Editorial: Developers love Davie

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, April 6, 2021

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Can Davie County grow any faster?

Can houses sell any faster?

Probably, but it has to slow down sometime. All it will take is a hike in the interest rate; or maybe, our leaders will recognize the fact that housing developers like Davie County a bit too much.

There has to be a reason for that.

Kelly Funderburk hit the ground running as she took the oath of office in December as Davie County’s newest register of deeds. She reported that in March, 954 land records were filed with her office. You read the number right, 954. It was the most ever recorded in a single month.

It seems that not only do housing developers like Davie County, people do, too. Even in my neighborhood, where a new house hadn’t been built in 15-20 years, two went up last year and were sold before they were even finished. Both are occupied by families who made it to North Carolina from Florida. They had gone to Florida from New Jersey. Not complaining, they’re nice folks and good neighbors. One said they had looked all over North Carolina before they found the right house in Davie County.

It’s not just housing, either. Commercial developments are popping up here and there, seemingly with little planning. How many Dollar Generals will be placed in residential neighborhoods before we realize they don’t belong there? How many industrial parks with jobs paying $12-$15 an hour are going to be built before we realize we’re digging ourselves into a hole?

Those average-paying jobs bring more people. Those people need a place to live. They can’t afford to buy a house, so they rent. But they can’t afford rent, either, so we end up with a disproportionate share of subsidized housing. I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves to eat and that everyone deserves a decent place to live, but if we’re not careful, Davie County is headed down a road with no return.

Don’t blame the new people or the housing developers. They’re just doing what they do.

And I’m not blaming county leaders – yet. But they do have a history of doing whatever certain people want, and of bowing down to anyone with money. That needs to change. Don’t tell us one thing – that you want Davie County to remain mostly rural and country with a great quality of life – and then approve new developments that cut into the core of that quality of life.

Landowner rights come into play here, as well.  Within reason, a landowner should be able to do as they please with their property. Our rules and ordinances need to be clear and fair so that these landowners know what they can and can’t do with their property. And when they ask for a change, stand our ground.

Maybe we need higher building standards. That could be one reason developers like building here; they can make more money using cheaper materials and methods. Raise the standards, raise our quality of life.

Maybe we need zoning ordinances that more clearly reflect what we want. Maybe we need to, at the least, stick to those zoning ordinances already in place, rather than changing them every time someone with a grand plan comes along.

People scoffed at Bert Bahnson, a late county commissioner, when he suggested that our zoning ordinance should require a minimum of one acre for any lot in a subdivision. Oak Valley was on the drawing boards at the time. That may be taking it a bit too far, but he had the right idea. At least he had an idea. And that idea would have enhanced the rural quality of life our leaders love to expound upon. We desperately need some new ideas these days.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but our county leaders like to throw taxes up when approving a new industrial park or business. They’ll tell you those new businesses help relieve the tax burden on the landowners, and they’re right. What they don’t tell you is that those businesses come with employees who will also need a place to live. Get the picture? It’s a cycle, the two go together and can’t be separated.

Yes, times, they are a changing. The key word here is changing. People say that growth is inevitable. It’s not. Change is inevitable.

Growth isn’t a bad thing. Ask anyone with a business. Change isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that we have trouble coping with it sometimes.

This growth spurt will slow down, but what will Davie County look like when it’s over? If we want our grandchildren to enjoy that rural quality of life we enjoy and brag about, something has to change.

Any ideas?

– Mike Barnhardt