Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop is open

Saw over at Carpe Durham that Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop is ready to rock.

I know some kickstarter rewards are going out, we got an update that let us know the prepared food stuffs are good to go. Meat basket, which is what I’m waiting for, should be forthcoming.

I’ll try to swing by the shop soon and post my own impressions when I can. Yeah, I know, that violates my rule against actually doing things and all…

Anti-Tesla bill crashes and burns

Hey, it’s been a busy week, sometimes stuff slips through the cracks.

A Senate bill which would have barred Tesla Motors from competing in NC seems to have stalled in House committee this week, and the “normal” franchise regulations the bill contained were shuffled to a different bill instead. This paves the way for the automaker to sell directly to consumers in NC with no dealership middlemen (which is, incidentally, the only way Tesla sells its vehicles, as I previously discussed here).

The bill never came to a vote, so it’s not technically  dead, but at this point it seems highly unlikely that it will gain traction in the House.

(Hat tip to redditor roflomgwtfbbq for his post which brought this to my attention)

Forced annexation of 751 South passes House

The House just voted to force the city of Durham to annex the site of the 751 South project, despite some procedural wrangling last week. The project promises to bring extra sprawl to south Durham, in addition to adding some much needed pollution to Jordan Lake. Just can’t get enough of that stuff.

(Previous coverage of 751 South’s progress is in the “Durham News” category, starting with this primer)

Oh, and the development is apparently supposed to “create jobs” somehow, which is how some GOP state lawmakers are spinning their support of the move. In justifying the bill, representative Tim Moore (a “friend” of the developers’ attorneys) stated:

“The only time the General Assembly gets involved in a local issue is when a local government behaves in a way that the General Assembly finds to be irrational,” Moore said.

I think he’s mistaking the word “irrational” to mean “harmful to friends of legislators.”

Incidentally, Moore is from some county I’ve never heard of called Cleveland, which 1) is nowhere near Durham 2) has nowhere near the population of Durham and 3) does not contain a reservoir which feeds a large metropolitan area. I’d be interested to know which of these attributes qualifies Moore to determine what the “rational” course of action is in a situation that has jack squat to do with the people he nominally represents.

This isn’t a done deal yet, since the Senate still needs to weigh in, but it ain’t looking pretty for the city. The developers have plenty of friends in Raleigh who are quite eager to lend a helping hand, and giving the finger to a city which is represented entirely by Democrats is just a nice bonus. This is the kind of disruption of local autonomy and big government meddling that the GOP is apparently in love with lately.

WRAL also states that the bill needs a second vote in the House on a different date because it involves annexation, which is a rule I hadn’t heard of before. I don’t have any reason to suspect House lawmakers will have a sudden change of heart after sleeping on it tonight.

Odds of a reprieve look pretty slim at this point. It will be interesting to see what, if any, response the council will come up with.

EDIT to add: Leslie and Binker talk about about the passage of this bill (starting around 2m:45s) in yesterday’s Wrap.

751 South annexation bill discussed in Finance

The bill which would force Durham to annex the controversial development site near Jordan Lake was discussed in the Finance committee on Monday, and the result is basically… no result.

SB315, which was ironically sponsored by former council member Mike Woodard, now bears little resemblance to what the Senate initially passed after an eventful ride through the House. Monday’s hearing did little to clarify the future of the bill, which appears to be on less than certain footing after some procedural shuffling (discussed here).

In Monday’s “Wrap” segment, WRAL reporters Leslie and Binker seem to be a bit skeptical of the bill’s prospects to make it through prior to the end of this session (at 3m:29s). Should the House fail to pass this bill before the session’s end, it will end up in limbo until 2014’s “short session” (barring shenanigans, of course).

It’s interesting to watch this unfold, and it’s clearly been overshadowed by headline grabbing “mega landfills,” abortion education mandates, and budget negotiations – you kind of get a sense that the legislature’s got enough on its plate and they just don’t want to deal with this right now. The fact that Charlotte’s airport takeover bill seems to have been shelved could be a promising sign, because it’s a similar sort of Big Government initiative which seems to have just lost steam.

The measure was originally slated for a vote from Finance on Tuesday, but that didn’t happen, and I haven’t heard anything about its progress yet today (Wednesday).

Forced annexation of 751 South on Monday’s agenda

HB 315 (previously mentioned here) spent this week getting kicked around committee, and it’s actually attracted some scrutiny from at least one powerful lawmaker.

The main proponent of the legislation is one Tim Moore, who is identified as a “friend” of the 751 South developers’ attorneys. Well, no shit sherlock – I would expect he’s also a friend with “benefits” (perhaps in the form of campaign contributions, eh?) of various interested parties. Moore is the chair of the Rules committee in the house, so he’s not just some random toolbox.

The scrutiny of the bill is coming from a surprising source, in fellow Republican (and finance chair) Julia Howard:

Howard said the bill represented a case of “upside-down annexation.”

“I can’t tell you what’s wrong with this bill,” Howard said. “If it smells funny, it’s funny. The bill should stay in Finance.”

Howard successfully grabbed the bill from Rules and moved it to Finance when it came to a vote on the floor, and we’ll see what Finance thinks of it during Monday’s hearing. I guess Finance beats Rules, sucka.

I have no idea what the hell these people are really up to here, because this just smacks of procedural bullshit rather than any real policy concern. The legislation is a total dick move and a huge conflict of interests, but neither of those facts would typically give this legislature pause, and I’d expect this to just be a speed bump at best.

Stay tuned, though…

One Sam’s Quik Shop isn’t enough

Oh hey, this is kind of awesome for you guys in south Durham: you’re getting a Sam’s Quik Shop of your own near Hope Valley Commons!

I moved to Durham almost exactly the same time that Sam’s became the best damn beer store in the area, which was in the wake of changes to NC’s prohibition on high alcohol brews. Sam’s was way ahead of the trend, and this weird old gas station / drive-in quickly became the dominant player in the microbrew retail space.

A fond memory of your’s truly was the kind-of secret Sam’s “Brew Club” – still have the card, member #601 – which entitled you to lower prices for high alcohol beers and a t-shirt that has sadly been lost to time.

Sam’s was nearly displaced several years ago by one of Durham’s many half-baked public transit schemes. The TTA had drafted plans to put a train station nearby and imminent domain the Sam’s property for use as a parking lot, but the rail project (predictably) fell through and Sam’s has continued rocking the original location to this day. The Herald-Sun’s article linked above makes it sound as if this project could still happen, but it’s pretty clear that any movement would be years out at this point.

As NC’s (and Durham’s) beer industry has continued to grow, so has Sam’s selection, and the store is basically just wall to wall beer and wine now. It’s killer. The dudes who work there are awesome and seem to really dig the job. Sam’s also happened to be one of the first locations I started seeing food trucks go with frequency, and there’s almost nothing better than ordering some crazy food in the lot, going inside to grab a 6-pack, and having crazy food ready by the time you get out.

West Main St. Bridge demo begins

After multiple delays, the bridge over Duke’s Campus Drive on West Main St. is finally being torn down. This means that Campus Drive is now closed to through traffic.

West Main St. itself has been closed to through traffic for over a month in preparation for the demolition, but Campus Drive has remained open up to now. Campus Drive is slated to re-open once the demolition phase is finished, which is expected to be several weeks out.

Until then, Duke’s transportation system will be using alternate routes.

HOWTO: bike from downtown Durham to West Point on the Eno with a two year old

Background: I like to bike. I’ve got a two year old. I bought a Burley trailer in which I can haul said two year old. This has opened up some interesting possibilities.

I’ve wanted to take the kid to West Point on the Eno for a while now. If you’re not familiar with it, this is a Durham city park (adjacent to the massive Eno River State Park) which provides some nice open spaces and access to shallow water on the river. There’s a festival every year on the 4th of July. It’s pretty cool.

Durham’s a bit schizophrenic on the cycling front; we have a major bike artery in the Tobacco Trail, and we have some greenways, but we’ve also got large chunks of the city with no bike lanes at all. Over the past few years I’ve seen more “sharrows” popping up – basically just signs painted on the road, which I guess somebody thinks help in some way. I’m unconvinced.

When I’m riding around town by myself, I really don’t mind any of this. I’ll ride on most of the roads in Durham without much concern, even the ones that kind of suck to ride on. But there’s something about having a helpless kid strapped into a little trailer behind me that makes me a bit more cautious. Greenways start to look pretty attractive.

Luckily, quite a few of Durham’s parks are directly adjacent to greenways. The ATT gets you to Elmira Park, Forest Hills Park, and Solite Park (of the three, I’m partial to Forest Hills). Ellerbe gets you to Duke Park (mostly), Northgate Park, and Rock Quarry Park (in addition to the Museum of Life and Sciences; not a park, but a good place to take a kid anyway). Another leg of Ellerbe is in some sort of limbo presently.

Which brings me to the topic: nothing gets you to West Point on the Eno. Nada. And the stretch of Roxboro St. around the park entrance is a five-lane pain in the ass, which doesn’t even have sidewalks or shoulders. On Durham’s cycle map it’s one of few locations coded as:

DIFFICULT CONNECTION: higher speeds and/or volumes, combined with narrow lanes or other problems for cyclists.

Well, we decided to give it a go this weekend anyway.

First thing’s first: packing up. Two year olds hate sitting still, but riding in the ’09 Burley Honey Bee (Craigslist special) isn’t exactly the same thing as sitting still, and we’ve done thirty minute stints without problems. We stock the bags with:

  • Lunch for the kid (1X PBJ, 1X cookie)
  • Blanket
  • Diaper bag stuff
  • Towels
  • Little camera (E-PM1)
  • Change of shoes
  • Hats

In addition, we toss in the main compartment:

  • 1x Tiny Elmo. Always gotta have a Tiny Elmo.
  • Water. With THREE ice. Crucial.

This is a long enough ride that I want to wear my SPD cleated MTB shoes, hence the extra shoes for walking listed above. My bike of choice is my 2004 Cannondale Touring bike, which also happens to be my commuter. It’s got several minor defects which I’ve been too cheap to fix, but nothing that should leave me stranded. Running Conti Touring Plus 700x32s, which I feel are pretty good do-it-all workhorse tires.

The wife is riding a 2008-ish Trek Hybrid (rather than her racing bike). Couple of reasons for this: bigger tires for nasty roads (Ellerbe has some shit pavement, and the park itself has gravel), but maybe more importantly is the fact that it’s hella slow. This way she won’t totally leave me in the dust as I’m dragging the kid uphill.

So, all set. Ready to rock.

The first part of the route takes us from downtown to the Ellerbe trail, which is the primary North/South corridor. These are roads with no bike lanes, but they’ve got reasonable shoulders and slow moving traffic, so there’s no issue here. I decide to wear one headphone so I can make use of Google’s voice navigation for cycling on my phone (sweet, by the way), but I start fighting it immediately since it doesn’t want us to use the Trinity Avenue Ellerbe trail entrance as planned. Google Robot Chick proceeds to nag me for the next mile or so until she finally decides to approve of my route.

Here’s Ellerbe’s entrance on Trinity Ave:

This part of the trail is a bit sketchy. There has been some crime in the nearby area, and at one point the greenway runs directly behind a pretty shady looking apartment complex. It’s also not exactly the most scenic part of the ride, passing by an electric substation and some fields of gnarly weeds to the side.

Things improve though, and the trail starts feeling a bit safer and more attractive. The pace is slow by necessity as there are several cross streets which have the right of way. The trail dead-ends into Club Blvd – there’s a nearby spur that goes to Duke Park, but that’s not where we’re headed.

At this point, you can ride on the oversized sidewalk along Club and under I-85 for about a half mile, until the trail picks back up at Northgate Park. We choose to do that rather than ride on the road, and it’s workable, but the crosswalk to continue on the “trail” doesn’t get signal protection from turns (the light has no dedicated left turn lamp and the ped x-ing green corresponds with the main signal green) meaning you need to keep your eyes open for turning vehicles.

It’s here that the greenway gets a lot more green, and the number of cross streets is much reduced. On the down side, the roots get a lot more root-ier, and the ride can get really rough – so we have to take it easy to keep the kid from bouncing around. Once clear of Northgate, the trail takes you past some AM radio towers (one of which was notably used by a historic black / gospel station before becoming a Spanish language station a couple years ago), runs near the old brontosaurus, and crosses a road near the entrance to the Museum of Life and Science before eventually ending at the National Guard complex on Stadium Dr.

Now this is another example of sidewalk-posing-as-trail-on-the-map; it looks like Ellerbe goes all the way to Whipporwill Park and beyond, but that’s a lie. In reality, this is the end of the greenway – it’s roads the rest of the way out.

So, we head west on Stadium, across Duke St, and I follow Google’s suggestion to turn north through a neighborhood on Birmingham Ave. Just going by the Durham maps, it looks like Broad St. is the route of choice going north/south around here, but if you look closely you see that it’s the dreaded sharrows and not a real bike lane. With the kiddie trailer, I’ll take a cut through a low traffic neighborhood over those things any day.

At this point, the game is basically “avoid Roxboro St. as long as possible.” To that end there are several side streets through neighborhoods which can be employed, and for the most part they’re fine to ride on; a bit rough at times, some cross streets where you lose right of way, but the traffic volume is quite low and you don’t have to fight traffic.

Roxboro is inevitable, though. Our route takes us on Holt School Road, but when presented with a chance to get back on Roxboro shortly thereafter we decide to cut deeper into the neighborhood and follow the sharrows listed on the map instead. In hindsight, I regret that; you go substantially out of your way to only avoid a small stretch of Roxboro, and the eventual intersection with Roxboro St. when taking this route features very poor visibility and a very difficult left turn with no lights:

A better option from my perspective is to take a right onto Wellington Dr. once you pass Holt School, and turn left onto Roxboro at that point; still suboptimal, but the intersection isn’t quite so awful.

Roxboro, I ain’t gonna lie, is not a fun road to ride on. But luckily, you’re not on it terribly long. On the way to the park, you have the option of doing what Durham’s map seems to suggest, which is bailing out to the right and riding through a neighborhood which dumps you directly across from the park entrance (at a light, thankfully). We opt to do this, mainly because otherwise you need to turn left across Roxboro to the park entrance, which can mean a sticky double lane switch from far right to center lane on this busy road. Better to cut through the neighborhood, which gives you the option of behaving like a pedestrian at the intersection if that’s your preference.

So, you’re there! Almost – you need to navigate the park road now. It’s paved initially, but quickly yields to rather loose gravel, so our beefier tires do come in handy here. Doing this with skinny slick tires wouldn’t be especially fun. We take the bikes all the way down to the river, rather than ditch them at the parking lot – I’m not totally sure bikes are supposed to go into the park, but I saw no sign indicating this was disallowed specifically.

We haven’t been to the park in a while, and after a false start on the hiking trails (note – not the best for two year olds) we come back around to the shallow water which is absolutely perfect for the kid to play in. After a solid 45 minutes in the trailer, she’s understandably eager to start moving again, and convincing her to get her out of the river proves to be the most difficult part of the excursion. I’d really recommend this activity for young children.

The trip back is much the same, but notably you’ll want to stay on Roxboro rather than cutting through the neighborhood across from the entrance (you’d get an ugly left turn onto Roxboro if you try that). Also, the light at the intersection of Stadium and Duke seems to use pressure plates; it never turns green for us until we get out and hit the ped xing button.

All in all, it’s a decent enough little ride! I’d love to see some effort put into connecting the greenways with West Point on the Eno, though. This is a really great park and it would be nice to get there by bike without having to fight traffic.

Amendment to force 751 South annexation appears in the House

The developers of 751 South have once again turned to their pals in Raleigh, who have amended SB315 to force Durham to annex the controversial development. The project (previously discussed here and here) had its request for annexation rejected by the city council two weeks ago, despite the looming threat of GOP legislative intervention on the developers’ behalf.

Well, unsurprisingly, we just got Ashevilled:

SECTION 2.  Effective June 3, 2023, the corporate limits of the City of Durham are extended by adding the following described property:

COLVARD FARMS TRACT

[…]

751 SOUTH ANNEXATION AREA TRACTS/PARCELS

Even though the actual annexation date is ten years out, this bill would effectively force Durham to provide services to the development as it moves forward.

The city hasn’t made any kind of response as of yet, but it’s unlikely there’s much to be done to obstruct the legislation – remember, a similar bill nearly passed under Bev last year, and it should have minimal resistance going forward this time around.

As I understand it, there are conceivably some legal avenues to explore to challenge this bill once it does become law, but IANAL and I couldn’t possibly comment.