‘I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be’

by Ogi Overman

Now the city council decides to have a conscience! Yes sir buddy, they pick a fine time to make a stand. Long after the battle’s lost they decide to draw a line in the sand, just where it won’t make any difference, just where the tide will eventually obliterate it anyway.

Where were they when I needed them? Where were they when they could have taken a stand against rampant development, when they could have saved a gorgeous and historically significant section of town from becoming just another strip-mall-lined corridor? Why’d they have to pick now, after the dominoes are already falling and Pandora’s box is wide open, to suddenly grow a spine?

In case you missed it in the News & Record – oops, I’m sorry, it wasn’t covered in the News & Record – the burr under my saddle this week is the Greensboro City Council’s 8-1 vote to deny a rezoning request that would have allowed a mixed-use development at the intersection of New Garden Road and Garden Lake Drive. It was a huge project, almost 13 acres, that would have been anchored by a Walgreen’s on the corner, three small commercial buildings fronting on New Garden, with a combination of condos and townhouses buffering them from the single-family residences down Garden Lake Drive. All totaled, nine homes and a church would have been razed to make way for the project, including mine. Had the rezoning been approved, Janet and I stood to make just enough money to buy a smaller home and retrofit it with a handicap-accessible bathroom and perhaps a kitchen if things fell into place just right.

But, of course, they didn’t. After I’d ruined any credibility I might’ve had as a property-rights advocate, preservationist, neighborhood crusader and defender of wildlife by flip-flopping on the issue, I wind up back at zero. I took the money and ran and this is where it got me.


Still, if faced with the same circumstances, I’d make the same decision again. If it were just me, I’d probably have been the holdout, the hippie chained to the tree daring the dozers to bring it on, but when you throw a wheelchair-bound wife into the equation, your priorities change. It’s not money that changes everything – it’s love. It’s wanting to give your spouse a chance at regaining a small bit of quality of life. It’s seizing an opportunity that will likely not come your way again. It’s taking advantage of a situation not of your own doing that could make your impending golden years a little more serene.

At some point, I reckoned, my back and artificial hips would give out and I wouldn’t be able to sling Janet around like I do now, so my best option – only option, really – was getting the developer to cough up as much dough as possible and apply it to a new abode. We actually had found one, put down the earnest money, even, contingent of course on the city council’s final disposition. But they put an end to that dream Tuesday. Ironically, the vote came just after they’d approved a condo development down the other end of New Garden that may well destroy the habitat of a species of crayfish so indigenous to the area that it’s called the Greensboro crayfish in zoology texts.

To their credit, my neighbors put up a brilliant and above-board fight. Ramrod Nancy Wilkinson slipped a dagger through my heart when she said, “The only reason the neighbors up the street aren’t opposing this is because they’ve been bought out by the developer.” Ouch. She even included a photo taken from my backyard that shows the condos that tower over my property (with absolutely no buffer even though it was written in as a condition of zoning) to illustrate the encroachment that’s already occurred here.

But in a convoluted way that photo supports my argument (and the argument that was put forth quite eloquently by my across-the-street neighbor, Allen Bradley) that the damage has already been done. The time to stop it would have been before the condos in my back yard and the high-end townhomes behind them were allowed to be built. Plus, given the massive, unbridled commercial development that is going on across the street, that corner is simply too prime to remain in its present single-family state. My real-world argument would have been that if New Garden must be sacrificed in order to save Jefferson to the east and Fleming to the west, then so be it. Likewise, if my home and the others must be demolished to ensure that the rest of the inner neighborhood (including the geese and duck ponds) remain relatively pristine, then that’s the best deal we can get.

Mark my words, friends and neighbors, there is one way and one way only to stop this corner from ultimately being developed, and that is what I call the Burckley Option. Get 10 percent of the voters in the last municipal election to sign a petition banning all development on that corner and put it on a citywide the ballot. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting this battle again and again, until you ultimately lose.

Of course, I’ve already lost. The city council managed to screw me coming and going.

Ogi can be reached at