Durham neighbors in historically Black community protest against construction of new high school

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Two years from now, the new Northern High school will sit along North Roxboro Road across 227 acres.

The problem is some families living in Old Farm, a historically Black community, don't want the 250,000-square-foot building in their backyard.

"Come to the Black neighborhood, do what you want to do and it will be OK. That's what it boils down to," said Cheryl Myers, a neighbor in Old Farm.

ABC11 met with neighbors on Monday fighting to block the project. Under the site plan, Old Well Street and Seven Oaks Road will be access points for school bus traffic.

"This is just not right," said former Durham City Councilwoman Cora Cole McFadden, a neighbor in Old Farm. "Somebody needs to halt this until they answer some questions."

Neighbors are concerned an elderly pedestrian living in the nearby senior community could also get hurt.

"We are being taken advantage of because we are older," said neighbor Gwen Pinnix.

The group also worries about extra vehicles parking in their neighborhood to walk over to a proposed baseball field behind their homes.

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Neighbors said when they tried to voice their concerns at a city-county planning meeting earlier this year, they were disregarded.

Last month, the Board of Adjustments in a 5-2 vote approved a special use permit for the $96 million project.

Documents show the board considered concerns such as environmental impacts, lighting issues, traffic and noise before making the decision.

"My concern is that when you do this to Black communities, you continue to rape us of the ability to provide generational wealth for our children. We have nothing to pass down when you take away our home values," said Tanya Exum-Coston, a neighbor in Old Farm.

Durham Public Schools responded in a statement saying:

DPS is building Northern High School in accordance with city ordinances and codes as well as state environmental requirements. In bringing our plans to the Board of Adjustment we presented plans to mitigate any impact to property values, health and safety, harmony with surroundings, and more. We are excited to bring this long-awaited facility to the Northern High School community, and we are committed to building a safe and welcoming facility that the neighborhood and broader community can be proud of.

The school is expected to be completed by fall 2023.
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