Durham City Council OKs in-town farming

jwise@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2013 

Commercial crop farming everywhere in Durham won City Council approval Monday night.

Council members also said they want more changes in the city code to advance urban agriculture, such as allowing fish farming and commercial compost production and sale in residential areas.

Further code changes, and a timeline for drafting them, are due for discussion by a committee of council members and county commissioners April 3.

“There’s an old saying in farming, ‘You have to plow to the end of the row,’” said Councilman Eugene Brown. “But we’ve made enough progress we can move forward.”

The farm bill was one of two items the council approved with the intention of changing them later.

Members also voted to amend parts of the Unified Development Ordinance to comply with state law, but directed the planning department to immediately start working on changes to the changes.

The UDO changes raised some public alarm, particularly over apparent exclusion of citizens’ opportunity to comment on some development proposals, such as cell-phone towers in residential areas.

“I’m very sensitive to this proposed cell-tower piece,” said Mayor Bill Bell.

Planning Director Steve Medlin said his staff could have proposed changes by fall. In the meantime, the planning department will issue public notices of any cell-tower applications even though they are not required by law.

In other business Monday:

The council unanimously rejected rezoning a Guess Road property whose owner and neighbors have been at odds for almost two years.

Nickolaos Bourbous wanted to change his property at 2125 Guess Road from office to commercial zoning, claiming that the current zoning had made leasing it difficult and left his building a vacant haven for criminals and squatters.

But extended negotiations with residential neighbors over measures to protect their property values and quality of life had failed to resolve their differences.

“There’s no guarantee that new zoning would bring in new tenants,” said Tom Miller, speaking for the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association. “The zoning that governs (the property) is the best zoning and has been since 1969. Why would you mess with that?”

Wise: 919-641-5895

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