A citizens’ protest petition trumped a City Council vote Monday night, blocking a 300-unit apartment complex at Barbee Road and N.C. 54.
Council members went 5-2 in favor of a rezoning for the Meadows at Southpoint development, but the petition required a “supermajority” of six votes to pass.
Mayor Bill Bell and Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole McFadden cast the no votes.
“I’m voting against the project because I’ve listened more to the neighbors than to the developers,” said Bell.
Monday night’s vote came more than a year after the rezoning request was submitted, and then only after two hours and 20 minutes of comments, questions and discussion by the development team, neighbors, city staff members and council members about the project.
Worsening traffic congestion at the Barbee-N.C. 54 intersection was the neighbors’ primary objection to the Meadows plan, which included some road improvements along with the apartments, some storage units and rebuilding a gas station that has stood at the corner for more than 40 years.
The project’s defeat came two weeks after approval of two other residential projects in southwest Durham, where development has led to a call for rethinking the city and county’s vision for the area.
Meadows’s proposed site, a 49.8-acre tract, is recently timbered woodland other than the gas station and one house. Most of it is currently zoned for low-density residential development, the rest for offices.
Several council members said that, given south Durham’s growth, some kind of development at the site is inevitable.
“Given what is going to happen to this property eventually, I think this project is a very good one,” said Councilman Steve Schewel, who voted for rezoning along with Eugene Brown, Diane Catotti, Howard Clement and Don Moffitt.
Neighborhood objections remained although residents and the developers had met multiple times over the past two years, and the developers made numerous concessions to the neighbors’ concerns. At the council hearing, spokesmen for both sides said their relations had been productive.
“We’ve discussed with the neighbors from the outset, this development is to be a positive addition to their neighborhood,” said project engineer George Stanziale.
“Our visions for the site are still different,” said neighbor George Brine. “We prefer less traffic.”