How Do We Build for the Future of our Mountian Communities?

Many are afraid of how our mountains will look in twenty years. They have good reason. Haphazard construction is not good for the future of our area. What can be done? There are several ideas:


Most of our mountain communities have no zoning ordianances. People new to the area find this very strange. Others do not want anyone telling them what they can and cannot do with their property. They fight any attempts to suggest zoning in their areas. Politicians know this issue must be addressed but fear the political backlash that it will bring. Both parties in this issue have valid points.

Those who want zoning are usually not from this area. They built or purchased a home in what seemed to be a nice neighborhood. After they moved in they discovered that some people living nearby have a collection of junk cars. Maybe a smelly chicken farm is built behind their home. Or, perhaps there is someone in the neighborhood who disobeys the deed restrictions by moving in a run down trailer. And, getting the court to enforce the deed restrictions costs them a small fortune. Their lawyer tells them that they would not have to deal with this if the county had zoning regulations.

Those who are against zoning do not want the government interfering with their private property rights. They are afraid that if even a mild form of zoning is allowed, it would open the door to future over-regulation.

Even many experts question the value of zoning to protect the value of communities. It seems that zoning does not really address all of the important issues. In many communities, zoning has separated commercial and residential areas so far that its' atmosphere is lost. What happend to the small towns where you could walk down your street to the grocery?

Commercial areas become large ugly parking lots with flashy commercial buildings behind them. After a few years, when the styles change, the appeal of these areas is lost. Shoppers begin going to newer areas with more stylish buildings. After ten years, shopping areas begin to die. They attract businesses that cannot afford higher rents, and no one wants in their neighborhood. Zoning does not fix this. Nothing blights a neighborhood worse than old, vacant, shopping centers full of graffiti.

You might say, "That would never happen here!" Back in the 1950's my grandparents lived in a mountainous area of northern New Jersey that was very much like our area is now. In the sixties and seventies the area boomed. Commercial development took over any vacant land on the main routes. In the eighties these areas became out of date as development moved further away from the city. Now there are many boarded up shopping centers and motels. It is ugly. Crime is increasing. Zoning did not prevent this. What was the problem?

Too much of commercial and residential construction is based on a quick profit, without any regard for the future of the area. This is because many of these big business people don't live in the area they are developing. They don't care. They want to make quick money and get out.

*Planned Development

There is a new movement in development today. Many developers are discovering an idea that really works. Its based on a concept that has been valid for thousands of years, the village. Instead of using zoning to separate commercial and residential areas, they are blended together into quaint neighborhoods.

Small shops and sidewalk cafes are arranged around beautiful public squares with fountains. Planned acitivities and entertainment such as outdoor movies, plays, and music draw a steady stream of shoppers. Small sidewalk cafes give off the aroma of quality food. Parks provide beautiful spaces for families to play together. People can live in loft apartments that have enough style to appeal to those with descriminating taste.

What are the benefits of planned developments like these?
*They have a much longer lifespan than shopping centers, bringing economic benefits to the community for a much longer time.
*They provide good locations for a lot of small, quality, locally owned businesses.
*They are appealing to environmentalists who want to reduce automobile dependence. One could live, work, and recreate in the same place!
*They are appealing to people who want the convenience of having everything close by.
*They provide something to do for people of all ages, a place for the community to get together.
*They provide more jobs and econimic benefit to the local community.
*They attract more out of town money in sales and tax revenue.
*They are a beautiful asset to the community, development at its best!
*They set the precedent for future quality development.

Below is a sketch of an idea for Blairsville, Georgia. Something like this could be accomplished if local people worked together to make it happen. We have all been to Helen, Georgia and read the story of how that community got together to successfully attract tourism, by creating an interesting planned development. If our local developers and investors were to work together, something could be accomplished that would benefit everyone involved, and provide something of real value to our community. It does not need to be a beer fest, nor have a Bavarian style. All it needs is a good design and a quality plan.

If you would like to be a part of making something like this happen, please get in touch with me.
Richard C. MacCrea

The purpose of this article is to promote a better quality of development in our mountain communities.

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