Environmentalists upset over lake watershed development

WAKE COUNTY At a public hearing on Monday, Wake County Board of Commissioners heard two very different interpretations of what a simple wording change could mean for Falls Lake - pitting the environment against developers.

An old concrete plant and lumber yard on Hwy 98 near Hwy 50 doesn't meet current environmental standards - heavily polluted run-off makes its way into Falls Lake, Raleigh's only source of drinking water.

A new proposal would let the owner of the plant re-develop the lot, bringing it closer to current standards, but not requiring it to meet current standards.

However, opponents say that would create a double standard.

"This would unfairly give this owner a ability to expand his site that would not be granted to other property owners," said Bob Mulder with the Watershed Protection Council.

But supporters say without the change that property and others could continue to pollute the lake indefinitely.

"We believe this proposal is a win-win for water quality and for the citizens of Wake County," proponent of change Lacy Reaves said.

The City of Raleigh sent a letter of protest to the Board of Commissioners and environmental groups were at Monday's meeting in force.

"If this were to pass, they could have a shopping center at this site, and these kind of commercial uses should not be allowed in the watershed," Mulder said.

"This proposal insidiously declares non-conforming uses to be conforming," said Sherry Johnson with the Watershed Protection Council.

When the comments were over, commissioners seemed upset that they hadn't been given all the information and sent the issue back to committee.

That means the concrete plant and lumber yard will sit a while longer - non-conforming and polluting Falls Lake.

They now have 60 days to come up with more information and a recommendation for commissioners.

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