It is not a world-changing event, perhaps, but the Cary Town Council’s decision to table a rezoning request that would have allowed 130 homes in west Cary represents a symbolic recognition that allowing growth to outpace services isn’t a good long-term plan.
In this case, the issue was already overcrowded schools in that part of the county that could not accommodate more students from a new development. While the property owners and developer who made the request aren’t happy, the council’s action sends a message to Wake County commissioners and school officials and to residents: Booming growth can be a double-edged sword.
Over the years, lots of builders and developers have made money, and families from all over the country have moved into nice places. But there is a point where a pause is needed, when county leaders have to assess and reassess the course they’ve set and the rules they’ve made.
There is no question that schools in western Wake are more crowded than they should be. This would be no time to add to that problem, which would make those families in those nice new houses very unhappy indeed. The school board has had to put enrollment caps on three schools west of N.C. 55 and could be looking at a cap for Panther Creek High School next year.
“This, in my opinion, is a crisis,” council member Jennifer Robinson said. “If we keep bringing people in without resources, it’s going to degrade the quality of living here.”
And Lori Bush, another council member, said, “We’ve received a lot of emails from constituents who are tired of putting their kids in crowded schools. These have been coming for a long time, and they’re increasing.”
Robinson said that a middle school is needed in west Cary and that any more rezoning proposals will come under “harsh scrutiny” from the council.
Builders and developers don’t like the idea of that kind of caution, and Tim Minton, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, questioned whether the council could even consider school crowding when a rezoning request comes up. He said schools are a “county issue.”
If a town council, Cary’s or another in the county, can’t consider school crowding when a zoning issue comes up, the rules need to be changed. It’s a reasonable part of any zoning consideration to judge its impact on schools.
Builders and developers have made positive contributions to the county over the years, and they’ve made a great deal of money in the process. But county and municipal officials have a responsibility to guide growth, and sometimes that means taking the foot off the accelerator.
Clearly, the Cary Town Council understands that, and it has done the right thing in this case.