Years ago, a reporter spoke with a woman whose house was along the path of the proposed U.S. 70 bypass of Clayton. She did not want to sell her house, did not want to move, and she said something like this: “If not for all these newcomers, we wouldn’t need this road.”
The reporter then asked the woman how long she had lived in Johnston County. If memory serves, she said about five years, as if that somehow made her a Johnston County native and not a newcomer herself.
We think of that story whenever we hear people complain about a subdivision that a developer wants to build right next to theirs. And we’re reminded of just how often newcomers to Johnston want no more growth here now that they have their slice of the bucolic pie.
It’s not that we’re unsympathetic. We understand that no one living in rural Johnston County wants to suddenly be living in urban or even suburban Johnston County. But their protests are largely misplaced.
The last person to blame is the developer, who is simply trying to meet a demand for housing within the guidelines set forth by county or town government. And in any event, no developer could do business without a landowner willing to sell.
But no one ever blames the landowner who sells to the developer, and that’s OK with us. We think people should be able to sell their land to any willing buyer. It’s up to the buyer and local government to work out any future land use.
Which brings us to the crux of the matter, which is that people who want to guarantee a bucolic Johnston County should take their case to their elected leaders. And they shouldn’t wait until a subdivision proposal is before the local elected board.
In Clayton, folks who live on large lots care little for a proposed 2,200-home subdivision with much smaller lots. We get that. But in Clayton, small-lot subdivisions are legal. If folks in Ole Mill Stream and Smith Ridge Estates want to prevent the likes of Steeplechase, their argument isn’t with Steeplechase; it’s with the Clayton rules that allow massive subdivisions with small lots.
In our opinion, disallowing small-lot subdivisions would be a mistake. Steeplechase will have acres of open space, a commercial center and land for a school in part because small lots will leave land for other uses.
But if people who moved to Johnston because it was rural want to keep it that way, they need to change policy, not pick fights with individual developments.