Editorial: Two is a coincidence — three is a trend

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 3, 2022

China Grove is close to developing a fraught relationship with major housing developments.

In October 2020, the China Grove Town Council turned away plans for a 373-home development because of concerns about lot sizes and some of the usual worries about new developments, including increased traffic.

“It’s just jamming the many houses in that little space that I can’t approve of,” Councilman Steve Stroud said at the time.

A few months later, the Town Council appeared to have a change of heart. Mayor Charles Seaford said he contacted representatives from the previously denied company and stated aloud what many believe — it’s hard to bring businesses and jobs to town if the employees don’t have affordable places to live.

“My thought is, if we are going to have industries coming or looking at us, we need to probably be able to have housing here for people for that industry,” Seaford said.

Now the town is at it again, forcing a developer to pull a request for a 218-unit subdivision Tuesday night after it became clear the proposal would fail. This time, the council was worried the land would be a prime spot for a big business development. The subdivision would be located near Hitachi Metals off of Interstate 85.

“A good company, a good plan, just the wrong location,” Stroud said this time.

He’s right. It’s probably not the most attractive location for a housing development, and its zoning was more conducive for industrial-type economic development projects rather than housing developments. But there’s also something to be said for adding housing capacity in a time when finding an affordable place to live is harder than ever.

There also appeared to be concerns the development would drag down a new and improved fire protection rating, require more services than it would otherwise generate in tax revenue and have trouble selling units because of low demand. Those were not the most prominently cited parts of the council’s decision.

The Town Council is free to do what it thinks is best for China Grove; that’s why voters elected them. It is also good to encourage developers to make choices that don’t hurt the quality of life in a community.

But if there’s another instance where a housing developer leaves China Grove without a “yes” or a compromise solution, builders may begin thinking twice about the southern Rowan County town. One is an isolated incident, two is a coincidence and three makes a trend.