John Young gives a little background on the Guilford County Open Space Committee, and concludes with this gem about a current project: "If approved the state funded Mountains-to-Sea Trail should connect
through this area and eventually allow hiking from downtown Greensboro
to the Haw River State Park."
With the economy in a lull, this would seem to be an excellent time to secure as much land as possible at reasonable prices. If Guilford booms in the next upswing, open space will be all the harder to find.
My newspaper column is about the broad-based, tech-adept coalition that won a big conservation battle to allow the expansion of the Haw River State Park, and the possible emergence of a new force in local politics. "The idea that
excites me is not opposition to growth, but smart growth, green growth,
a sense that Greensboro and Guilford can and should be the most livable
metropolitan areas in the state."
A key quote: "The Internet has
changed the way the neighborhoods can organize themselves and present
their case," says City Councilman Robbie Perkins, himself a prominent
developer. "Politicians are listening to these groups. They are
listening to the blogs."
"[County commission chair Kirk] Perkins said public sentiment was overwhelmingly against Bluegreen's
proposal and it was good to see the project conclude in a way that
appeared to be good for all sides."
It has come to our attention that Bluegreen Corporation of Florida is
planning to develop a 692 acre golf community (Patriots Landing Private
Golf Course and Gated Community) on land proposed for the expansion of
the Haw River State Park. The planned location of this development will
be detrimental to the full development of the state park and therefore
the economic growth and development of Greensboro and Guilford County.
When a group that bills itself with some credibility as "the principal economic and community development organization in Greensboro" opens up with that kind of broadside, it would seem likely to sink any economic development arguments planned by backers of the project.
Well, any such arguments that might have survived the housing bubble and the drought.
Anyone know anything about that upcoming meeting in Atlanta?
Wait... are they saying that if GSO's use of an emergency reservoir on the Haw is contingent on a specific rate of flow being maintained along the river, then sucking water out of the river to keep a private golf course green might not be the wisest choice to make?
The city's use of the Haw could figure in a prominent rezoning case pending before the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
developer Bluegreen Corp. hopes to build a gated, golf course community
upstream from the city's dam, near Haw River State Park. Bluegreen
plans to pull water from the Haw for several years, to irrigate its new
fairways and greens.
If the case comes to a hearing before the
board as scheduled next month, the Haw's role as Greensboro's safety
valve likely will be mentioned by project opponents, said David Craft
of Citizens for Haw River State Park, a nonprofit group opposing the
"It wouldn't be a huge withdrawal. But it's one they could make at anytime, even in the midst of a drought," Craft said.
If only there was an easy way to contact our County commissioners about this issue!
Citizens for Haw River State Park: "The very generous offer for the approximate 692 acres made to Bluegreen
by the N.C. Depart. of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of
Parks and Recreation has not yet been accepted."
More: "It appears at this time Bluegreen still thinks that it has a chance to
have both the Guilford County Commissioners and the Rockingham County
Commissioners approve their rezoning request.
"Keep those phone calls, emails and letters coming! We cannot let down our guard!"
More info, including ways to respond, here. Archive of related posts here.
NYT: "These last-minute measures belie a history of inaction in Georgia and
across the South when it comes to managing and conserving water, even
in the face of rapid growth. Between 1990 and 2000, water use in
Georgia increased 30 percent. But the state has not yet come up with an
estimate of how much water is available during periods of normal
rainfall, much less a plan to handle the worst-case event — dry faucets."
Fortunately our local officials in Guilford County would never approve a project that ignores the realities of water usage...right?
Alert reader John Young sends along this photo, taken more than three dry weeks ago along the Lake
Townsend Watershed Trail running from Lake Brandt to Plainfield Rd. Says JY, "That is
Vance Arnold standing on a stump that once held a healthy largemouth bass." Considering the source, I'll take it as a subtle suggestion that pulling 100K gallons a day from the Haw River to water a private golf course just might not be the best idea...
As Guilford County ponders the fate of the Haw River State Park, I wonder will happen to the huge (1,750 acre) Richardson tract to the southwest, off Plainfield Road between Lake Brandt Rd and Church St. (map of property corrected and approximate).
BizJournal says the state has made a bid on the contested acreage for Haw River Park. The offer reportedly reflects the high-dollar, rezoned value of the land.
I hope the property owners Bluegreen Corp. takes it.
Judging by the public response, the alternative development plan (gated community and private golf course) is in serious trouble.
Meanwhile, I keep hearing from people who are interested in adding other adjacent tracts to the park. The bigger, the better.
As Jack Jezorek points out, this isn't about protecting a narrow riverine strip, but "a broad expanse of flat, wet land...the Haw
River and its wetland flood-plain...large expanses of woodlands still exist...the last
vestige of an unspoiled river corridor."
N&O: "Voters in Wake County's two largest cities sent a strong message
Tuesday by electing a slate of candidates who campaigned on either
slowing growth or requiring more of developers."
Pearce on the request for public funding of a parking deck that may have sparked the anti-developer revolt: "You almost never get 80 percent on a contested issue in politics. When you do, you run with it."
Could the campaign to save the Haw River Park spark a similar movement in Guilford and Greensboro?
Applied Rationality: "The proposed Bluegreen development along the Haw River certainly makes
sense to the Bluegreen Corporation and the current property owners but
doesn't make sense to the rest of us."
The current property owners might do OK in a deal with the State, too.
Unscientific but interesting: the one-sidedness of the public conversation (letters to the editor, blog posts and comments) on this issue. Hard to find a supporter of the development in the mix. Also: Guilford commissioners' Chairman Paul Gibson said he has received more
correspondence from residents about Patriot's Landing than any other in
his seven years on the board. "Ninety-nine percent of what I'm hearing
is, 'Don't rezone it for a golf course,' " he said.
The people of Guilford and Rockingham counties want a park along the Haw instead of a gated community and private golf course.
Reidsville Mayor James Festerman writes the county commissioners of Rockingham and Guilford to express "strong opposition" to the rezoning and development of property along the Haw River (click here
to see a PDF of both letters).
From the missive to Guilford CC chair Paul Gibson: ""The Haw River State Park holds a great deal of promise...Anything that negatively impacts both the present State Park and the possibility of its expansion cannot be good for Rockingham County, Redisville or northern Guilford County." Pulling 100K gallons/day from the river in order to water a private golf course, he says, "could have a devastating and costly effect on Reidsville's wastewater treatment plant operations."
Meanwhile, Guilford County has granted developer Bluegreen Corp's request
for a delay in hearing the rezoning question. The State of NC will be allowed to do a full appraisal of the land.
What is the true market value of land when its development is contingent on zoning? If the rezoning is not approved (i.e., the appeal is successful), then what is the property in question worth? Is it the job of Guilford County to maximize the payout to the landowners, whatever other issues may be involved?
I love these quotes from County commissioners: "Trees and open space don't do much for me," Alston says, "but I've got
to respect other people's views on this." Adds Yow: "My history is to
go with the developer -- but not always."
Is Alston still a business partner of Bluegreen attorney Henry Isaacson?
I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on my column about the Haw River Park. Some people want to know what they can do to help. CHRSP has some suggestions here -- scroll down for contact info for County commissioners.
While the rezoning appeal should succeed on its merits, supporters of the park might also urge the State (contact info here) to get its act together in an expeditious fashion.
The people of Guilford County have a choice: We can add to the
nascent Haw River State Park along our northern border or allow instead
the development of a gated community and exclusive golf course on land
that could be part of the park.
My newspaper column is about the choice facing the Guilford County commissioners, and through them the people of Guilford.
You can read the whole thing after the jump, and attend an open house at the park's Summit Environmental Center this afternoon from 1-4.
More from Eric Schaefer on the Outdoors page of the N&R sports section: "How badly we want this park, what are we willing to sacrifice, and how
extensive and inclusive it needs to be are questions we ought to be
asking now, since we have only one chance. Once the land is developed
there will be no returning."
Citizens for Haw River State Park blog: "If the Guilford and Rockingham County Commissioners allow the rezoning
for Patriot's Landing both counties will be again ignoring the major
concerns of the N.C. Division of Water Quality and may be directly
forcing the creation of new, stricter, more expensive water quality
rules and regulations for the Haw River/Upper Cape Fear River Basin
So...we wouldn't just be trading parkland for McMansions and a private golf course, we'd also contribute to water-quality problems downstream and perhaps bring onerous regulations on ourself in the process? Awesome.
CHRSP website has info on Sunday's open house at the Summit Center.
From the blog: "There will be opportunities for you to learn more about the Haw River
State Park, let your County Commissioners know how you feel, and find
out what we're doing to stop the rezoning. Plus there will be cookies
Citizens for Haw River State Park: "The Haw River Trail Memorandum of Understanding, signed by the
Guilford County Board of Commissioners (April 10, 2006) and Rockingham
County Board of Commissioners (March 16, 2006) prohibits wastewater
treatment plants or development within 500 feet of the Haw River."
A map of the area where we can choose between a proposed gated community and golf course or a state park. The blue marker on the left shows the approximate location of the proposed development, the blue marker at right the Summit Environment Center at Haw River State Park. Look at the amount of green space already devoured in that neighborhood, and tell me we don't need to save all that we can of what's left. Another map shows the area up close. A map to put things in geographical context.
Haw River Assembly seems to concern itself mostly with issues downstream from Guilford and Rockingham, but the group has noticed in the past the "beautiful Piedmont bottomland forests and wetlands" of the park, and of course what happens up here has consequences along the riverine path.
On Aug. 8, the Guilford County Planning Board approved a rezoning
request by Bluegreen Corp., based in Boca Raton, Fla., to develop
approximately 691 acres along the banks of the Haw River. The proposed
development will comprise 775 housing units in a gated golf course
The primary issue here is...the preservation of the integrity of the Haw River State Park.
The parcel in question, which is primarily in Guilford County but also
crosses into Rockingham County, is essential for the expansion of the
fledgling Haw River State Park; it is also an integral link for the
proposed Mountains to Sea Trail...[T]he N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation has sufficient funds set
aside to make a comparable offer to the landowners. (emphasis added)
Lewis Ledford, director of the state Parks and Recreation division, has endorsed the appeal of the zoning decision.
The volunteer group has an action plan for grassroots supporters. I spoke with David Craft about beefing up the web component of that effort, and I hope we'll see some results in the very near future.
"Click to read our Action Alert, then tell YOUR County Commissioners that
the lands near our Haw River State Park are more important than a golf
course to the Citizens of Guilford and Rockingham Counties!"
If anyone's got a digital copy of the related op-ed in this morning's N&R, send it along. UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive: here's the article by John Young.
The old springhouse mentioned in this column is quite near the proposed development. As I wrote then about another big project perpetrated in my youth, "It was the first time I
would see Greensboro devour its landscape on a grand scale, and despite
prolonged and repeated
exposure to the phenomenon since then I've not quite gotten used to it."