Sparks fly in Durham at city, county meeting on utilities policy

751 South at root of anger among council, commissioners

jwise@newsobserver.comNovember 13, 2012 

— Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden started to walk out of a meeting she was chairing Tuesday after a discussion among county commissioners and City Council members got personal.

The leaders were discussing the city’s new policies on annexations and extending utilities outside the city limits. Commissioners’ Chairman Michael Page said the City Council “disrespected” the commissioners when it approved the policies without consulting them.

“Truth be told I think this was underhandedly and sneakily handled,” Page said.

He had written City Council members to ask that they delay a vote, but the council went ahead as scheduled and approved the policies on Oct. 15.

Page said he learned about the proposed city policies from a developer, and claimed they were aimed at blocking the controversial 751 South development.

That led into a sharp exchange after a comment from City Councilman Mike Woodard.

“I’m sure you orchestrated with this as well,” Page said.

“How do you know that?” said Woodard.

“Because I know you,” said Page.

“Oh, my goodness, this is too much,” said Cole-McFadden, who had been trying to maintain order. “I’m out of here.” Declaring “we’re not in session,” Cole-McFadden stood and moved toward the door. After Page objected, she stopped.

“Now you all have gotten into arguments, this heated discussion,” she said. “It’s not professional. ... You called us sneaky, underhanded and I’m not going to sit here and tolerate it.”

The meeting resumed, but arguing continued.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted unanimously against extending utilities to the 751 South development site, on N.C. 751 near the Chatham County line. Subsequently, 751 South supporters in the General Assembly tried to take away Durham’s authority over water-sewer extensions outside the city but within its Urban Growth Area. The measure failed by a single vote in the state Senate in July.

The city then began reviewing its policies on utility extensions, annexation and zoning for property coming into its jurisdiction.

Wise: 919-641-5895

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