Fire substation dealt a blow

Staff WriterDecember 13, 2006 

— A plan to build a fire substation in Bahama hit a snag Tuesday when the Durham Planning Commission voted against it.

The commission, an advisory body, voted 7-3 against a rezoning required for the construction of a 2,733-square-foot substation on Stagville Road.

The project could still win approval. The Durham County Board of Commissioners has the final say on it.

But Tuesday's decision is clearly a blow to the project, put forth by the Bahama Volunteer Fire Department.

Several commission members said they weren't convinced that the station is needed, citing the fire department's claim that it will benefit some residents and nearby businesses through insurance breaks.

"There's a part of me that's saying it shouldn't be insurance rates driving this," commission member Wendy Jacobs said.

Len Needham, the department's chief, said the insurance rates were just one reason, emphasizing that response times to homes in the area would likely drop by half.

In October, the commission delayed a vote on the project for two months, asking the fire department to talk to residents and try to find some common ground. Needham said Tuesday night he hadn't been able to find the time to meet with residents.

Some commission members didn't care for that explanation.

"We're dealing with high-level officials here, and they don't have the time to meet with the people who would be impacted," Jackie Brown said. "I am so disappointed. We gave you not 30 days, but 60 days to meet with those neighbors."

Needham on Tuesday did offer changes to the project designed to assuage some residents' concerns. He pledged to move the location of the site 250 feet southeast of its original, proposed location, farther from many homes in one nearby Treyburn neighborhood.

He also presented correspondence to the commission that he said showed he had attempted to persuade some of the large companies in Treyburn Corporate Park to donate a piece of land, but he had no luck.

That disappointed Don Moffitt, the commission's chairman.

"My unhappiness is reserved for the industrial owners," he said. "All of these industrial owners stand to benefit ... but none of them have stepped up to the plate."

Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com.

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