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Orange Is Out of Step With Growth – and Likes It

Posted August 13, 2007

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— Double-digit growth is happening in nearly every corner of the Triangle, but Orange County is not part of the trend, and officials say that is the result of growing smart!

The numbers certainly set Orange apart. Population in Wake County is up nearly 26 percent since 2000. Johnston County grew 24 percent, Chatham 17 percent and Durham County 10. Orange has grown 7 percent.

In Orange County, much of the land is consciously left untouched.

“We take pride in trying to protect our environment and balancing growth with some of the social justice issues,” said Barry Jacobs, one of the Orange County commissioners.

That approach to growth that attracts many newcomers. Stephanie Basclici said she was looking to get away from urban sprawl.

“That's not what I'm looking for. Growth at any cost is not worth it to me,” Basclici said while shopping in Hillsborough.

Jacobs said that unlike other counties, Orange is careful not to let development outpace infrastructure needs. Both of the county's school systems —the Orange County Schools and the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools — are in sync with the growth, he said.

“We also have a reputation of being rigorous in approving developments,” Jacobs noted.

Developers in the county have to pay a school impact fee, which means $3,000 per single-family home. In Chapel Hill, the charge is $4,400 a house.

Others say the approach has drawbacks.

“The problem is (that) the supply of housing choices in Orange County is limited,” said Nick Tennyson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Durham, Orange and Chatham Counties.

Short supply keeps home prices are on the high end, and there are other effects on the neighbors.

“Orange County has made some public-policy decisions resulting in strong growth in Alamance, southern Durham and north Chatham counties,” said Tennyson, a former Durham mayor.

“We're looking for growth that blends in with the community, that in 100 years from now, it will still make people say this is a great place to live,” said Tom Stevens, mayor of Hillsborough, the Orange County seat.

Leaders predict a faster growth rate for the future, but they say they will not give up the character that's Orange County.

Orange County is overhauling its comprehensive plan and expects that work to be finished in a year.

County Commissioner Barry Jacobs is a professional writer and creates a sports blog for WRAL.com as one of his products.

75 Comments

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  • chunky23 Aug 15, 2007

    hardrock - you are right on the nose! The county tells you everything you can and cannot do on your own personal property. I live 6 miles out of the city limit on over 15 acres but they feel the need to tell me in what direction I can face my house! That is completely ludicris! I cannot even build where I want to on my own land! You do not own any personal proprerty in Orange County. It is clear that the leaders stake claim to everyone's personal property and will take it if they want it!

  • Hardrock757 Aug 15, 2007

    Someone answer me this, who compensates the owners of land in Orange County for the decrease in the value of their land, due to over-reaching government?

  • Hardrock757 Aug 15, 2007

    I might approach this issue from a very different stand point from many of you previous posters. First of all, I find it VERY troubling that many of you are supportive of the social engineering that comes with allowing the government to dictate development. Secondly, anyone who thinks there should be zoning laws to limit growth are either very naive or out right crooks. When the government dictates a parcel of land can’t be used for development the value of that land plummets. Not to mention the fact that any property rights that land owner once had are now completely destroyed. For you people in the suburbs on ½ acre lots think of this – you go and buy a house with 4 bedrooms, and then the government says six months later you can only use 3 of those bedrooms!!! It is the same situation – when government limits an individual’s ability to use their LAND or HOME it decreases the value of that entity and tramples on individual property rights.

    Someone answer me this, who

  • Iron Man Aug 15, 2007

    Raleigh leaders need to make the hard decision to limit growth so that the needs of the general population are met not those of the Big "smelly" Fish.

  • chunky23 Aug 14, 2007

    I'm glad to see others see the injustice of the local leaders. For those of you who do not live here...just think of a brown colored water with a disgusting smell coming out of your faucettes and the town saying they can find nothing wrong and that it is just fine. Even though it doesn't pass quality standards and you pay 3-4 times what people in the city limits in Alamance County pay. It isn't even drinkable, yet the town chooses to raise the water bill. And then the charm of Hillsborough used to be James Drug right there on Churton St or Dual Supply for your hardware needs. Small town family businesses were what was great. Now, leaders are turning this into Franklin St north. Bars, organic restaurants, and trendy little boutiques that come and go every other month because they do not fair well are a problem. The people of this town need to stand up and take back what was theirs. We need to show the leaders that we do not like their taxes and their limits on our freedoms.

  • jhnewman Aug 14, 2007

    Simple Formula: Higher prices yield less social pollution.

  • happeninghillsborough Aug 14, 2007

    An aspect of Hillsborough and Orange County that many people fail to acknowledge is that so much of what is cherished as special and unique came about during a time when there was far less government regulation. The "special charm" and "historic character" of Hillsborough wasn't created because of "rigorous" approval processes for developers. In fact, just the opposite is true.

    Local elected "progressive" politicians don't want people to recall that their "rigorous" legislation is relatively recent. They use the mentality of fear and panic to scare unknowing citizens into believing that a county or town without their policies is endangered of "becoming another Cary!"

    The reality is they underestimate the will and creativity of the free-market, something Orange County "progressives" loath because they cannot control it. They establish law with little consideration for the consequences. They want to stymie growth, but instead their actions do more to promote it.

  • half-brit Aug 14, 2007

    tired of county commissioners voting for C/H agendas which cost us (hillsborough folks and northern Orange county) more money

    tired of seeing beautiful woods turned into subdivisions...

    tired of hearing the newly arrived who live in these new subdivisions complain about the wildlife eating up the flowers that the newly arrived planted in the new home that was once the woods where the wildlife use to live...

    tired of paying high water bills because the town was not smart enough to realize you don't put all ya eggs in one basket. Mills closed down and so did the income....

    tired of seeing good paying quality jobs go to other counties because Hillsborough nit pick. Other than the Fire Dept. there is not a thing I need to shop for downtown in the Hysterical district.

  • elcid89 Aug 14, 2007

    "elcid - you were very friendly and polite today, I thought. First guess. Georgetown?"

    Yes on graduating from, no on graduating from law school from.

    I am trying to be nicer, I admit. It's part of my new "this place has gotten way too nasty and I've contributed to it getting that way in the past, so let there be change and let it begin with me" philosophy.

  • elcid89 Aug 14, 2007

    "Doing both gives them selective/wealthy growth. It keeps any chance of lower and middle class folks from owning property of any size -- townhouse, condo, or single family detached home. Where is the "social justice" in keeping the middle and lower class either in rental housing or completely out of the county limits? They might as well hand out "keep Carrboro elite" bumper stickers for their hybrids, since riding the bus is for students and other people."

    This is what I was trying to sidestep coming out and bluntly saying earlier, but you are correct. Keeping growth at a certain socio-economic level, maintaining the bulk of the status quo at that level, and upconverting the remaining property that doesn't fit the mold is the goal. That does sound awful, I admit, but it's resulted in a pretty good place to live.

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