I’m no fan of driving. I might feel differently if I owned a Ferrari and had a long commute to work on a road that was equal parts long, flat stretches and winding curves. Instead, crammed into a 10-year-old Chrysler PT Cruiser, I take U.S. 301 for the four-mile drive to Smithfield or U.S. 70 Business for the 16-mile commute to Clayton.
So when I retire, I would prefer to live within easy walking distance of the necessities – a grocery store, a doctor’s office, restaurants and, in my case, a sports bar with the Major League Baseball package.
A quick Google search shows a number of walkable cities and towns in the United States: New York, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Oakland. Among smaller cities, the following scored high on one website: Alexandria, Va.; Portland, Maine; Berkeley, Calif.; and Arlington, Va.
Maybe one day soon Clayton will appear on such a list.
A proposed comprehensive land-use plan calls for the creation of “neighborhood centers,” or areas near subdivisions that would be suitable for grocery stores, retails and restaurants. For my money, throw in the occasional doctor’s office, and I would be good to go in Clayton.
I suspect I’m not alone in my thinking. I can imagine that folks living in, say, Glen Laurel would be happy if they could shop for groceries or grab a burger without having to leave Glen Laurel Road.
The neighborhood concept, by the way, isn’t new to the Clayton area. I suspect Flowers Plantation just east of Clayton is popular with homebuyers in part because they can satisfy many of their shopping and dining desires without ever having to leave the neighborhood. Ditto for Riverwood Athletic Club, which is in the Clayton town limits and boasts not only a Main Street but also a shopping center with grocery store just across Pritchard Road.
Oddly enough, not everyone is a fan of what I like to call self-contained neighborhoods. In Clayton, for example, some people fret when a proposed subdivision includes a commercial center.
Maybe those folks are Ferrari owners who enjoy driving long distances. Me? I’d just as soon leave my PT Cruiser in the driveway and walk, as I did recently at the beach, to a restaurant with good appetizers and golf on the TV.
Where should our tax dollars go?
Last weekend, my wife and I caught a late-afternoon movie in Durham before heading over to Chapel Hill, our old stomping grounds, for dinner. Under current law, the sales taxes we paid will largely benefit Orange and Durham counties, the city of Durham and the town of Chapel Hill. But should they?
Some Republican lawmakers in Raleigh say no. They want to change North Carolina’s formula for sales-tax distribution to give population greater weight than point of sale. That would benefit more rural counties and towns at the expense of such shopping destinations as Raleigh and Charlotte.
Understandably, the big cities and their home counties oppose the proposed change. The largest cities and counties would lose millions of dollars, forcing them to either slash their budgets or raise other taxes to make ends meet. Rural counties and towns like the proposed change, arguing that they deserve more of the tax dollars their citizens spend in the big cities.
Personally, I haven’t dissected the issue, though I’m leaning toward siding with the rural counties and towns, and not just because I live in Four Oaks in Johnston County.
Here’s where I’m coming from: When I leave my sales-tax dollars in Wake, Durham or Orange counties, what am I getting in return? How are those counties and their cities – Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – spending my tax dollars? If they are spending those dollars on their schools, then I’m sorry, I don’t see how that helps people in Four Oaks and Johnston County. And I can tell you from personal experience that Chapel Hill is spending little money on its streets. My PT Cruiser needs a front-end realignment every time I drive down Rosemary Street.
What about law enforcement? OK, I can see that. It would be nice to have a Durham or Chapel Hill police officer respond when I return to the PT Cruiser to find a window smashed and my dirt-cheap phone charger missing.
But for my money, literally, I would just as soon my tax dollars go to where they can do the most good for me, mine and our neighbors. And that’s in Four Oaks and Johnston County, not Chapel Hill and Durham.