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Growth Management Act Preserves Open Spaces Statewide

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CHAPEL HILL — A controversial plan to handle growth across the state has lawmakers talking in Raleigh. The Growth Management Act would, among other things, create a new property tax class if land owners agree not to build on the land.

Urban sprawlhas become so bad in our state that an Orange County legislator has authored one of the first statewide attempts to control it --The Growth Management Act of 1999.

"We have to make a decision as to whether we are going to plan our growth, or whether we are going to have Atlanta-style or Los Angeles-style sprawl," saysOrange County Representative Joe Hackney.

The bill calls for lower tax rates for land that remains open space. It would also let counties with long-term growth plans place impact taxes on residential and commercial developments. That money would be used for schools.

These impact taxes would likely be passed on to the buyer. Builders say while the law to control urban sprawl may be needed, it must balance our state's economic and environmental interests.

TheNorth Carolina Sierra Clubsays it is encouraging that legislators are starting to pay attention to this issue.

"I think it's just amazing how much the debate about this has caught fire this past year," says Molly Diggins, director of the N.C. Sierra Club. "All across North Carolina, counties, different communities are trying to deal with this."

Most agree the state needs to manage growth, the question is who should do it?

In a series on sprawl, the News and Observer asked voters that question. More than a third of people who responded thought city government should come up with a plan. Almost 21 percent thought handling sprawl should be left to county or regional authorities. Less than one percent thought theGeneral Assemblyshould get involved.


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