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Home-repair controversy dominates discussion

The Durham City Council addressed a recent controversy involving city-funded repairs on the home of Marylanda Bodison on Canal Street in eastern Durham at its session Monday night.

An April 1st article in the Herald-Sun alleged that Bodison's home is slated for further repairs, even though Bodison went eight years without repaying a $28,500 city housing loan and currently owes back taxes dating to 1996.

Mayor Bill Bell and council members Diane Catotti, Howard Clement and Cora Cole-McFadden voted in February to forgive accrued interest and penalties on the loan. Council member John Best cast the sole dissenting vote.

"Some mistakes were made," Clement said Monday night. "As a councilor, I have to accept responsibility."

Council member Thomas Stith, who was not present at the February meeting, said he thought forgiving the debt was wrong from the beginning and this incident represented one more way in which the public trust in Durham has been "shattered."

Best expressed disbelief that the council moved forward with services that Bodison was not entitled to and called for a review of policies, procedures and criteria relating to home rehabilitation.

Council member Eugene Brown also called for a review, particularly of the loan plan agreement. Bodison allegedly did not sign parts of this agreement, which required her to live in and maintain the house as a condition of receiving the city's repair services.

Bell eventually stopped the discussion, as the item was not on the meeting's agenda.

"I don't intend to let this issue consume myself or this council," Bell said.

The council plans to review the case more at its regular work session Thursday.

IN OTHER BUSINESS:

The Durham city council adopted a new zoning ordinance for many properties in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood, thereby creating the largest historic district in Durham County.

"This [ordinance] imposes an additional overlay on the properties, which is the highest level of protection that can be given," said Frank Duke, planning director for the city of Durham.

The overlay puts into effect a plan approved at a council meeting in February calling for the protection of the neighborhood's historic properties, the prevention of further commercial zoning and the alleviation of traffic congestion.

Tom Miller, a representative with the Watts-Hillandale Neighborhood Association, said the group has been working on this project for a decade. The district plan received 80 percent petition support from affected homeowners and endorsements from other neighborhood associations, the nearby North Carolina School of Science and Math and The Herald-Sun.

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