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Editor's notes: The growing pains of growth
editor's notes

I admit it. I like to think of myself as reasonable and open minded. I’ve voted Democrat. I’ve voted Republican. I’ve voted third party. I tend to see different sides of stories, even when I would rather not. So it is that, for example, I like jazz, especially the old stuff from artists like Pat Martino and Kenny Burrell and Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans and Dave Brubeck. At the same time, I enjoy listening to old Merle Haggard and Marty Robbins and think “El Paso” is the best country and western song ever written or sung.

I love college football and the South Carolina Gamecocks, who do not always play college football but will one day win the SEC and a national title, and really, really enjoy PBS’s Masterpiece Mysteries.

Oh, and I like to read and hate to write, blah blah. I’m a regular renaissance man, right?

Nope. One issue in particular has shown me to be less tolerant than I ought to be.

That issue is growth. All the confounded suburban and commercial and light industrial sprawl inflicted on the Coastal Empire these past couple of decades. Some times it’s more noticeable than at others, and these are such times.

For starters, there’ve been forums in which folks who sound like they’ve just rolled in from somewhere well north of the Mason Dixon line tend to gripe about the growth, which is interesting by itself. There’s also been a lawsuit filed by a group representing builders against the county for trying to legislate how that growth should be managed, and funded.

And in between, I am on I-95 way too much anymore, making a daily commute that can be a roll of the dice. On the way in Wednesday I was doing 70 mph when I nearly got clipped by somebody in a smoke belching old Toyota pickup trying to outrun everybody by taking the slow lane around the slowpokes in the middle and fast lanes. They were followed by somebody else, and then someone else, everybody in a hurry.

I didn’t get hit, so I guess I have no reason to complain, but still. You get enough growth and a burgeoning yahoo class shoved down your throat, or shoved up somewhere else, and it can color your perception a tad.

In the meanwhile, I’ve sat in court for what seems like 300 hours now over a two-day period to try and cover the beginnings of the Home Builders Association of Greater Savannah’s lawsuit against Bryan County.

While I admire the stamina, wit, determination and dedication of attorneys and witnesses for both sides, not to mention the good grace with which the judge, Atlantic Judicial Circuit Senior Judge Robert Russell, has presided over the whole exercise, it appears this thing might drag on a bit.

But I also heard some there to watch the fireworks (such as they were) weigh in on the affordable housing issue with what is probably the most old fashioned, common sense and thus politically incorrect take on the issue I’ve yet come across. Because I didn’t ask them for permission to quote them, I’ll just roll it out minus attribution. “It seems pretty simple to me.,” one said. “If you can’t afford to live in a place, don’t move there. If you can’t afford to live in Richmond Hill, don’t move here. I can’t afford to live in Ford Plantation, so I don’t try.”

Me neither.

As for the issues up for debate, I’m all for impact fees. Services cost money. So does infrastructure. Longtime residents shouldn’t pay the cost of accommodating still more new residents. They’ve had to do so for too many years. Neither should they be subjected to all that comes with growth and be told there’s no money to do better. There’s money. It’s in all those new houses going up out there.

I’m still not sold on the architectural standards the county is trying to impose on builders, even if they are the result of focus group meetings with residents who want everything to look just so. Vinyl siding? Roof planes? Articulated garages? Really?

If it were up to me, I’d tell the county to rethink its plans and go after the “health safety and welfare” mantra the home builders’ attorneys have stressed time and again as reasonable reasons for a county to legislate.

I’d suggest there could well be evidence out there that decades of virtually unchecked residential growth has affected the health, safety and welfare of many Bryan Countians, whether it’s the traffic lunacy which rachets up the demand on first responders, or the stress the increasing population is putting on natural resources..

I’d also suggest that one man who attended a development ordinance forum not so long ago echoed the note of frustration I’ve heard time and again by some who have seen their quiet corner of the coast invaded again and again by bulldozers and builders. When told builders were suing the county, this fellow responded, “Can’t we sue them?”

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