Durham Publix faces zoning debate, resident opposition

Andrea Blanford Image
Friday, December 30, 2016
A Publix battle looms in a Durham neighborhood
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A rezoning debate is shaping up as Publix plans its first Durham location.

DURHAM, North Carolina (WTVD) -- A day after Publix Super Markets announced it was bringing a new store to Durham, the first for the Bull City, city officials are telling ABC11 the process is far from over.

The proposed development, Publix at North River Village, requires rezoning approval from the Durham City Council before it could be built at the corner of Guess and Latta roads in north Durham.

Steve Medlin, Durham Planning Department Director said the rezoning request has been pending for nearly a year.

While Publix announced Wednesday it executed a lease on a new store at that location, Medlin said the city's planning commission still needs to make a recommendation to the council which would then vote on whether to rezone the area from residential to commercial use.


"To change that to commercial would drastically change the nature of our community," said Josie McNeil, a member of the North Durham Quality Development Association, which has been fighting the rezoning proposal since its inception.

"This 30 acres is really close to the Eno River parklands and I'm worried about water quality," said McNeil. "I'm worried about wildlife habitat. I'm worried about noise. I'm worried about light pollution. I'm worried about traffic."

McNeil also noted the proximity to Easley Elementary School, currently situated away from heavy traffic, buffered by woods.

"We've got two Food Lions, we've got a Harris Teeter, we've got a Kroger," said Debby Leonard, as she listed off the grocery stores already conveniently close to the Lattamoore subdivision that sits across the intersection from where the proposed commercial mixed-use development would go.

She's lived in Lattamoore for nearly two decades as the development's first resident.

"I watched the whole development from start to finish, and I guess that's why I'm so passionate about keeping it like it is," she said.

Leonard added many retirees live in Lattamoore and chose to live there because of how quiet the neighborhood is.

"That intersection will be clogged up with cars," she said. "It already is without the development."

Some residents said they're in favor of a Publix moving in.

"I think anytime you bring infrastructure in that's nice like that, it actually adds value to a house," said David Fields, who's been living in his mother-in-law's home in Lattamoore.

Yet Medlin said, should the city council approve rezoning, it isn't guaranteed that Publix would be the anchor store in the development. He said while the development's design is compliant with city ordinance and other policies, his department is concerned it doesn't align with the comprehensive plan which is aimed at limiting strip mall developments.

"There's so many places, strip shopping centers, that start out beautifully and then they fail and then there's empty spaces and we have those already in north Durham," Leonard said. "Why do we want more?"

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

After that, Medlin said the commission will have 90 days to make a recommendation to city council. Medlin said the city council could make a decision as early as April, or as late as August.