Durham planning commission votes against zoning for city's first Publix

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) -- There's now a potential road block for a proposed Publix store in Durham.

Tuesday night a planning commission voted 11-2 against supporting the zoning change, now leaving the decision up to city council.

The proposed store would go at the intersection of Guess and Latta roads, which is currently zoned for housing.

The Publix would be the first in the Bull City, but it's getting push back.

One of the commissioners called this one of the most contentious issues he's seen.

People have been writing and calling city officials for and against the Publix for more than a month.

Tuesday night some serious questions were raised about whether the project will go forward.

Roxanne Vanfarowe has been working for a while against the planned store.

She put signs up in her yard and near the intersection of Guess and Latta roads.

"There's lots of options for grocery stores. Another grocery store is not needed," Vanfarowe said.

She's opposing a plan to rezone the land at the intersection from residential to mixed-use.

If approved, the zoning change could lead to Durham getting its first Publix supermarket.

The chain recently has been making inroads in the region, opening stores in Cary, Apex and Wake Forest.

"And we are concerned if the development goes through there would be more traffic," one opponent said.

But, some neighbors welcome it.

"Having another grocery store would help. There's nothing on this side on Guess Road. Everything is over on Roxboro Road," said Earl Gatling.

People packed into a planning commission meeting Tuesday night.

Vanfarowe made her case, calling the project a "potential traffic nightmare."

Attorneys and other people working for the development talked about the benefits of the store.

"We believe we've followed the rules. We believe this is a first-class project, and we've put this out there for everyone to see," said Patrick Byker, an attorney for the developer.

But, most commissioners were not convinced, concerned about the impact to neighbors and questioning if it's the right location.

"This is not a true mixed-use project and should not be approved," said planning commissioner George Brine.

They voted against recommending that city council approve the rezoning.

That decision disappointed people living north of the project who want more convenience,  but was a relief to people like Vanfarowe.

"I am thrilled. I really think the planning commissioners listened carefully to both sides," she said.

Commissioners said the feedback they got on this was split pretty evenly for and against.

Ultimately, the city council will have the final say.

An attorney for the developer says the issue probably won't get addressed until April at the earliest.

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