A yard sign in the Old West Durham that is against a proposed neighborhood protection overlay. Residents will have a chance to discuss potential changes to the neighborhood’s zoning at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night. Zachery Eanes The Herald-Sun
A yard sign in the Old West Durham that is against a proposed neighborhood protection overlay. Residents will have a chance to discuss potential changes to the neighborhood’s zoning at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night. Zachery Eanes The Herald-Sun

Business

Why this Durham neighborhood wants to make it harder to build new homes

By Zachery Eanes

zeanes@heraldsun.com

November 07, 2017 06:00 AM

DURHAM

The Old West Durham neighborhood will have concrete proposals to debate when its neighborhood association meets Wednesday to consider new building restrictions.

Residents will gather at 7 p.m. at E.K. Powe Elementary School to review the first draft of a potential neighborhood protection overlay (NPO), which would limit property owners’ ability to build or renovate homes in the neighborhood.

The first draft, posted at bit.ly/2zo0pWz, would limit the size of new homes or additions, a move aimed at reducing the number of old homes being demolished in the neighborhood.

“A lot of this revolved around the concern of teardowns and the replacement of old mill houses and historic structures with these really big houses that were being funded by outside developers,” said Dan Welch, who helped write the draft. “It’s an increasing trend.”

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Welch, who has lived in the neighborhood off and on since 1998, said new and larger construction projects have raised property values and rents in Old West Durham. About eight homes have been torn down for much larger structures this year, he said.

Many of the concerned residents are renters who have seen their monthly bills increase. “More than 50 percent (of residents) rent and are sensitive to cost considerations,” Welch said.

The potential borders of the neighborhood protection overlay in the Old West Durham neighborhood.
City of Durham

The potential NPO would apply to the more than 400 properties within the proposed borders of Ninth Street to the east, Englewood Avenue to the north and Hillsborough Road to the south and west.

The overlay’s roots date to 2012, when signatures were first gathered. The association applied to create an NPO in 2014, but it wasn’t until this year that the process picked up momentum.

The draft introduces five regulations for construction in the neighborhood:

▪ A maximum ratio of heated square footage to total lot size of 30 percent, including any garage or accessory dwelling unit.

▪ A maximum building height of 30 feet

▪ A maximum lot area of 12,000 square feet and a minimum lot width of 50 feet

▪ A mandate of at least one canopy tree between the rear wall of a primary structure and the rear property line

▪ Restrictions on the size of parking areas and driveways on a property

But support is not universal.

In recent months, signs for and against the NPO have sprouted in the neighborhood. Many of the signs against the NPO have been placed by Jeff Monsein, a significant property owner and landlord in the neighborhood.

Monsein’s properties – many of which house structures larger than neighboring homes – are often identified as targets of the regulations in the neighborhood listserv.

“I think it is a terrible idea,” Monsein said of the NPO. “I think it is going to hurt property values. People that own property don’t know what they are asking for.”

Monsein believes the restrictions will restrict further investment and interest in the neighborhood as well as capping potential growth in property tax revenue for the city.

“They are trying to make it more restrictive,” he said. “It’s more government intrusion and more people telling other people what to do, despite how much property taxes they pay – and I pay $250,000 to $300,000 per year.”

Monsein said he will be attending Wednesday meeting, which should draw higher attendance than the two neighborhood meetings that were held earlier this year before details were available.

The NPO is still far away from being applied to the neighborhood. If a set of regulations for the NPO are agreed upon by the neighborhood association, it will also have to go before the city’s planning department and eventually the City Council for approval.

This is the third Durham neighborhood to apply for an NPO. In 2007, the Tuscaloosa-Lakewood neighborhood adopted one. Around that same time, an effort fizzled out in the Hope Valley neighborhood.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes