Former Durham city councilman and county commissioner Lewis Cheek died Tuesday. An attorney with K&L Gates, Cheek was 64.
Cheek, a graduate of Wake Forest University and its law school, began practicing law in Durham in 1976 and tried more than 50 jury trials. He was elected to the city council in 1999 and served one four-year term, his last two years as mayor pro tem.
In 2004, the year after leaving the council, Cheek won election to the Board of County Commissioners. Two years later he began a campaign for district attorney against incumbent Mike Nifong, but withdrew from the race before the election.
Cheek was open about struggles with depression and alcoholism that caused him to miss many commissioners’ meetings in 2007 as he underwent treatment. He did not seek re-election in 2008, but as a practicing attorney often representing developers he was a familiar figure before Durham’s elected boards on behalf of his clients.
Writing in the online guest book at Hall-Wynne funeral home, people remembered Cheek for the respect he showed to city employees, his skill as a Durham High School basketball player and his smile.
Project stirs opposition
A Chapel Hill citizens group charged the town council this week with betraying residents’ best interests by approving the Obey Creek project on U.S. 15-501 near Southern Village.
The project could include up to 800 apartments, 400 hotel rooms, roughly 1 million square feet of retail and offices, and at least 840,000 square feet of parking.
Residents have challenged the size – 10 buildings, from 70 feet to 155 feet tall – and the cost of providing services to the project compared with the expected revenues. At least 600 residents asked the council to consider smaller plans that could produce the same revenues but half the traffic.
David Schwartz, with the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, said council members “seemed disturbingly indifferent” to their concerns.
“If they had been willing to negotiate harder on behalf of the town residents’ own vision for Obey Creek, we might have ended up with a development agreement that better serves the public interest,” Schwartz said. “Now we’ll never know.”
The group has vowed to unseat council members over the decision but has not put forward any candidates. The filing period for the 2015 election starts July 6.
Political maneuvers in Apex
Carl Helton, a former Apex Town Council member and local businessman, has announced he’s running for council again – 16 years after he served on the board. Helton resigned his seat in 1999, citing health problems, according to News & Observer reports. He moved to Myrtle Beach, S.C., but said he has returned to Apex.
Meanwhile, Apex mayoral candidate Lance Olive has hired former state Rep. Tom Murry as his chief campaign consultant. Olive is a former Apex Town Council member. So far, his opposition for the mayor’s race includes current town council member Denise Wilkie. Mayor Bill Sutton, the town’s former town manager, has said he isn’t running to keep his seat.
Murry, of Morrisville, represented parts of Cary and Apex. He lost his seat in 2014 to Democrat Gale Adcock, who had been on the Cary Town Council. He was hired earlier this year as chief legal counsel for governmental affairs for the state Administrative Office of the Courts.
Compiled by T. Keung Hui, Tammy Grubb, Jim Wise and Will Doran.
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