The recent decision by the Greensboro City Council not to allow the development of land on Lake Brandt Road just south of the marina, in the grand scheme of things, is not a game changer.
It was going to involve an investment of about $10 million and add a restaurant and a few stores or businesses along what everyone agreed is a busy stretch of road – a road that is going to get busier when the outer loop is completed.
However, what the action of the City Council revealed is that no one is looking out for the city. The City Council should not be making decisions based on what 40 or 50 non-city residents think the city should do. (The property is currently in the county and would have to be annexed into the city and then be rezoned before it could be developed.) Ideally, the decisions of the City Council would be based on what is best for the majority of the citizens of Greensboro, not what a small number of residents of unincorporated Guilford County think would be best for them – people who benefit from living just outside Greensboro but don’t help pay the cost of running the city.
The City Council should certainly consider the opinions of those who live closest to a proposed development, but it should also consider the opinions of, and what is best for, all the people of Greensboro.
In this case, the opinions of the 40 or 50 people opposing the development – who are not city residents – took precedence over what would have been best for the 280,000 residents of Greensboro.
The City Council got all tangled up in what the opposition wanted and completely ignored the fact that the residents of Greensboro, who go to Lake Brandt to fish, kayak, sail, walk or bike the trails, might enjoy a restaurant nearby where they could stop before or after their outing. It would have provided a good place for people to meet who were involved in activities at Lake Brandt who didn’t live in the neighborhood, like those opposed.
Not a single member of the City Council mentioned what would be best for Greensboro. The City Council was mainly concerned with what the opposition didn’t want.
In writing about the issue, the News & Record proved again that it is one of the major impediments to the growth of Greensboro. The N&R constantly takes a position against growth and development.
The national trend in development for the past 20 years is not to build huge areas that are only residential, but to have small amounts of retail and office mixed in with residential, allowing people to walk or bike to a neighborhood store or restaurant or to work. The idea in community planning today is that everyone shouldn’t have to get in their cars and drive a couple of miles to get a cup of coffee, a bowl of soup, a loaf of bread or to go to work.
One of the major arguments against the proposed development was that Lake Brandt Road is a busy road. But if you can’t build a retail center on a busy road, where can you build it? Certainly not on a quiet residential cul-de-sac.
In this case, the major argument made by the opponents before the Zoning Commission, which approved the request, was that a chain 24-hour pharmacy that was planned for the corner would be too intrusive to the neighborhood. So the developer specifically eliminated a chain pharmacy from the zoning request.
Then it was revealed that it was not the chain pharmacy that the neighbors objected to, but the idea that the trees would be cut down and the land developed. It’s a pretty disingenuous argument, since trees were cut down and land developed not that long ago to build many of their homes.
Trees were cut down and land cleared to build the school across the street as well.
I remember when the land the school is on was vacant. It was a beautiful piece of property. Most of that beautiful property is now a parking lot, playing fields and a school.
The school certainly didn’t leave 70 percent of its land undisturbed as this developer was proposing to do for the Lake Brandt Road neighborhood shopping center. In fact, part of the school is built in a watershed critical area where no private citizen would be allowed to build.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners, in their wisdom, decided that the cars of teachers and parents wouldn’t leak oil or cause other pollution like the cars parked at a private residence would, and the fertilizer and herbicides used on the fields at the school would not pollute the lake as they would from privately owned property.
If the City of Greensboro can’t rezone 14 acres on what everyone agrees is a busy road for a small retail development because some non-city residents don’t like the idea of retail development, then what is going to be developed in Greensboro? The answer would be nothing that has opposition, with the exception of development by friends of councilmembers.
The News & Record in opposing the Lake Brandt Road development noted the controversy over the proposed shopping center at the corner of Friendly and Hobbs roads. And there was controversy. People who bought or built homes across the street from the biggest shopping district in Greensboro objected so strongly to more retail development that Greensboro lost its chance to have a Trader Joe’s.
Maybe not having a Trader Joe’s at the corner of Hobbs and Friendly is what the people who live on the one cul-de-sac adjacent to the property wanted, but what the City Council should have considered is not what the neighborhood wanted but what was best for Greensboro.
Is it better for residents of Greensboro to get in their cars and drive to Winston-Salem or Chapel Hill to shop at Trader Joe’s, or would it be better for Greensboro to have people from surrounding areas drive to Greensboro to shop at a Trader Joe’s here?
The News & Record clearly believes that the opponents to the Hobbs and Friendly shopping center were right and the opponents to the Lake Brandt Road proposed center were right.
Greensboro is already way behind the major cities in the state. Both Charlotte and Raleigh are growing twice as fast. It would seem that is what the N&R and other naysayers want. But if that is what the majority of the city councilmembers want then they need to be sent home at the next election and we need to elect some councilmembers who have the best interest of Greensboro at heart.
It’s more difficult to look at the big picture than simply to look out at 50 angry people and do what they want. However, the City Council wasn’t elected to do the easy thing but the right thing for the Greensboro. It’s hard to argue that annexing land and a $10 million investment is not better for the city.