Why do suburban Charlotte newcomers so fiercely fight development?

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It’s not unusual to hear about neighborhoods fighting new development. People worry about traffic, about noise, about aesthetic, about property value.

But in the suburban areas around Charlotte, you’ll observe a peculiar phenomenon. The people fighting against growth in their towns have often just arrived themselves.

In an ironic twist, the very forces that brought them into town are the ones they immediately begin fighting against.

The latest example comes in Mooresville. (See this Charlotte Observer in an article melodramatically headlined “They moved to the lake for peace … then heard of plans that could change everything.“)

Apparently, people who live in a particular neighborhood in Mooresville aren’t too keen on a proposed 140-acre mixed use development, the kind with homes, offices, retail and a parking garage.

But the people who are leading the charge against the development literally just moved there. Another person quoted in opposition has been in the Charlotte area for three years.

The whole neighborhood of Davidson Pointe has barely been around a decade. Perhaps their own arrival was protested not so long ago.

This isn’t confined to the Lake Norman area, however. Down in Fort Mill, the South Carolina town awash in sprawling the subdivisions, the same dynamic is at play.

The tension came to a head in 2015 during the campaign for a $226 million school bond to fund a slate of new schools to handle all the new residents. It passed, but was more contentious than you might think.

As one Fort Mill resident told me, “People want things to stay exactly the same as when they moved in.”

To be sure, people who have lived in these areas for decades are often against all the development as well. In Waxhaw and Weddington in particular, they’re among the most vocal against the encroaching sprawl. But the fact that they’re finding allies in the newcomers themselves is an unlikely footnote.

I get it, though. People move to these areas for the quality local school districts, the small-town feel, perhaps the peace and quiet. They don’t want to lose that, and they have as much right as anybody to voice their opinions.

But to some extent, you have to realize that this comes with the territory. If you’re drawn to a booming area, you have to expect that others will, too. Does it really seem right to slam the door shut behind you?

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Andrew Dunn
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