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Welcome to the Soul of the Triad

by Ogi Overman

Like a lot of folks, I’m trying to get my arms wrapped around this whole Heart of the Triad concept. It’s so far-reaching and all-encompassing that it fairly boggles the mind to envision what this area may look like 20 years down the road.

In a nutshell, it’s the area (the total acreage seems to vary from 18,000 to 50,000) straddling the Guilford-Forsyth line that is coveted as a spur for economic development, mixed-use land development, a transportation hub and a way to brand the region. Six separate governmental bodies are involved and, given the proximity of Fed Ex, Dell and the confluence of three major highways, as much as I hate to say it, “it’s going to be developed anyway.” So the questions become: how, how much, how soon, by whom, and who’s going to make money off of it?

My journalistic instincts tell me I need to take the objective approach, even as my basic instincts impel me to favor the conservationists over the developers. I must remind myself not to paint all developers with the same brush, that economic development is imperative, and that planned land development is preferable to haphazard growth.

Try as I might, given my Libran sense of balance, to weigh the pros and cons, I have yet to see a compelling case be made for this massive project, other than the obvious fact that piecemeal development almost never works to anyone’s benefit. Nor have I seen any concrete proposals result from the $400,000 that’s been spent so far on a consultants’ report. What I’ve seen is speculation, projections and vague observations about preventing urban sprawl and encouraging quality development. Granted, it’s still early in the process, so I’m willing to give the HOT proponents the benefit of the doubt.

Currently, I am more concerned with what I haven’t seen than what I have. For instance, in perusing the list of names on the 18-person steering committee, it’s not who’s on there that bothers me as much as who’s not. To a man and woman, every soul on there is either a politician, chamber of commerce head or Department of Transportation honcho. The argument goes that it would become unwieldy if more members were added, that if residents affected by it were included they would be disruptive and only impede progress. But, my question is: Why are groups such as Land For Tomorrow, Piedmont Land Conservancy, the Sierra Club and/or other environmental activists not represented? Among all the chatter about leaving open spaces and buffering the watersheds, I have yet to hear a word about sustainability, organic or co-op farming, alternative energy development, green buildings, solar or wind power or any other eco-driven policies.

My suggestion would be to jump on the green bandwagon ASAP, take a page out of the Research Triangle playbook and turn Heart of the Triad into the hub of alternative, renewable, sustainable energy research in the world. If you’re going to create an economic alliance let it be centered around finding solutions for global warming, for finding new energy sources, for finding ways to transition out of a petroleum-based economy.

Further, if I am to wholeheartedly support this idea it must engender not a respect for the land but a reverence for the land. It must foster a sense of history, with reminders throughout of significant events, all the way from Civil and Revolutionary War battles down to preserving the tobacco barn where farmer Brown’s great-great grandpappy hung his crop. Old buildings as well as the land on which they set must not be swept aside in our quest to turn this concept into reality. If we’re going to wipe Colfax off the map, we damn sure better remember who put Colfax on the map.

Moreoever, once environmental safeguards are put in place and our eco-direction is set, there needs to be a comptroller of sorts to follow the money, to ensure that the mega-dollars changing hands are flowing where they’re supposed to flow, and not being siphoned off and winding up in the pockets of the fake Slim Shady.

It occurs to me that a project of this magnitude deserves an independent body, a sister group, if you will, a watchdog organization that will hold HOT’s feet to the fire. It would also serve as an information clearinghouse, with a clearly delineated mission statement and, if necessary, pursue 510(c)(3) status and be registered with the state as a PAC.

Of course, it may not come to that, but just in case it does, I took it upon myself to buy a domain name last week and contacted a graphics designer to begin work on a website. My feeling was that if we’re going to have a heart, we must also have a soul, so I bought the name Soul of the Triad, soulofthetriad.com.

Since my slot in the paper is confined to 800 words (and generally consists of a Bush bash), check the website in a month or so for updates. But if you’d like to become a Soul Brother, e-mail me at the address below and you’re in.

If, that is, your heart’s in the right place.

Ogi can be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com

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