As is so typical of planners and "sustainable development" consultants, the folks there did not pay enough attention to her remarks -- at least initially. The planning pinheads wanted only to talk about sidewalks, streetlights, architectural compliance, "connectivity", bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, zoning changes, etc., etc.
Even though the other residents of West Southern Pines who spoke echoed her lucid and sage input, the consultant was so oblivious that he stated at one point during the discussion that the concerns were "outside the scope of zoning and land use"! What a dunderhead!
Let's explain it again here, slowly and clearly as Dorothy does in the video below.... Southern Pines is a lovely small town. It has a very strong sense of community and charm for a town of 12,000 souls. The Town has tried very, very hard to preserve and maintain that ole-timey atmosphere and "feel". That's the problem: The town has, for the past years, focused on preservation to the point of stifling growth and vitality.
As Dorothy, with her keen insight explains in the video, the young generation finds nothing in Southern Pines to hold them here after graduation. If they go on to college, there are so few (rare) career opportunities here (except for FirstHealth medical careers, and those are in dire danger from ObamaCare), that college graduates choose to settle in large cities which do offer the career opportunities which they seek -- Charlotte, Raleigh-area, Greensboro, Atlanta, for instance.
Also, high school graduates find scarce opportunities here in Southern Pines. The only real options are retail, restaurants, and golf clubs. Let's face it; the management jobs in these sectors are few and the occupants usually stay for life. The non-management jobs simply do not pay enough or offer enough upward mobility opportunities to attract and retain most of our high school graduates. So, again, the young folks venture off to the big cities in search of better jobs and lives. And they don't come back.
Without jobs, the town begins to stagnate. OK, it's not quite stagnating yet.... It has managed to attract enough retirees like myself to bring in relatively stable incomes and lifestyles to keep itself relatively healthy during the economic doldrums of the last 20 years. I'm sorry. That's obviously not a complete recipe for the future. The influx of retirees has slowed down, and guess what? We're dying off. There have been a number of deaths in my subdivision over the past couple of years. We're all old and getting older. A number of us have left our homes and gone to live in assisted-living complexes.
West Southern Pines is especially hard-hit by the dearth of job opportunities. The old businesses are disappearing as the owner-proprietors die. Their heirs have no intention of moving to Southern Pines, particularly to a declining area. Abandoned properties increase. Dependent unproductive elements fill the void from other areas seeking to thrive off the relative prosperity of the retirement communities and retailers. But drugs and crime follow in the wake. The Southern Pines Police Department struggles to rein-in and control the problems.
But, as Dorothy wisely pointed out, the fundamental problem is lack of jobs and careers. The Planning Board of Southern Pines can treat the symptoms all they want, and they won't make a dent. They won't change anything. The people of West Southern Pines -- indeed the youth of ALL OF SOUTHERN PINES -- need jobs and career opportunities here. If we fail to renew these communities through the younger generation, the decline is inevitable!
If you want to fix the problems of West Southern Pines -- if you want to stop the stagnation -- if you want to restore the vibrant prosperity of the town -- if you TRULY want to preserve Southern Pines, then you MUST support a greater amount of growth and development. You must attract businesses -- particularly businesses which offer well-paying, professional careers which will induce our young graduates to stay here and renew the area.
I have watched past Town Councils. They were more concerned with historic preservation, nature conservancy, preserving the "character", freezing development, stopping "big" projects than they were with achieving the critical balance which keeps the area thriving. Our previous Councils and appointed boards were much more concerned with how big a business' sign could be and where that sign could be placed than they were in attracting new business! What a short-sighted approach! Our town has been more concerned with bicycle and pedestrian transportation than in fostering a welcoming atmosphere for those who would bring us more jobs and careers. Our planning board has been much more consumed with making their own jobs "easier" and controlling all the architectural, historical, appearance, density, and land use of private property owners than they have been with ensuring jobs for our kids and prosperity for all.
Our town has imposed far too nitpicking restrictions on building permits and architectural plans. Our town has become obsessed with land use restrictions. Our town has been preserving itself into a petri-jar experimental culture, totally controlled by Central Planning. I do not know if the local forces which advocate this vision are really in the majority. Typically, these highly vocal activists are simply louder and more energetic than the rational majority. Whatever.... these folks have managed to control the local agenda for way too long.
I have faith that the people spoke this past municipal election of 2011. I have faith that our new Council has more wisdom and concern for the future of our great Town. I hope the Council listened to Dorothy and the other speakers at the West Southern Pines focus group. The planners largely did not. The Council needs to help them see the Truth. I hope the Council will no longer downplay the efforts of leftist advocacy interests to implement draconian controls and restrictive land use plans. I hope they will constrain their Kansas consultants who are dedicated to the misguided SmartGrowth and "Sustainable Development" policies.
If the Council does not take its responsibilities to the long term future very seriously, Southern Pines will literally "preserve" itself to death -- a slow, slow death, but a death nonetheless. Our population is aging. The population of the whole county is aging. If all the young folks leave here, the ultimate future of Southern Pines is inevitable. Please create a welcoming, hospitable environment for vital business growth bringing more jobs and careers! Please, Council, think longer term and not just about the next election. I'll stand behind you, and I think a lot of others will, too!