Fortunately, Ray Gronberg does this for a living, and he's already told you that the developers and their attorneys are trying to get the services contract, which would bring water and sewer to the distant village-sized project in south Durham.
Council members are scheduled to get their first look at the proposed service extension contract today, and will have to decide whether to put it on the agenda for a vote at their Jan. 3 business meeting.
The request already has drawn heated opposition from one of Durham's key political groups, the People's Alliance, and from dozens of people who have e-mailed council members to say consideration of the request is premature.
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City Manager Tom Bonfield, though, said the developers have questioned why he and his staff should sit on an extension contract.
"They've argued -- what's the reason we wouldn't at least consider it, or move it to the policy level," Bonfield said, alluding to the developers' contention that extensions and annexation are a matter for the city's elected political leaders and not its unelected staff to decide.
The manager also said the developers would argue that the staff has "been negligent to [an] ordinance" that sets a deadline for processing applications for utility extensions.
City Attorney Patrick Baker, however, said Monday he's aware of no such ordinance.
Officials do generally pledge an answer to applications in six months, and city officials received Southern Durham Development's Inc. request in March, Baker said.
But the city code on utility extensions to land outside the city limits does specify that decisions on such applications are discretionary as far as the council is concerned.
That means the council can say yes or no, with a no leaving developers unable to count on access to utilities and with little basis for arguing that such access is a matter of right.
Bonfield had halted work over the summer on both on the extension contract and the annexation that 751 South's developers have requested. He said he decided work should resume after the two sides in the zoning fight opted this fall to take it to court rather than going to Durham's Board of Adjustment.
One quick note here - it's my understanding of the case that County Attorney Lowell "Encyclopedia Brown" Siler made the decision that the Board of Adjustment would not be able to rule on the legality of the BoCC's decision to invalidate the original protest petition filed int he rezoning case, which necessitated the lengthier and more expensive lawsuit currently under way.
No matter, though. Our sources tell us that Council has agreed with the notion that that lawsuit should be decided before making their annexation and services extension decisions. For Durhamites who believe our elected officials, and not the attorneys of K&L Gates, should be making decisions about what the Durham of the future will look like, that's a victory indeed.
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