Durham residents against Publix gear up for zoning war

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A group protesting Publix's plans to build in Durham made noise in the streets ahead of the zoning meeting.

Publix wants to build its newest grocery store in Durham, but some people are fighting against that. A group of parents and their children taking their argument to the corner where it could all happen.

Monday evening, a crowd of about a dozen stood on the corner of Guess and Latta roads in North Durham with signs and drums, shouting "no rezoning" at passing drivers.

The lot is about 30 acres and full of trees. It's currently zoned for single family homes, so residents nearby knew the wooded area might not be permanent, but they don't want the land to go to commercial use.

That's what is up for discussion for the Durham Planning Commission, which is considering recommending that the lot be rezoned for commercial and residential use. Publix is already raising its hand saying it wants in. Monday night, residents nearby took to the street to say no.


"Everyone I've spoken to is upset," said Roxanne Vanfarowe, who said she has lived in the area for eight years. "We feel like it will ruin the character of the neighborhood, that there will be more traffic, and it's just not something that we need."

Another resident said the Harris Teeter just a few minutes' drive away is enough and that there are enough stores nearby.

"We used to live downtown and we had a great time there but having kids we wanted to move somewhere where it was a bit quieter," said William Richards. "We're not underserved by grocery stores, we're not underserved by shopping."


The chair of the Durham Planning Commission, Elaine Hyman said they have been hearing from many residents with similar complaints of traffic concerns and even pollution concerns. But they've also heard from supporters.

"Being raised here, graduating from Northern High School, we feel like the growth in this area has been very stagnant," said Jeff Bright, who supports the move to commercial. "We thought this proposed new development would bring life to our area."

He said he welcomes more grocery options and looks forward to the possibility of restaurants closer to home. He also said he's not concerned with any possibilities of increased traffic.

Durham's planning commission is scheduled to discuss rezoning at its February 14 meeting.

Planning commissioners say the developers of the land do have a plan to ease traffic congestion, but those against the proposed project fear it won't be enough.

Overall, planning commissioners say they have heard more for people in favor of the development than not, but welcome more people to weigh in during their Tuesday night meeting in City Council chambers starting at 5:30 p.m.

The planning commission can only recommend or not recommend the rezoning to the City Council, which will ultimately make the decision on the rezoning.

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