I had decided not to post this blog article here. I normally post all blog articles that I publish on my Republican precinct website (West Knollwood Precinct) on here as well. Most of you are not residents of Southern Pines. But at least one of the issues addressed at this Southern Pines Town Council Meeting was also voted on by the Pinehurst Village Council, the Aberdeen Town Council, and the Pineblufff Council. And it will affect the lives and lifestyle of everyone in the area. Consequently, I have reconsidered, and I post it here for your consideration.
The Southern Pines Town Council meeting last evening went pretty much as I expected. There were very nice ceremonies to wish outgoing Mayor Haney and Councilman Fields well. There was a great swearing in ceremony to swear in Mayor McNeill and incoming Councilmen Simeon and Walden. I really like the way each one was sworn in individually, unlike other group oaths that i have witnessed. The responsiblity to govern your neighbors and to act only in their true best interests is a solemn and heavy burden. And it is fitting that each official take a solemn oath, standing on his own in front of his neighbors. I was impressed.
The next "big thing" was the selection of Mike Fields to fill David McNeill's position for the next two years on the Council. As I have written here before, that was the very best choice this Council could have made, and I was heartened to see the new Council act in such wisdom as its first major decision. Kudos! I will jump to the comments offered in the public comment session later in the meeting. One gentleman urged the Council to adopt a "rule" or "policy" that, in the future, the losing candidate with the next highest vote tally must be selected to fill any vacancies left in such a case as this one. His theory is that that losing candidate went to the trouble and expense of running for office and received votes; therefore, that losing candidate should be "rewarded" by selection to fill the vacant seat. This is a TERRIBLE idea!
I'm sure the Council is wise and will realize how bad this idea is. The Council has no control over who decides to run for Council. Anyone can register and run. How would this gentleman feel if a real "lunatic" ran for Council, was the only losing candidate, and received only one vote? Now the "lunatic" must be named to the Council? I think not!! The Council must be allowed to appoint the most qualified candidate to the post. And if the good people of Southern Pines do not like the way their elected officials conduct their appointment, they have recourse as in all other affairs. I urge the Council to disregard the comments made about the Council's appointment process at the December 13 meeting.
Now the final "big thing" that the Council discussed last evening was a resolution drafted by the "Partners in Progress" Board regarding the placement and plans for a US-1 bypass. The thing passed, as it did in the Aberdeen, Pinehurst, and Pinebluff council meetings. It will go to the NC DOT to, basically, ask for more time for discussions and input ― stalling for time, really.
Councilman Fred Walden made an eloquent appeal to the Council to take a stronger position ― one which he admitted would be very unpopular with the "horse country" folks. I don't agree with everything he said, but he is fundamentally right. Building a limited-access or no-access freeway along the current route of US-1 through Aberdeen and Southern Pines would be a catastropic disaster for both towns.
Look at the area around the old Independence Boulevard in Charlotte. I grew up in that community. It was thriving. Independence Boulevard was a tremendously prosperous and growing business community. The neighborhoods surrounding the business corridor along Independence were heathy and happy communities. Have you driven that area lately? It is a disaster zone. The swath of devastation along both sides of the freeway that has replaced the business corridor is an eyesore. The neighborhoods, if you get off the freeway and drive through them have completely changed character. They are in decay as well.
During my career, I moved to the east side of Atlanta in Dekalb County. We bought a home in a great subdivision off Memorial Drive, which runs straight from the center of Atlanta to Stone Mountain Memorial Park and Monument. At the time, Memorial Drive was just like Independence Boulevard. It had four traffic lanes and was lined with all manner of businesses, stores, shops, restaurants, theaters, specialty businesses. It was thriving. The neighborhoods for miles around Memorial Drive were heathy and prosperous.
The Georgia DOT decided "for safety reasons" and to "improve" Memorial Drive, they would put a limited-access median and curbs all the way down Memorial Drive and widen it to three traffic lanes on each side. The business community and the residential communities fought it bitterly. They held it up for a few years, but of course the DOT prevailed. The "improvements" were made.
Within one year after the roadwork began, half the businesses had either closed their doors or relocated to another area. Within two years, the only thing left along Memorial Drive was pawn shops, hubcap stores, second-hand stores, thrift stores, small strange sounding church groups meeting in empty shops, and a couple of deep-discount gas stations still trying to eke out a profit.
The hulking empty malls and strip malls were depressing. Hundreds of "For Sale" signs popped up everywhere in the residential areas. No one wanted to live around that swath of government-made devastation. Property values plummeted. The area has a completely different character if you go there now. The Dekalb Police call it their "third world" and will not investigate anything there short of a murder case. It's sad.
Do the same thing to US-1 here in Aberdeen and Southern Pines, and you will get the same result! Want to kill these towns? The fastest, most efficient way to kill these towns would be to make similar "improvements" to US-1 through Aberdeen and Southern Pines. I'm going to watch closely. If this looks like the course folks are going to take here, I will sell and move as quickly as I can. I've lived through this before. I know what will happen.
So does Fred Walden, and the Council would be wise to continue to listen to him on this.