The story of Rolling Hills

Thanks for Samiha Khanna’s insightful piece on the Rolling Hills subdivision, appropriately entitled “An epic embarrassment” (Oct. 7). It is crucial to learn from these mistakes.

In August 1995, the Durham City Council voted for a second time to redevelop Rolling Hills. This decision was prudent and understandable based upon the history of this neighborhood, Hayti, and the need for affordable housing.

Unfortunately, in choosing the developer, the council made a political decision and not a business one. With intense lobbying by the Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the NAACP, the $860,000 city loan was given to the Southeast Durham Development Corporation (SDDC). The money was to be used for land acquisition, site development and construction of 56 single-family homes. Construction was to be completed and the loan satisfied by August 1998. By the fall of 1999, only 10 of the 56 homes had been built.

The SDDC was headed by Larry and Denise Hester, who had little experience in such a large redevelopment project. Their mismanagement proved to be a disaster, yet when their inept attempts went south, they blamed the city staff for their “delay tactics” and “racist actions.”

As a result, City Manager Lamont Ewell decided that an investigation by an impartial third party was required. Wood and Francis PLLC of Raleigh was engaged. They conducted interviews and examined more than 6,000 documents. Since the Hesters refused to release any financial information, the report was more difficult to complete, and the cost to the city went from $25,000 to $40,000. Its conclusion: The Hesters’ 12 allegations were found to be meaningless and simply an attempt to cover up their own shortcomings.

Council decisions have consequences and, in this case, the City of Durham lost $900,000 and, just as importantly, Durham families, primarily African-American, were denied the opportunity for safe, decent, affordable housing.

Eugene A. Brown
Durham City Council

Common cents by the drop

Common sense seemed nowhere to be found Oct. 12, when Durham County Commissioners Brenda Howerton, Joe Bowser and Michael Page voted in favor of weaker Jordan Lake boundaries in a case that begins to pave the way for a developer to profit by building on land far too close to the lake (“Jordan Lake has boundary issues,” Oct. 14). Jordan Lake is a drinking water source for neighboring counties. Every one of us learned from our parents or pastors that common decency calls each of us to treat our neighbors like we would want to be treated. Yet Durham’s ordinances already didn’t afford the drinking water for neighboring counties with the same protection as our own current water supply, Lake Michie. This case adds to the problem. One day soon, polluted Jordan Lake is going to be a drinking water supply for our children here in Durham as well.

Common sense would say that since Commissioners Bowser and Howerton are on the record as having received considerable campaign contributions from some of those profiting from the new development, they should have recused themselves from the case. They claim that the new neighborhood and shopping center will bring tax revenue. However, common sense says that the tax revenue brought in by these types of poorly located developments can’t even begin to offset the estimated $570 million we and our children will be paying in order to clean up Jordan Lake and bring it into compliance with clean water regulations.

Our tax dollars are our common centsour hard-earned money. The heritage we’re leaving our children and grandchildren is a polluted drinking water source and the extreme expense of cleaning it up. Common sense says that unless we as citizens stand up and speak out, we’ll share in common the responsibility for having senselessly let it happen, drop by drop.

LaDawnna Summers


Editor’s Note: The writer resigned from Durham’s Planning Commission Oct. 13 in protest.

Good Hair styling

Props to Neil Morris for the puns in his article on Chris Rock’s documentary about black hairstyles (“The essence of beauty,” Oct. 21). I counted at least three”cut,” “kinks” and “weaves,” all styled without strain. You have great writers!

Mark Sigmon

Refuting Cook

The numerous misleading statements in Sharon Cook’s self-promotional Back Talk letter of Oct. 21 demand correction.

Claim: Cook “made sure new developments maximize the ability of students to walk and bike to school.” Fact: Carrboro is known for its emphasis on pedestrian facilities and in 2001 was the first N.C. town to be officially recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community. However, we cannot make developers do more than required by our land use ordinance. Ms. Cook has certainly never “made” any developer do anything in this regard.

Claim: Cook stood with farmers threatened by town rules. Fact: Recently, a group of farmers expressed concern that the town might implement a “farm code.” We assured them that there is no such thing as a farm code in North Carolina, and we had no intention of imposing one. Where did this idea come from? Sharon Cook, in October 2008, publicly faulted the town for not having a farm code and insisted we should develop one. Thus, she managed to be both the source of the “threat” and the self-proclaimed defender from it. (For more on this point, see

Claim: Cook “pleaded with the current board not to place additional waste facilities [near Rogers Road]”. Fact: The board not only has no such plan, we do not handle waste facilities. That is the county’s job.

Claim: Cook said “community gardens … cost more than half a million dollars.” Fact: Community gardens in Carrboro are situated on park land that is not otherwise in use. The cost to the town is inconsequential. The benefit to the community, including participants in the Smart Start Healthy Kids program, is significant.

Electoral challengers can be expected to offer a critical perspective on the status quo. But to do so in a misleading manner is a disservice to the citizenry.

Dan Coleman
Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Shoe leather for Czjkowski

I have two urgent requests of every registered voter. First, please vote! Less than 20 percent of us will do so. Your future is now! Second, please vote for Matt Czjkowski for mayor. We need his leadership skills to find solutions to the problems of our town today and in the next few years. Enough of Carolina North. Matt brings experience, sincerity, honesty and directness to the table and will seek solutions to the challenges before us. Dedicate your shoe leather to go and vote for Matt Czjkowski. Do it today. You are needed. Thanks for being an active member of our town.

Don Boulton
Chapel Hill

Kleinschmidt for all of us

Reading the Oct. 21 Chapel Hill News, it is clear that Mark Kleinschmidt is the best choice for mayor. Compare Kleinschmidt’s comments regarding tougher anti-panhandling rules”I’ve never been attracted to solutions that take a group of people, no matter who they are, and say, ‘We don’t want you here.’”to Czajkowski’s”If the system supports panhandlers or homelessness we have to re-examine that.”

Panhandlers and homelessness are produced by our system. The least we can do as fellow human beings is to be empathetic, compassionate and helpful, not cold, heartless and selfish. While I appreciate that panhandlers can indeed make us “uncomfortable,” especially with our children, the answer is to work toward a more equal society, not move toward discrimination and criminalizing poverty! War, foreclosures, unemployment and violence are far more uncomfortable than someone asking for some change.

Kleinschmidt has experience and cares about all of us. Czajkowski says he is a “leader for the entire community,” but it seems he only cares about those of us comfortable in our homes and will be sure that “our” property taxes do not go up. I would pay more taxes if it would go to help the poor. Vote for Kleinschmidt!

elin o’Hara slavick
Chapel Hill

Lee for school board

Please join me in voting for Christine Lee for school board. Christine wants all children to reach their potential; seeks to recruit and retain high-quality teachers; and encourages parental involvement.

You may have already crossed paths with Christine. She has served on School Improvement teams, Governance and Strategic Planning committees and parent booster clubs. Her children attend Chapel Hill schools. In addition to serving the school district, Christine is a practicing physician.

Please vote for Christine Nov. 3. Her dedication to our community will cultivate a top-notch school district that serves every child.

Barbara Gittleman
Chapel Hill

Rolling (down) Hills

I wanted to respond to the article about the downfall of the Rolling Hills subdivision located near downtown Durham off East Lakewood Avenue (“An epic embarrassment,” Oct. 7). What was once one of Durham’s elite neighborhoodsloaded with townhouses and patio houses and people driving nice cars and suchhas been in a state of decay for the past 20 years. It is an eyesore to drive past the neglected homes boarded up and the unfinished construction that has been sitting there for years and no one has done absolutely nothing about it. The Durham City Council let Rolling Hills get that way, and no wonder it is a total disgrace. And it has been that way since the original residents got the hell out of there quick before it became a breeding ground of homeless people, drug addicts and gang activity, all within a stone’s throw from downtown Durham near the city’s notorious Southside section of town. The houses have been vacant for some time now, and you can see construction pieces lying around from houses that are still in construction. This is an embarrassment for the city, and it doesn’t make any sense for folks like myself, who every day drive past Lakewood Avenue going toward Fayetteville Street, to see a bunch of townhouses and condos boarded up like crap sitting on top of a hill overlooking downtown.

Raymond George
Chapel Hill

Cook thinks independently

During her confirmation hearings, Judge Sotomayer stated that we come to the best decisions when a diversity of voices is included in the discussion. Carrboro residents deserve a Town Board that makes the best decisions for all of us who live in this great town. Sharon thinks independently. Your vote for Sharon Cook for Carrboro Aldermen will assure that the questions necessary to help make our town the best it can be are raised and considered. Visit to find out how she’s already worked hard to improve our community.

Patty Williams

Christine Lee deserves our support

As a 24-year veteran of high school teaching in Chapel High and mother of four graduates, I enthusiastically encourage everyone to vote for Christine Lee for School Board. Christine’s many, many contributions to our schools are way too numerous to list. Please check them out at

Anyone who knows Christine will tell you that everything she does is marked by thoughtfulness, determination, tact and grace. She accomplishes so much because of her remarkable ability to work harmoniously with everyone without compromising her principles. She will devote dynamism, experience and wisdom in service to every child.

Betsy Dawson
Chapel Hill

Kleinschmidt is the best choice

There has been a lot of talk about who would be the sensible choice for Town of Chapel Hill Mayor during this election season, but who is the best choice? Mark Kleinschmidt, an eight-year veteran of the town council and the only registered Democrat in the race, is the best choice.

Not only has Kleinschmidt shown that he has a propensity to advocate for fairness in his professional life, he is also the only mayoral candidate participating and certified in the Town of Chapel Hill Voter Owned Elections program, which seeks to minimize the influence of money in elections. With this program, an individual can only contribute in the amount of $5 to $20 and a candidate may not “loan” themselves a large sum of money. (Kleinschmidt donated $20 to his campaign.) This helps to even the playing field so that all residents of Chapel Hill may have an equal voice. He has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, the UNC Young Democrats and the Indy.

If you are fed up with people buying power and want to see Chapel Hill’s growth managed in a responsible way, cast your vote for Mark Kleinschmidt for mayor. Kleinschmidt is more than a sensible choice, he is the best choice.

Andrew Scharfenberg
Chapel Hill