Editorial: Kannapolis’ growing pains

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018

As Kannapolis embarks on the exciting redevelopment of its downtown and the growth that ripples out from new buildings and businesses, city leaders probably knew they would run into resistance of some kind. But the voices who spoke up Monday night were not concerned about the $300 million project a developer has proposed for downtown, nor the baseball stadium that’s in the works. Nor the parking garage.

Instead, the feared impact of rapid residential growth was that stirred Kannapolis residents to action. You could say it was a NIMBY response; these residential developments may be closer to people’s backyards than what’s going on downtown. But the NIMBY label doesn’t give enough credit to the legitimate concerns presented Monday night.

With a few dozen town homes in one proposal and 121 houses in another, residents have every reason to raise red flags about school capacity, traffic congestion and precedent. Once these developments take shape, there’s no going back.

Council members appear to have taken some of those concerns to heart. The council OK’d Providence Properties’ rezoning request for 2800 Trinity Church Road and a parcel across Stonewood View. The result could be as many as 35 new town homes. One resident was doubtful that the city has the clientele for homes estimated to cost $250,000 to $300,000. Maybe not now, but it soon may. Good for her for worrying about developing into a city of haves and have-nots. That, unfortunately, is the way the U.S. economy has been headed for some time.

The council tabled the more controversial request from M/I Homes, which would have cleared the way for more than 100 homes to be built on Trinity Church Road and Stirewalt Road — roughly 2.5 houses per acre, with a park area of less than an acre. Council and residents questioned the wisdom of such density. Nearly a dozen people spoke against the rezoning, citing concerns about increased traffic and crime.

The property owners who want the rezoning made strong comments that likely will be repeated many times in years to come. “Times in Kannapolis have changed,” said Fred Roberts. Jack McKinley said people were “living in a past that wasn’t, a present that isn’t and a future that will not be.”

The steamroller of progress has advanced in downtown Kannapolis without great impediment so far. Addressing the housing needs of the people Kannapolis is bound to attract could be a much more difficult matter. Existing residents who like their quiet little town better enjoy it now. Kannapolis is headed for transformation.