I love living in Holly Springs. When we first moved here from Michigan in 07, I did a lot of research on Holly Springs. Back when we moved here the projected population was to be in the mid 30K. That was similar size to where I came from with tremendous up side of growth for my children s future. Plenty of room in the schools, great colleges, job opportunities and roads were extremely easy to navigate.
Fast forward to 2015, we already have subdivisions approved that will increase population over 42k, with many more in the works. I wouldn't be surprised at the current rate if we hit over 50K in the next 10 years. The problem lies that the infrastructure is not keeping up with the growth rate. Over 60% of the schools in Holly Springs was capped in 2014, since lifted as most of Western Wake County is growing faster then it can keep up.
So "How does Infrastructure Keep Up with Growth?" No one seems to know, I keep hearing excuses that it's the DOT's problem for not keeping up. It's the Wake County Schools not keeping up. Would be nice to know what the residents and the town leaders envision Holly Springs to be. I keep hearing that you can't control growth, if you turn down a development you'll only pay have to pay more for attorney fees. I have heard absolutely no one come up with a pro-active solution. In my search for finding a possible solution I just read about a small town south of here called Davidson, who's issues were very similar to Holly Springs. It's a long article but it's well worth the read to see how they solved many of the problems.
Davidson-Growth versus Infrastructure
Situated 20 miles from Charlotte (North Carolina's largest city), Davidson is a suburban community on the eastern edge of Lake Norman. For the past 25 years, Davidson has fought hard to resist development pressure from the rapidly expanding Charlotte metropolitan area. The perception among neighboring communities and private developers is that Davidson is anti-growth and anti-business. Others see Davidson as a progressive community with a global and long term perspective on development. The drive into town makes one thing clear: Davidson is something different. The town's historic Main Street is lined on one side by restaurants, coffee shops, book stores and a variety of professional services. The other side of Main Street is an expansive downtown green, which frames the entrance to the public library.
According to several local residents, one of the core values is ensuring the presence of open spaces where neighbors can gather together. Public parks and green spaces stretch through every part of Davidson. Davidson's two-lane streets, wide sidewalks and green-ways provide access to open spaces and emphasize walking and biking over cars.
Davidson aims to manage growth, allowing development on the town's own terms, which includes facilitating the development of retail and service amenities for residents and partnering with neighboring communities to create industrial jobs that benefit the entire region.
Smart Growth:managed growth with economic diversification
Davidsons strategy for managed growth begins with a vision-a set of principles that a cross-section of the community agreed represented the values of their town. Initially drafted as the Davidson land plan in 1995, Davidson's Eight Planning Principles of Smart Growth are:
1. Preserve Davidson's status as a small town
2. Preserve and enhance Davidson's unique downtown
3. Ensure that growth is sustainable
4. Preserve substantial amounts of open space
5. Re-establish the town's historic diversity of people
6. Develop no faster than the town can provide public facilities
7. Adhere to importance of both private property rights and the health of the community as a whole
8. Ensure that architecture and planning enhance the quality of life.
Throughout the late 1990's, the town council, the planning staff, and community leaders developed a zoning ordinance to transform Davidson's vision for managed growth into actionable policy and practice. The zoning ordinance, adopted by the town council in 2001, is several pages long and is designed to hold the town's general growth pattern-as well as individual residential and commercial developments-to the highest of planning and zoning standards.
The planning ordinance includes two particularly innovative tools for managing local growth. The first is the adequate public facilities ordinance(APFO) designed to soften the impact of booming residential development. The second is the intensive (and inclusive) process by which developments are approved.
Davidson's APFO, which applies to any residential development with more then 20 units, was written and designed to ensure that residential development did not outpace the community's capacity to provide services. The ordinance requires developers to pay for streets as well as other infrastructure associated with any new development. Davidson's APFO covers fire protection,law enforcement, intersection capacity, community parks and green-ways. For example, public parks must be provided at a ratio of one to every 500 dwelling units.
In addition, Davidson's APFO is the first in the country to include affordable housing. Within every residential development, one in eight units must be affordable, defined as "housing available for occupancy or ownership by a target household at mortgage or rental payments not exceeding 30% of the base, unadjusted income limits." This regulation is intended to ensure that Davidson does not become a heterogeneously wealthy community and maintains its historic diversity. The APFO is Davidson's pressure valve for regulating both the manner and speed at which residential development happens in town.
How and why this strategy is working
Given Davidson's apparent success with it's approach to small town economics development, the question then becomes: How and why has this small town in Mecklenburg County been so successful? First, there is little doubt that demand for access to Davidson's market is substantial. Investors are willing to endure extra hurdles in exchange for access to the local market. On the other side of the coin, however leaders are willing to assume risk to maintain small town character. Local leaders have a strong political will in the face of tremendous development pressures. In addition, the town has an almost continuous stream of newcomers with new ideas and energy, and local leaders have managed to embrace the concept of regionalism in their town's broader economic development efforts.
Strong demand for access to the Davidson's market
Local market conditions in Davidson' are key factors in the relative success of the town's approach to growth management. Even with the town's reputation for being difficult, developers are lined up at Davidson's door step and are willing to work within the towns guidelines because the local market makes the extra investment worth it. It would be misleading though to imply that every small town has the resources, time and political will to shape development to the extent that Davidson has managed. In general, Davidson is a wealthy, highly educated and progressive community with the means to resist external development pressures.
Willingness to take Risks
One of the reasons that we've been as successful as we have, in terms of managing growth, is because we've had an attorney that let us take risks, Kincaid said, when it comes to growth management and economic development, the implementation and use of any new or innovative strategy comes with the inherent of legal challenge. The legality of Davidson's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance(as well as other areas of it's planning ordinance) falls into a gray zone. Without assuming the risk of a legal challenge, Davidson may have been developed in a way that erased the characteristics that make it special.
What are the lessons from this story?
"Are we moving in a direction that our children will be proud of? According to Mayor Kincaid, public officials in Davidson ask this question before every decision. In Davidson, the external pressure to make decisions based on the towns short term interest is tremendous. For example, during the search for a location for the Mecklenburg Industrial Park, one of the early options was a site on the outskirts of town limits. The town however already had decided to save that particular plot of land for the next generation of Davidsononians to develop. Even with the short term tax benefits of developing that would of been huge for the community, officials supported a site in Huntersville. The mayor and town council have maintained a futurist approach to local development. Further, the APFO and the process that Davidson put in place for permitting development are practical tools that help the community keep a balanced perspective on short versus long term outcomes. "Long range planning is very important in sort of getting in front of the curve and making sure the vision is embraced as new development comes along."