The debate over a Publix-anchored shopping center and residential development will continue Tuesday before the Durham Planning Commission.
The commission’s 5:30 p.m. meeting includes a public hearing on a request to rezone 30 acres on the southeastern corner of Guess and Latta roads. The advisory board will make a recommendation to the City Council, which will make the final decision on the rezoning.
Supporters say they welcome more grocery store choices and retail spots, especially the high-end grocery store Publix.
Opponents are concerned about the shopping center upending their quality of life. The property is almost surrounded by neighborhoods and is next to the year-round Easley Elementary School. They also note there are four grocery stores within a short drive.
Halvorsen Development Corp. is asking to rezone the property from residential to allow a mixed-use development dubbed North River Village. The plan includes up to 90,000 square feet of commercial space on a 15-acre portion of the property. The Publix would take up about 45,000 square feet. Up to 60 single-family houses would be built on the remaining property.
Currently, the 30-acre property includes wooded land and houses, which would be demolished if the request is approved.
Keith LePage, 58, lives in the Lockhaven Hills neighborhood, off Latta Road next to the development site.
LePage said he and about 80 percent of his neighbors have many concerns, especially about a commercial development coming to an established residential area that long-term city planning has marked as low-density residential.
“What they are planning to put up totally flies in the face of this (Future Land Use map), and to just change it for something I don’t think we really need seems to be bad idea,” he said.
LePage points to four nearby grocery stores: two Food Lions, a Harris Teeter and a Kroger. He is concerned about an increase in traffic and the impact on Easley Elementary. His neighborhood is one of seven that has representation on the North Durham Quality Development Association, which opposes the project.
But other northern Durham residents say they want more grocery and retail options.
Stephen Lee, 57, who lives about two miles from the site, said south and central Durham are booming, while options in northern Durham remain limited.
“So it’s kind of nice to see some fresh development come to that area,” said Lee, 57.
Durham Planning Commissioner Tom Miller has expressed concern about the integration of the plan’s residential and commercial components.
“I am getting a lot of comments from members of the public who look at this as though it was an administrative approval for a Publix grocery store,” Miller said. “And that is the very thing that it is not. And so I want to write back and say, ‘if this was for a great big AutoZone combined with a big box pharmacy” would you be in favor of this rezoning?
“We have to discipline ourselves to think long-term,” Miller said.
Patrick Byker, an attorney for the developer, said the commercial development is integrated through walking paths and would be one of the few residential areas in northern Durham where people could walk to meet their shopping needs.
The developer has also offered to make traffic improvements and include a walking path to Easley Elementary if the school system wants it, he said.
“Let people choose,” Byker said. “I think if you look at northwest Durham there is an undeserved market of 30,000 to 45,000 people,” which extends into Orange County. Over the years, developers have built thousands upon thousands of homes, he said.
“And the closest retail establishments are quite a few miles away,” he said.
If you go
What: Durham Planning Commission meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: City Council chambers, 101 City Hall Plaza in downtown Durham