Rest in peace, comprehensive plan

by Ogi Overman

Yep, I saw it coming but I didn’t think the end would come this soon. I thought it might die a slow, lingering death instead of by the swift decisive sword. It came and went in barely a single election cycle, its existence not even outliving the time it took to put it together.

Goodbye Comprehensive Plan. Despite the best of intentions, you served us not at all.

If there were any lingering doubts about how closely Greensboro would adhere to the study that cost taxpayers almost a million dollars and was supposed to give us a blueprint for growth up to the year 2025, they were removed at the Nov. 15 City Council meeting. By a 7-2 vote the council, in essence, tossed the plan onto the shelf occupied by every other plan anyone except Action Greensboro has ever commissioned around here. The final nail in the coffin was driven by those fine folks who are going to build a 553-unit condo development on the 34-acre tract currently occupied by Twin Oaks par 3 golf course.

You could see that this was going to be a contentious fight the moment it was announced, but the hundreds of homeowners who showed up Tuesday (led in part by my friend and fellow ink-stained wretch Day Atkins) to voice their displeasure were already beaten months ago. God bless them for trying, but this battle was over the moment the developers hired Henry Isaacson as their mouthpiece. Generally, developers go to his son Mark, aka ‘Zoning Stud,’ to represent them before the Zoning Commission and City Council, but when there’s as much moolah on the line as this one, they bring in the old man. Mark loses only once in a blue moon, but Henry never loses.

The Comp Plan called for between five and 12 units per acre in this area, but Henry’s clients needed 16 to make the numbers work. Let’s see, four units times 2.2 people per family times 34 acres equals ‘… well, you do the math. They didn’t just ignore the Comp Plan, they stomped it into submission and rendered it null and void.

I thought is was a nice touch that the developers themselves ‘— not the city ‘— commissioned a traffic study, and it determined that once Hilltop Road is widened to five lanes it can easily accommodate the increased traffic that 554 condo owners, their spouses, sons and daughters, and all their friends and acquaintances would bring. You didn’t really expect that the firm they paid good money to would come back with a negative report, now did you?

I fully expected councilmen Robbie Perkins and Tom Phillips (both resplendent in matching gray herringbone suits, by the way) to be the water carriers for the developers, but was shocked at how persuasively Mayor Holliday argued in favor of the condos.

I was not persuaded. Outrageously high density trumps all the arguments about what a nice upscale community this will be and how seamlessly it will mix with the existing neighborhood.

The only two nay votes were cast by Sandy Carmany and Florence Gatten, both of whom have my unflinching support (not that they’d want it) from now on. Somebody has to fight the good fight against rampant, unbridled growth, and it looks like it’s going to be them.

Maybe I am completely wrong on this one. Maybe my fond memories of hacking around Twin Oaks years ago and the warm feeling it evokes just driving by have prejudiced my opinions. Maybe the lingering bitterness over fighting and losing two rezoning battles in my back yard that have ruined my life disqualify me from being objective over any proposed condo community that goes over the recommended density. Maybe the Planning Board is asleep at the wheel and the City Council is a mere shill for the developers and no one’s really in control.

But if the Planning Board and City Council and Mayor Holliday all saw this as a good thing for the city, the tacit message really is that the Comp Plan is not worth the cardboard box it’s filed away in. Nobody wants to come right out and admit it, but the handwriting’s on the wall: the Comp Plan is history. Toast. Kaputski. As we used to say in Burlington, deader’n hell.

Who knows, maybe the folks who put it together were working in a vacuum. Maybe they should’ve taken the county into consideration more than they did, instead of treating the county and city as two entities. Maybe it’s impossible to predict how and where the city is going to develop in the future.

And maybe it really is the developers who know what’s best for us and we should all just roll over and give them the keys to the city.

Yeah, maybe God don’t make little green apples. Maybe Mona Lisa was a man. Maybe Cotton is a monkey.

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly, heard each Tuesday from 9:30’–10 a.m. on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen most Fridays on ‘“Triad Today’” at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on WXLV and WUPN, respectively.