On Thursday, July 2, 2009, Emerging Tar Heel Leaders and WakeUP Wake County hosted a forum on “Growth and Development in the Triangle” at Sitti in downtown Raleigh. The expectations 40-50 people blossomed into over 100 folks, and the forum was moved into the courtyard outside. Panelists included Greg Hatem of Empire Properties, John Kane of Kane Realty, Mitch Silver, City of Raleigh Planning Director, and Melanie Wilson, former Wake County Planning Director. Each panelists provided their perspective on numerous growth issues. The message was clear from Hatem and Kane – if the growth issues we are talking about today are to be handled with a planned, sustainable approach, we need strong, bold leaders to start making wise decisions that aren’t being made today.
Hatem mentioned that developers like Kane and himself have local interests and want to see Raleigh succeed as our capital city and become a better place for all citizens. I think many people would agree that their projects have improved and revitalized the areas where they are developed. When asked about affordable housing, Kane said there are various options to provide incentives that would impact developer behavior to include this housing type, but the current leadership isn’t taking steps to make any meaningful progress. Both Kane and Hatem stated that the systematic approach to development is broken and needs to be fixed if we want the desired growth to occur.
Wilson gave us the regional aspect with her former Wake County planning hat on. She stated that if any city in the Triangle area fails, Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill, then the entire area fails. A regional, united approach can prove to be very successful.
Silver was very focused on advocating for the Comprehensive Plan, Raleigh’s plan for the next 20 years, which is still in draft form. Mitch has public planning experience from New York City and private planning experience in the Washington D.C. area. Mitch talked about planning for the future, 5, 10, 20 years ahead and mentioned that Raleigh is a great place now, because of the past vision for the city plan.
A key item that each panelists talked about was the hidden opportunity the economic downtown is providing us. It’s giving us time to think through important planning steps and prepare for growth, allowing us to focus growth in certain areas and avoid urban sprawl. It’s also exploiting areas that need to be repaired, updated, and changed, in order to maintain our current growth rate and prepare for future growth.
Elected officials in attendance included Senator Josh Stein and Raleigh City Councilor Thomas Crowder. Hatem, a supporter of Crowder, was quick to point out that his call for bold leadership excluded the present officials. In full disclosure, I also support Crowder. Crowder added to the conversation and advocated for small area planning, stating that the parcel approach for planning approvals is creating a “first in gets the density” mentality and this needs to stop if we want to grow in a smart, sustainable way.
Growth and Development Discussion a Success!