Halverson Response Letter to Initial Public Meeting, August, 2015

Dear Members of the Community:

We first want to thank all those who attended the neighborhood meeting last week.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the feedback we received.  

Going forward, we expect to have more meetings with you all, each with more information than the last.  We are very early in the development process at this point, so it is critical to get your input now.  We understand that we will not be able to make everyone happy, but our intent is to address as many community concerns as possible.  We will be in touch with you all to set up another meeting in the future.  Currently, we are anticipating our next meeting to be sometime between October 19 and October 29.

Also, as a follow up to the meeting, we have tried to organize the questions and concerns into various categories as listed below.

Traffic/Infrastructure:

What improvements will be made to Latta Road?

From Guess Road back towards Gatewood Drive, we anticipate that Latta will be upgraded to a three-lane cross-section so that persons turning south into the mixed use development or north on to Autumn Drive and Green Oak Drive will not impede through traffic.  In addition, there will be dual left-turn lanes from Latta on to south-bound Guess Road.  In addition, there will be a sidewalk along the south side of Latta Road for the extent of the mixed use project, which amounts to approximately 1,200 feet.

What can be done to alleviate problems at smaller roads that intersect with Latta?

We anticipate that road improvements on Latta Road will alleviate some of the congestion at the intersections of Latta and Autumn, Latta and Green Oak, and Latta and Gatewood.

Will there be more traffic signals along Latta?

We do not think that NCDOT will approve any additional traffic signals east of Guess Road since we expect that the traffic volume will not warrant a new signal to the east of Guess Road.  We will continue to investigate this issue with our on-going traffic study, and have a further update at our next neighborhood meeting in October.

What can be done about cut-through traffic?

Our team thinks that by increasing the capacity on Latta Road, people would be incentivized to stay on Latta Road and disincentivized to cut through smaller neighborhood roads.  

What can be done to alleviate problems at smaller roads that intersect with Latta?

Similar to the cut-through traffic problem, we anticipate that road improvements on Latta Road may alleviate some of the issues at Latta’s intersections with smaller roads.

Are you open to providing for traffic calming devices?

Our team will investigate the feasibility of installing traffic calming devices at appropriate locations north of Latta Road.

Does the traffic study take into account school drop-off and dismissal times?

The required traffic study looks primarily at the AM and PM “peak hours” which are considered to be 7 AM to 9 AM and 4 PM to 6 PM.  However, we will investigate if there are other improvements that can assist traffic flow at Easley Elementary during drop-off and dismissal times.

Will delivery trucks be making use of Latta Road and if so, are the bridge and/or pavement capable of handling that load?

Our team is evaluating these issues and will have an update at our next neighborhood meeting in October.

Property Value:

How will property value for houses directly abutting the development be affected?

We cannot say for certain; however, our data indicates that the list price-to-sale price ratios for homes near mixed use shopping centers in North Carolina are in the 97%-99% range, which is very good.  Moreover, the days-on-market range is 75-120 in these studied areas, which suggests that the homes in fairly close proximity to retail services are desirable.  We will continue to evaluate this issue and we will try to present additional information at our next neighborhood meeting in October.

How does this development affect property tax assessments in the vicinity of the mixed use development?

The proposed mixed use development will not affect your property tax assessment that Durham County is working on currently in relation to the county-wide revaluation.

Have the effects on property values for neighborhoods specifically near a Publix shopping center been studied?

No.  Publix has not been in North Carolina long enough for this type of study to be conducted in the state.  We will try to get more information on this using sales data for communities near Publix shopping centers in other states.

Environmental:

What is being done to protect the Eno River and other resources?

Durham’s environmental regulations are some of the most protective in the State of North Carolina.  For example, post-development runoff for the 1-year storm from the site can be no greater than pre-development.  At this stage, we cannot give you specifics on what stormwater management devices will be installed, but we will continue to analyze this issue and we will try to have more complete information at the next neighborhood meeting in October.

What happens to the wildlife at the development location?

No federally protected species were found within the development area.  Wildlife that is there would likely be displaced by development.

How are trash and debris from the businesses going to be managed?

This is a major concern for both Halvorsen Development  and Publix as a site with litter is unappealing.  Both have high standards for cleanliness and appearance.  

How will light pollution be managed?

The developer will follow the Durham Unified Development Ordinance with regard to lighting.  We will provide more details in regard to this issue at the next neighborhood meeting in October.

Will dumpster pickup times be regulated so as not to disturb the residential areas and school operation?

The development team will take commercially reasonable steps to make sure dumpster pick up does not disturb either nearby residents or Easley Elementary.

School Impact:

How many more children are expected to come to the area as a result of the development?

We need to obtain more data in order to address this issue.  Generally speaking, townhomes do not generate many new students.  As we have indicated, we are anticipating about 70 dwelling units; however, the exact mix of townhomes to single family homes has not been determined.  We will provide further information on this issue at our next neighborhood meeting in October.

How will Easley Elementary and other local schools handle the influx of new students?

Again, we do not know at this time how many new students are expected in the area as a result of this development.  We will work on evaluating this before our next neighborhood meeting in October.

What steps will be taken during construction to ensure the safety of school children?

Safety is of the utmost importance during the construction phase.  Appropriate measures will be taken, whether it is fencing or other security measures.

Will there be fencing between the development and the school property?

The development will be designed with appropriate safety measures to ensure that the students and staff at the school property are protected.  We hope to have additional information on this issue to share at our next neighborhood meeting in October.  

Is it possible to make sure that deliveries do not occur during Easley Elementary drop off or pick up times?

The development team will work on this issue and present its findings at the next neighborhood meeting in October.

Good Neighbor:

What will hours of operation be at Publix and the rest of the shops in the development?

We do not know the specific hours of operations; however, Publix does not operate 24 hours.  We also do not know what other restaurants and shops will be within the proposed mixed use development at this time.  We will evaluate this and provide an update at the next neighborhood meeting in October.

Why does this area need another grocer?

Both Halvorsen and Publix have studied the area and believe it to be underserved, particularly with regard to a quality grocer with the stature of Publix.  Moreover, this development is not just a grocery store.  North Durham lacks a mixed-use community with the level of accessibility to goods and services that this development will provide.

Rather than develop vacant land, why not make use of empty retail space?

Again, this development is not solely about the grocery store.  Publix is a key element of the development; however, there are many other components to this development.  Moreover, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to incorporate elements like an extensive network of sidewalks and quality open spaces in an already existing shopping center.  By our assessment, those vacant retail spaces are vacant for a reason, such as poor tenant mix or locational challenges.

What type of landscaping will there be at the development, especially along Guess Road?

The developer is bound by the Durham Unified Development Ordinance.  We are working diligently to create a landscaping plan and will share that at our next neighborhood meeting in October.  

Are there rental properties planned in the residential portion?

No.  

What is being done to prevent crime in the area?

In our experience, high-quality mixed use developments deter crime by bringing more active neighbors to the area in order to increase observation and reporting of any suspicious activity.

How extensive will the sidewalk network be, particularly along Latta?

The development will provide a new, approximately 1,200 foot long sidewalk on Latta along our development’s boundary.  There also will be a network of sidewalks within the development representing one of its key features as a mixed use development.  Outside of the development, we are limited to what we can commit to as we will not own any land beyond the development.  

Does the proposed mixed use development comply with Durham’s Comprehensive Plan?

The proposed mixed use development complies with the Durham Comprehensive Plan.  According to Policy 2.3.1g of the Durham Comprehensive Plan, a Mixed Use development is compatible with any Future Land Use designation in every tier except the Rural Tier.  This project is located in the Suburban Tier.  Therefore, only a rezoning is required and no amendment to the Durham Comprehensive Plan is necessary. 


NDQDA RESPONSE TO THIS LETTER:

While a written response is a kind gesture, discussing elements of a plan which are not committed and currently fictional (sidewalks, buffers, dumpsters) does not assist the neighbors.  Pushing most answers to “another meeting time” is also not helpful and a cause of concern regarding thorough planning of this project.  The addressed elements – sidewalks, fencing, Publix, Easley impact, dumpster pick up times, street improvements and more – are not committed at this time and most depend on contracts with a third party which are not fully executed at this time.  Thus, a letter of this nature provides no meaning at this time.