Durham turns down Lick Creek development

Environmental, Neuse River Watershed, Sound Rivers, Stormwater, Stormwater Issues, Stormwater Runoff, Water Quality

Posted on April 25th, 2024

Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop takes a water sample at Lick Creek, part of her monthly sampling routine.

Last week, the Durham City Council voted to deny a development in the Lick Creek watershed, a sign things could be moving in the right direction, according to Neuse Riverkeeper Samantha Krop.

The construction of Wake Olive Apartments was proposed for 12.16 acres directly off of Wake Forest Highway, just north of Lick Creek. Two of the seven-member council voted in favor of the project.

“A lot of the reasoning was environmental concerns, and concerns about water quality,” Sam said. “Essentially, the city council members who voted against it cited that Durham should follow the vision of their comprehensive development plan, which really emphasizes responsible for development.”

Even during a dry period, some waterways in the Lick Creek watershed run red with sediment.

Sam was back in the field last week, doing routine sampling in the Lick Creek watershed in southeast Durham. Even though the area has recently seen very little rain, she said the same problem sites continue to have elevated sediment levels.

“These were the sites directly adjacent to significant land clearing for development,” she said.

Though the Durham Council has approved several large housing developments in the past year, Sam said she believes the tide is turning.

“I think our arguments are gaining headway,” she said. “The council members who have been historically on the fence and not responsive to environmental concerns are now paying attention and calling on developers to follow the comprehensive plan.”

Durham is currently updating its Universal Development Ordinance, a legally binding set of rules that regulates how physical development of land is allowed to occur in both the City and County.

“Durham’s UDO should include stronger protections for our creeks from these large developments, and the community can weigh in on that,” Sam said.

Next week, the technical consultant for Durham’s UDO rewrite will be presenting a project update at a special Joint City-County Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 1, at 9:30 a.m. in the Committee Room on the second floor of Durham City Hall, 101 City Hall Plaza.

For comparison: this creek is also in the Lick Creek watershed, but does not run by or through land that has been clear-cut for development.
Another creek runs clear, and that also makes clear the amount of sediment that’s been deposited in the creek by stormwater runoff from clear-cut land.

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