Black Meadow Ridge
The Westpoint development is planned for an area that includes both Black Meadow Ridge and Black Meadow Creek
Black Meadow Ridge
This area, part of the Eno River Corridor, was described in the Durham County Inventory of Important Natural Areas as containing "some of the most scenic and biologically important natural areas within the entire eastern Piedmont" (p. 230, 20MB download here).
The Westpoint development will demolish the existing trees and numerous very large rocks in Black Meadow Ridge, replacing
acres of soil with acres of concrete and asphalt. The developer
has a plan for stormwater, but it's not adequately take into account the larger storms and more frequent hurricanes that North Carolina has seen in recent years. See the FLOODING page in this site for proof that numerous non-hurricane storms have repeatedly occurred in the past 10 years, already causing significant damage to surrounding properties and the structures such as the old mill in the West Point on the Eno Park. The area simply cannot handle any additional stormwater runoff from such a development.
Black Meadow Creek
Black Meadow Creek, shown here, is a stream that runs through multiple neighborhoods before finding its way to the Eno River. Some of these neighborhoods, and the park itself, already see flooding from stormwater - see the page titled The Flooding for pictures and videos of the results of normal (non-hurricane) storms.
Black Meadow Creek
A development with a low density, consistent with the comprehensive plan and surrounding neighborhoods, would reduce the amount of runoff that has to be handled by the inadequate swales and "stormwater wetlands" proposed for the development in the current site plan.
In addition, these forested parcels already provide important benefits to the City of Durham that would be impossible or very expensive for the City of Durham to replace. The Durham Parks and Recreation
Master Plan section titled "External: Contributions to the City’s Economic Growth" contains this paragraph:
7. Clean Air: trees, shrubs, and grass absorb air pollutants and trap particulate matter; those pollutants create health problems and require expensive treatment methods for cleaning up dirty air. Calculations by the EPA suggest that 97 acres of tree cover remove about one ton of air pollutants (carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide yearly). The cost of removing one ton of pollutants by mechanical means is about $8 million per year. West Point on the Eno Park, for example, has over 300 acres of forested area.
Since Westpoint is 54 acres, the tree cover there removes over a half ton of air pollutants. Based on the text above, removing these through mechanical means would cost the city about $4 million per year.
Importance to Watershed
Four of the parcels covered by the proposed development (97% of the site plan acreage) are identified as "KEYSTONE" parcels in the City of Durham's Critical Areas Protection Plan (CAPP) Watershed studies report from March 2018. The CAPP Watershed study was a major undertaking by the City of Durham under state guidance. It defines "Keystone" properties this way:
"KEYSTONE properties are the highest priority parcels identified for protection in each watershed that can expand high quality riparian areas that are already protected, such as existing parks, or that could serve as parcels around which larger protected areas might be built."
In other words, KEYSTONE parcels are defined as the most critical areas that are most urgently in need of preservation to protect watershed quality under Durham's recent Critical Areas Protection Plan. The Black Meadow Ridge parcels listed in the chart below (reproduced from the CAPP report) make up 97% of the proposed Black Meadow Ridge development, yet the proposed site plan fails to take this KEYSTONE status into account.
As reflected in the CAPP report, these parcels deserve a full and comprehensive review by the Planning Commission and City Council before any development can go forward.
You can download a copy of the CAPP report here. The discussion of the Eno River Watershed is in Appendix F. Notes about parcel 177608 are on page 98. Notes about parcel 177597, "one of the two highest scoring keystone properties" are on page 90. This is where the development site plan shows a planned extension of Stadium Drive.
NOTES ON THE ABOVE DATA:
As of March 2018, 97% of the land area covered by the Westpoint site plan was designated as “KEYSTONE" property in the City of Durham Critical Areas Protection Plan (“CAPP”), meaning that the City of Durham has designated these parcels as being “the highest priority private parcels identified for protection in each watershed” area.
From 2010-2017, the state mandated that Durham City/County must complete a series of comprehensive watershed studies-- including inventories and analysis of all storm drainage, floodplains, wetlands, rivers, streams, ponds, and riparian buffers--to develop a formal “Critical Areas Protection Plan” (“CAPP”) addressing the most urgent water quality problems in key drinking water reservoirs across the state.
This CAPP study was conducted by the Department of Public Works, Stormwater and GIS Services Division (City) to comply with water quality regulations instituted by the State of North Carolina intended to protect and improve the water quality of streams, ponds, and small lakes in Durham’s watersheds, and to improve and protect the rivers and water-supply reservoirs to which they flow.
Learn how to view parcels here.
There is a long and convoluted zoning history of these properties. In the 2008-12 time frame, when zoning was last addressed, all levels of the city government (planning department staff report, Planning Commission, and City Council) had supported preservation efforts and a zoning at "very low density". But there was a glitch during this time, which caused the "comprehensive plan/future land use map" to designate the parcels as "very low density" of two houses per acre or less, by a vote of City Council in March 2012, without finalizing the corresponding zoning designation. The corresponding zoning was proposed in an application initiated by the City to be low density or preservation as Eno park land, but that plan was not finalized at that time due to technical reasons relating to intervening negotiations for potentially annexing the land into the Eno River State Park (negotiations that ultimately fell through).
The Durham GIS system map currently lists the two main tracts as a zoning of "PDR 6.2", which means Planned Residential Development at a density of 6.2 units per acre. However, such zoning appears to rely on a simple one page drawing dating back 48 years to 1972, whereas intervening details of the convoluted zoning history reflect that such PDR 6.2 zoning is likely inaccurate and/or invalid. Moreover, such a 6.2 density is more than THREE TIMES the density for these parcels designated in the Comprehensive Plan/Future Land Use Map.
Given this complex history, and the major change represented by the proposed development, it is unclear why the developer apparently believes it is possible to build 379 homes there under a "minor administrative site plan" review process, without ANY public hearings! Even though the zoning history and applicable ordinance guidelines plainly do not support his position. Thus, it is urgent that concerned citizens will need to write emails and letters urging current city officials that any development of Black Meadow Ridge would need to follow submission of a full development plan under a comprehensive review process, including hearings and public meetings culminating in a vote by City Council.
Black Meadow Ridge is a uniquely important part of Durham's history and environment, which needs to be protected to the greatest extent possible, see the Take Action page for ways YOU can help!
Other Important History of the Black Meadow Ridge Site
Black Meadow Ridge was part of the wider lands adjoining the river where native Eno tribes people first used to fish, hunt, and grow crops. Arrowheads and other evidence of the tribe can be found along the region. When white settlers came to the area they noticed the river and springs feeding it containing freshwater, which motivated them to invest in building mills across the area. Black Meadow Ridge became part of the community that sprang up around the West Point Mill, which was first established around 1778 by William Thetford and Charles Abercrombie. The parcels are surrounded by the Warren Creek as well as the Black Meadow Creek, which wraps around the site before running all the way to the historic mill house in the West Point on the Eno Park, where it merges into the Eno River.
The Black Meadow Ridge was part of the wider West Point property surrounding the mill for many decades. Eventually the lands around the mill were subdivided after the mill was closed in the 1940s. Prior to that time, the land that is now the West Point on the Eno Park and Black Meadow Ridge had other history critically important to Durham, including being part of the Mangum family legacy. For in depth details on this history, see the below links to the National Register of Historic Places and Mangum family history materials:
Historic Holman Family Cemetery on Black Meadow Ridge
The Black Meadow Ridge is also home to the historic Holman family cemetery, with at least seven grave sites, dating from 1891 to 1936. This cemetery represents a significant element of African American history and ancestry in Durham NC, which needs to be well respected and preserved. The cemetery lies on the southern edge of the planned development. This is another aspect of the site that warrants further study and consideration under a comprehensive Planning Commission and City Council review of any development proposed for Black Meadow Ridge.