Two weeks ago, we published the third installment in a four-part series from writer Matt Hartman on Durham’s upcoming municipal election. The story focused on the issues of housing, development, and gentrification and how the developer-proposed SCAD amendments could shape the mayoral and city council races. Our readers had thoughts.

From reader, former Durham deputy city attorney, and current city council at-large candidate Sherri Zann Rosenthal, via email:

One of the problems with SCAD, the private developer proposal to re-write Durham’s development ordinance, is that there are many devils in the details. Even provisions that its supporters promote as being “new urbanist” turn out to be problematic.

One example is the provision touted by developer Aaron Lubeck as “limiting” some parcels to 20,000 square feet. In face-to-face meetings, Jim Anthony, Lubeck and Bob Chapman tried to say this would allow “neighborhood coffee shops”. Coffee shops are typically about 3,000-5,000 square feet. Worse, the way this “20,000 limit” provision is actually written would allow many such parcels to be linked up. By pencilling in lot lines of 20,000 square feet or less, a strip mall could comply. 

When I said to Jim Anthony that the 20,000 square feet didn’t match the kinds of small scale commercial they were talking about, his response was, “It’s really about providing the most flexibility to the developer.” 

According to the Planning Director, the only person who can change any of the text language is the developer/applicant, Jim Anthony. At our meetings, during which the Durham Interneighborhood Council team provided a list 22 problematic sections, there was no offer by Anthony to clarify ambiguous language or engage collaboratively with  a rewrite. 

During these meetings, I offered twice to write a straight-forward text amendment that would enable small-scale new urbanist development. There was zero response or even acknowledgment from Anthony or his team. My offer to draft this for free should have been of interest, since I am the former deputy city attorney. However, I don’t think they have any real interest in new urbanism, in walkable/bikeable/sustainable development. I believe that’s a smoke screen for what they really want: to deregulate most residential development and avoid reviews for emergency service, storm water, preservation of trees, etc. 

Thank you for the article, especially to Matt Hartman for his work. However, the article would have been better if there was specific counterpoint included to Aaron Lubeck’s sales pitch.

Be sure to check out the final installment in Hartman’s series on page 5 that asks four crucial questions heading into early voting for the municipal primary this week.

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