The right kind of growth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Somewhere between unrestrained, irresponsible growth and death by stagnation is a middle ground where our community should stake its future. It’s called managed growth.

It’s a philosophy that, if embraced, will allow our economy to prosper without compromising the rural, easy lifestyle our citizens enjoy.

“Villages of Southampton,” a proposed residential and commercial development on Camp Parkway, is precisely the kind of project we should embrace n especially now that the developer has voluntarily removed apartments and townhouses from the original plan.

Regrettably, five members of the Southampton County Planning Commission, reflecting the no-growth mentality that pervades much of our county’s leadership, refused to recommend changes to the county’s land-use map that would accommodate some of the most beneficial aspects of the Villages plan. The good news is that the county Board of Supervisors isn’t bound by the Planning Commission’s recommendation and still has an opportunity to do the right thing.

As developments go, the Villages project is good for several reasons.

* It’s within a stone’s throw of the Franklin city limits and existing residential development, so no harm is done to rural Southampton County. Were the developer wanting to put a thousand homes at Sebrell or Sedley, that would be another story.

* The development would easily tie into existing water service in the area, reducing infrastructure costs that might eventually be passed on to existing taxpayers. Also, because the homes would be within walking distance of the new Riverdale Elementary School, the county schools would incur little additional transportation costs.

* The project, importantly, has a commercial component: both professional and retail. Residential growth alone can be a bad thing, to the extent that it drains public services while generating little in the way of ongoing economic activity. The commercial piece, however, adds much-needed jobs and dollars to the economy.

We commend Planning Commissioners Dallas Jones, Keith Tennessee and Doug Chesson for supporting the project in its latest form. Perhaps Jones’ fellow supervisors will show similar foresight.