Bull City Politics: People’s Alliance wants council to vote yes on light-rail rezoning

A GoTriangle illustration of a Durham-Orange Light Rail stop.
A GoTriangle illustration of a Durham-Orange Light Rail stop. Contributed

The group that endorsed the mayor and almost all the Durham City Council members now wants their yes vote on a key rezoning for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project.

On Monday night, the City Council will vote on a rezoning that GoTriangle needs to build a rail operations and maintenance facility in Southwest Durham for the 17.7-mile light rail project. Neighbors want the council to vote against it.

The board of the Durham People’s Alliance issued a statement Friday calling for the council to approve the rezoning. It called the light-rail project a “key building block of progressive economic growth.”

“We appreciate the efforts of Go Triangle to address neighborhood concerns regarding traffic, the commitment to enhance the nearby roadways by widening Farrington Road to provide a 5-foot bike lane, as well as the other commitments made in the Development Plan,” the People’s Alliance board wrote. “We also appreciate the analysis and information shared addressing other concerns such as noise and light, impervious surface and stormwater runoff, and contaminants and chemicals.”

But some residents of Prescott Place, Culp Arbor, Trenton and other neighborhoods near the proposed rail yard don’t want it at all.

Parents at nearby Creekside Elementary School have said they don’t want it near a school.

“Durham has plenty of industrial zones — this is not one of them for a reason,” said Andrew Johnson, a Creekside parent.

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The People’s Alliance board supports the location “due to the two-year analysis confirming this location as the least environmentally damaging location of the five location alternatives,” they wrote. “We know that this site offers the best location to provide the buffers and mitigation needed to minimize potential impacts.”

The public will have a chance to speak during the council’s public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, at City Hall.

The People’s Alliance’s political action committee endorsed Mayor Steve Schewel, Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson, and council members DeDreana Freeman, Vernetta Alston and Charlie Reece in their most recent elections.

People's Alliance
People’s Alliance buttons photographed during its 2017 Durham municipal election endorsement meeting. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@heraldsun.com

It also endorsed member Javiera Caballero, who was appointed to the council this year. Member Mark-Anthony Middleton was endorsed by another city PAC, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. He was recommended for a PA endorsement by the PAC’s committee but a vote at an endorsement meeting went with John Rooks, who later lost the election to Middleton.

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Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan covers Durham government and live tweets meetings on Twitter at @dawnbvaughan and #BullCitypol. Bull City Politics is an occasional Durham politics column that takes you inside City Hall.

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