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Editorial: Planners job not to decide on specifics

Yes, there is a housing shortage.

Not only in North Carolina, but here in Davie County. Put a house on the market and see how long it takes to sell. My advice is to make sure you have somewhere to stay before putting it on the market. It will sell that fast.

What we shouldn’t do, however, is change our standards to allow more houses to be built. That idea reared its head during a Mocksville Planning Board meeting last week.

Developers had asked for nearly 100 acres to be rezoned to allow some 200 or more housing units to be built, as well as property for commercial use near Yadkinville Road and Country Lane.

The problem: the board seemed to put too much weight on the developer’s proposal. Members almost went way too far, negotiating back and forth with the developer. That’s not their job. The job of the planning board is to recommend whether or not the zoning change is appropriate, not whether a proposed development is appropriate. That final decision goes to town board members. Their job should be the same. Is the proposed zoning change appropriate for that area? It’s that simple.

After that takes place, it is the job of the zoning staff to make sure this developer – or any developer – follows the rules for that zoning.

In this case, I think the property should be rezoned. Not because there is a housing shortage, not because the developer has grand plans that we will be proud of, but because common sense dictates that the area in question is a good fit for the proposed zoning. Not only the zoning classification, but topography, or lay of the land, will dictate how many housing units could go there, and where.

It should pass with the town board, as well. Then the developer can go to work. And people will have more options for places to live.

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Jeanna White wrote an excellent article for the Davie County Blog explaining the housing shortage. We printed it on our website, www.ourdavie.com.

Among those findings:

• Four income based apartment complexes have been constructed in the last five years.

• After a high of 445 single-family houses permitted in 2005, only 334 permits were requested between 2009-2014.

• Building permit applications are less than half of the pre-2008 numbers.

• 98.9 percent of occupied houses were built before 2010 – just prior to the open floor plans that new home buyers want these days.

Her report goes on to say that while Davie has added a 45% increase in jobs since 2010, the local labor force has remained flat. That means people must be convinced to commute to here – or move here. If they want to move here, they need somewhere to stay.

It also says that recruiting market-based housing to Davie County – once difficult – is becoming more attractive to developers. That’s a good sign. It’s what we need. Kudos to those developers who want to build houses and businesses between Country Lane and Yadkinville Road, behind the shopping centers.

And while I understand the frustrations of neighbors who have had open land beside them for decades, think about the property owners who have been paying taxes on that land for decades – just for your viewing pleasure.

It hit close to where I live, as well. Before last year, looking west out our front door, was an empty field, which led to another empty field to the sunset. It was beautiful. It had been that way forever.

I knew that land I looked across was for sale. It had been for sale for 20 years until someone bought it and put up a couple of houses. Now, I go out my front door and look directly at someone else’s front door. Not only did it change my view, I now have to remember to put pants on before letting the dog out the front. My point is, landowners have rights, too. If you want to protect a view, buy the property.

Yes, we need more housing in Davie County. Yes, we need more market-based, not income-based, housing in Davie County.

What we don’t need is elected and appointed board members overstepping their authority by dictating what a certain developer can or can’t do. We have ordinances and zoning classifications for that.

– Mike Barnhardt