Preserve Crab Creek
The county is supposed to grant a permit for the storage facility only if it’s located and developed “in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan.” See Article XI (Review Processes and Procedures), Section 42-356(H)(1). So let’s see what the county’s Comprehensive Plan says about whether this enormous storage facility is appropriate for 547 Crab Creek Road.
SPRAWL IN HENDERSON COUNTY
First, some background. When you hear someone say, “We must develop this land to serve our growing population,” don’t buy it. Between 1976 and 2006, land development in Henderson County outpaced population growth by a ratio of eight to one. In other words, our developed land area grew 730%, while our population grew only 92%. Forecasts for 2006 to 2030 show Henderson County land development continuing to outpace population growth. See Mapping & Forecasting Urban Growth in WNC, p. iv.
When development sprawls over vastly more land than necessary to serve the population, we need to drive more miles, which increases air pollution. Sprawling development also gobbles up rural landscapes and threatens clean water. One example is the way roofs, pavement, and manicured lawns dump polluted storm water into nearby waterways rather than allowing it to be filtered naturally as it percolates through the soil.
PUBLIC INPUT IN 2004
Understanding the dangers of sprawl development, the county adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 2004. In writing the plan, the county emphasized public input. The highest levels of community agreement were around two issues: (1) the need for preservation and enhancement of agriculture and rural landscapes; and (2) the need for protection of residential areas from the negative impact of commercial development. See Section 2, Public Input Summary, p. 17.
AN ALTERNATIVE TO STRIP DEVELOPMENT
Reflecting this public input, the Comprehensive Plan protects rural, residential landscapes by clustering commercial development in "Community Service Centers." See Section 3, Growth Management Strategy, pp. 138-40. Clustering commercial uses avoids the eyesores, multiple curb cuts, and traffic issues associated with strip development.
The property chosen for this storage facility, 547 Crab Creek Road, is in what’s called a "Rural Transition Area.” In Rural Transition Areas, Community Service Centers allow smaller businesses that serve only residents from nearby communities. Pedestrian walkways weave these smaller businesses together with houses, parks, and potentially a school or community center. At the same time, “conservation design” protects sensitive natural areas. See Section 3, Growth Management Strategy, pp. 134-35.
In other words, the Comprehensive Plan envisions Community Service Centers in Rural Transition Areas as attractive spaces where people enjoy living, working, and playing. Businesses serving large regional markets are discouraged there. See Section 3, Growth Management Strategy, pp. 135. That’s because large regional businesses aren’t compatible with the pedestrian-friendly, eco-friendly design of Community Service Centers in Rural Transition Areas.
LOCATION OF COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTERS
The Comprehensive Plan envisioned only two Community Service Centers along Kanuga and Crab Creek Roads. One is far to the east, on Kanuga Road near Flat Rock. One is far to the west on Crab Creek Road near the county line. See Section 5, Future Land Use, Map 24. Neither of the dots on the Future Land Use map, which represent Community Service Centers, is anywhere near 547 Crab Creek Road.
AREA OR COMMUNITY PLANS
In 2004, the county looked forward to developing “area plans” or “community plans” for ten different sections of the county, including Crab Creek. Community plans were intended to refine the county’s Future Land Use Map, making adjustments with input from local residents. See Section 3, Growth Management Strategy, p. 137.
Neighbors in the Crab Creek area, for example, should have worked with the county to decide if a Community Service Center is needed in our area, and if so where it should be. We should also have had a chance to offer input on the design, amenities, and types of businesses that would harmonize with our rural landscape and lifestyle. In areas where the county has completed community plans, citizens have successfully "downzoned" land to protect local character.
Unfortunately, the county still hasn’t begun work on a Crab Creek Community Plan. Because there is no community plan, county officials say that they lack specific guidance for development along Crab Creek Road. And because they lack specific guidance, they now have more leeway to permit a giant storage facility.
A TWO-STEP PROCESS
Because of this history, we've got two tasks before us. First, let's defeat the storage facility. Second, let's make a strong, clear plan for Crab Creek, so we don't have to keep fighting inappropriate development. Here are two arguments we might use to defeat the facility:
The existing Comprehensive Plan is specific enough to require denial of this permit:
As we’ve said, the storage facility permit must be "in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan." It’s not, for three reasons:
Strip Commercial: The proposed storage facility, with its own curb cut and the potential for many more commercial curb cuts nearby, represents exactly the kind of strip development that the Comprehensive Plan seeks to prevent in Rural Transition Areas by clustering commercial uses in Community Service Centers.
Regional Scale: A storage facility this large is regional-scale commercial, intending to serve a market well beyond Crab Creek. Regional-scale commercial is discouraged in Rural Transition Areas, and no wonder. Regional-scale commercial facilities are too large and generate too much traffic to be integrated into a rural Community Service Center, whose eco-friendly, pedestrian-friendly nature is described in detail in the Comprehensive Plan.
Wrong Location: Because Crab Creek residents never got the chance to develop our own community plan, the existing Future Land Use Map should influence the location of any Community Service Center placed on Crab Creek Road. The proposed storage facility isn’t anywhere near the location specified on that map.
If the Comprehensive Plan and the public-friendly process that produced it have any meaning at all, the storage facility permit should be denied.
2. We shouldn’t be penalized for not having a community plan:
We're told that having a Crab Creek Community Plan would make it easier for county officials to reject this permit request. Then we're told that there’s no Crab Creek Community Plan because, despite the passage of years, the county hasn't begun work on it yet.
Henderson County has already developed, and slated for development, many more acres than will be needed to serve our growing population. So after the permit request is, we hope, denied, let's pull together — Crab Creek residents and county officials — to prevent the gateway to DuPont Forest, Kanuga Conference Center, camps, resorts, etc. from becoming another suburban artery congested with traffic and spoiled by strip commercial.