Eastern Wake: Opinion

1 million people? Where are they all gonna fit?

Last week’s news that Wake County had welcomed its 1 millionth resident is a stark reminder that, despite the recession and the upheaval it caused, this are is still a better place to live than many other places in the U.S.

There are those who would like to roll up the welcome mat and shut the front and back gates to Wake County. Many of them probably feel like it should have happened, oh, 500,000 or 600,000 people ago. But the overwhelming sense I get is that people are proud that Wake County is growing.

Like many others, I decry the cookie-cutter subdivisions with quarter-acre (or smaller) lots that are rising out of old tobacco fields and forest stands. It does have a tendency to give Wake County a sort of drab appearance. But it’s a sign of what the market demands. I live in an older section of Wendell where the homes were built in the 1950s. Just around the corner from me, development of a subdivision that ground to a halt during the recession has begun anew. Houses, built so close together that they don’t have windows on the sides are going up at a remarkable pace. What’s interesting to note is that almost as soon as construction on each house is complete, you see one of those real estate signs that say “Under Contract” followed shortly by a sign that says “Sold”. There have been about 13 new homes built in that section of the neighborhood since last year. All but two of them were sold quickly. One of those that wasn’t did later sell. Currently, there is only one house among the group that still has the “For Sale” sign in the yard. It is apparently what the market demands.

There are a few other things to consider when we think about Wake County’s millionth resident. As Wendell commissioner John Boyette pointed out at a town board meeting Monday night, Wendell accounts for less than one percent of that total. Roughly speaking, Zebulon accounts for about the same amount. Knightdale. takes up about 1.2 percent of that total. That makes it hard to see how voices from this end of Wake County will ever be heard over the roar of the other 97 percent of the county. Of course, historically, it’s been hard for people outside the largest cities in Wake County to muscle their way in to conversations anyway. So perhaps these numbers serve merely as an explanation for that phenomenon.

But here’s a more exciting thought. We wonder sometimes, where the heck all these people go. Surely they must be bedding down in every nook and cranny of the county.

But it ain’t so. If you ever look at a county map of North Carolina, you’ll notice that, geographically speaking, Wake County’s pretty big. It takes a long time to drive from, say, Falls Lake to Fuquay-Varina. And if you take that drive, or one of many others, you’ll pass through a lot of open land. Head north from Zebulon on N.C. 96. There’s nothing but country all the way to the Franklin County line.

You gotta figure there’s room there for at least a millon more.

And if little Anderson Grace Hughes picked up a free scholarship from Wake Tech for being named Wake County’s 1 millionth resident, just think about what kind of swag that 2 millionth resident might collect.