Letter to the Editor: Remember, current Davie ‘Kool-Aid’ not the only flavor

Published 11:51 am Sunday, April 11, 2021

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To the editor:

Dear Davie County Commissioners and others, we are at a crossroads in our community. The times are changing and growth is coming fast. The questions about the desired outcome have been asked and answered in the form of a County Strategic Plan. We have a document that describes a desired outcome to the growth that is coming. The words of the document sound admirable, yet I fear that there is a tremendous disconnect when it comes to implementation vs. outcome. We have a substantive code and regulations in place, but the development growth pattern we are expecting is far different from what we are getting and will get if we maintain our current planning patterns. The advent of recent rezoning requests has brought to light this planning conundrum that we face in Davie County.

In our Strategic Plan’s Vision Statement, a key component of our vision is a Davie County “celebrating its rural heritage and enhancing its quality of life.” The defining characteristics of Davie County’s rural landscape/heritage are not easy to describe. Yet, the central issue in the management for Davie County of its rural landscape/heritage is in the identification of the resource to be protected. For some the principal resource value of a rural landscape is agricultural productivity and in others a mere maintenance of character. For some, there are aesthetic considerations and lifestyle choices, which are the essential ingredient of the rural landscape.

This is why Davie County is so desirable in newcomers being able to obtain a small slice of ruralness. It is ironic that the rural landscape that is so attractive is also that which is being lost to poor land planning and development. There is also the fiscal value of the rural landscape; farmland is actually a positive contributor to the county yax revenue as apposed to residential development, which costs more to provide services than revenues received as expressed in Davie County’s own study document expressing the fact that “for every $1 spent providing services to residential property we only receive .88 cents in return.” And we know that commercial/industrial development is a revenue win/win. In Davie County, the value of a rural landscape is a mosaic of all these values. In reality, the rural landscape is a lot like beauty, hard to define but “you know it when you see it.” The question of values and resource management is further complicated by the reality that traditional measures of the compatibility of land uses (residential, commercial, agriculture) are not necessarily related to rural landscape values or a land-owner wanting to sell.

So, here we are. We are facing solar farms, high density housing at Redland, new industrial/commercial/residential development at Farmington Road, just to name a few.

I ask:

• How will these proposed developments enhance our quality of life and celebrate our rural heritage?

• How will quality of life issues like traffic, schools, health and safety, parks, bike paths open space and trees be addressed?

• Will we continue our hodge-podge “landscape a berm/buffer” pattern, which gives a false sense of rural character and tries to foster land-use compatibility?

• How will we avoid the commercial strip development along US 158, Farmington Road, and Baltimore Road, to name a few, that has diminished character and traffic flow in so many communities?

• Will the development of the Farmington Road site take on the design characteristics of our new governmental complex? Or the Wal-Mart shopping center? Or will its design be of excellence for all Davie County and not just the few?

We have the right words in our plans but I’m not sure the words have made it to our hearts. We have great administrators of our codes, ordinances and strategic plan but they need help and there is a need for a more definitive standard of development. We must have a design based plan that affords the opportunity to better address these issues with concrete examples of excellence and thus avoiding the current status quo of development.

I am for high quality, aesthetically pleasing and well designed growth. I love to see open farmland and horses grazing. I’ve been in Davie County long enough to remember when Oak Valley was open farmland and I now consider it a quality example of development, unlike other developments of recent along 801, 158 and Redland Road, just to name a few. I also believe that growth can be a positive and is a definitive sign of a community moving forward with vibrancy. My issue with the current growth landscape is really one of vision, beauty, design aesthetics and “Kool-Aid” (which I define as a group’s closed silo mentality; not allowing for other ideas, innovation or vision beyond their own).

I believe that Davie County deserves excellence and we are not getting excellence. In most instances we are getting mediocrity passed off as excellence. The issue is that Davie County is operated by a few, well intentioned groups and individuals, that have created their own flavor of “Kool-Aid” and have for too long lulled the populous of Davie County with the false idea that their “Kool-Aid” is the only flavor. Davie County deserves better. I implore all Siloed “Kool-Aid” dispensers to see that there is great opportunity in the “half-full” cup that is Davie County. We are in need of different flavors, different ideas, and a greater vision that leads to excellence, to deal with the myriad of opportunities that we are facing and going to face in the near future.

We are in need of a bold vision that expects higher standards in growth management and development planning. Davie County owes no developer or landowner anything. We should demand excellence. So, I implore you the county commissioners, the EDC, the achool board, the xhamber, all municipalities, and others (LL part of the current “Kool-Aid” providers) to open up your silos and let new flavors and ideas emerge. To acknowledge that we can be excellent, but we’re not there yet, and we have much room for improvement. Now is the time to seize the opportunities with a boldness of vision that affords more than “spruced up” Governmental warehouses, chain-link fence enclosed commercial development like that at Redland and myopic cookie cutter housing scattered throughout the County, just to name a few.

We should be building and developing places for the future generations to hold sacred and dear. I love Downtown Mocksville, its design character and sense of place, its historic preservation significance. Our current Suburban Development Standards will not allow this type of development. Yet, of the new developments of recent note do you think there will be a desire to preserve them? Do we think that the Wal-Mart Shopping center or the new Farmington Road government center will be declared a historic preservation site in the future? I fear that this will be touted as Davie County’s ideal standard for “celebrating its rural heritage and enhancing its quality of life.” We should not be satisfied (as Niche did this week)  that most of Davie County is a “suburb of Winston-Salem”. We are a unique place, Davie County, and thus we should demand that all new development and decisions enhance our sense of place and quality of life with excellence, and not diminish.

David E. Smith,     Advance