The town of Knightdale, twice now, has taken land that was once part of Knightdale Station Park and repurposed it for development purposes.
Town officials say the re-designations of the land will allow the town to continue its efforts at remaking Old Town – Knightdale’s version of a downtown.
And, while that may be true, that argument conveniently overlooks the fact that the town purchased the land with the publicly stated intent to preserve open space. Lopping off pieces around the edge of the park to redevelop certainly doesn’t preserve open space. In fact, it kills it.
It also puts the town in the awkward position of working as a land developer, a role the town itself regulates.
Voters overwhelmingly approved plans to buy the property, which was then owned by former Mayor Billy Wilder. Voters said they were willing, if necessary, to endure a small increase in their tax rates to help pay for the new park land.
And, developers saw the value of open space too. Preston launched an effort to build the town of Knightdale’s largest subdivision around the park, knowing that the open space amenity would be attractive to Knightdale newcomers.
It may seem painless, on a large tract of land like Knightdale Station Park, to carve out an acre or two here and there, or five or six acres along the edge. But it sets a dangerous precedent on several levels. There’s nothing to stop the town of Knightdale from simply chipping away a little bit at the time until Knightdale Station Park is reduced to a couple picnic shelters and a small parking lot.
Residents blessed the purchase of land for use as a park. We suspect they would be less than happy to see the town whittling away at their open space even if it’s just a little bit here and there.