the developer and that their valid protest petition required that at least four commissioners had to approve the rezoning to make it valid.
October 2010: An attorney for the project’s opponents also files a civil complaint in Durham County Superior Court against Durham County arguing still that the commissioners needed an extra vote to lawfully rezone the land in light of the valid protest petition.
November 2010: Attorneys for the county, the opponents and SDD agree to drop the Board of Adjustment appeal (PDF) and agree to pursue the matter via Durham Superior Court.
December 2010: Just before the holidays, Durham City Council begins discussing the request by SDD that the city provide water and sewer services to its property and bring the land into the city limits through annexation. Council members agree to wait until a cost-benefit analysis is ready to further discuss giving the property water, sewer and other city services. Meanwhile, Durham’s county attorney files for two extensions on his response to the opponent’s civil lawsuit, saying his office is understaffed.
January 2011: Durham City Council votes 5-2 to include the SDD land in the Urban Growth Area, a necessary classification if the land is to be considered for water and sewer services. The council is expected to start discussing SDD’s annexation request within a few months.
April 2011: Durham’s budget department compiles a report on whether it would be feasible for the city to annex 751 South. The early projections look dismal.
May 2011: The developer reviews the city’s analysis and settles a few points of disagreement. Realizing it would likely be cost-prohibitive for the city to annex the project, the developer asks the city to consider merely extending water and sewer services to the site. Meanwhile, the lawsuit brought against Durham County by residents in Chancellor’s Ridge is scheduled to be heard in Superior Civil Court on Nov. 28, 2011.
June 2011: Durham City Council reviews the city’s cost-benefit analysis at a special meeting Monday, June 27. The city decides it needs more information on the costs of extending only water and sewer services to the property without annexing it. The council is expected to meet in August to receive the information.
July 2011: The lawsuit Chancellor’s Ridge Homeowners Association and some residents brought against Durham County for invalidating their protest petition goes to civil court. The case is delayed.
January 2012: Judge Henry Hight rules in favor of Durham County and Southern Durham Development in the civil lawsuit. Chancellor’s Ridge HOA and other plaintiffs say they’ll appeal.
February 2012: Durham City Council denies a request from SDD to provide water and sewer services to the project.