Future coming at warp speed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Gates County Board of Commissioners and the Schools Board will meet at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 19 in a joint session at the Community Center.

I hope the community at large will be there to witness the event.

I have had complaints from many people who say they are truly interested in what's happening in our county and they would like to attend the meetings of the board of commissioners, but they cannot make the 10 a.m. meetings. This meeting on the 19th, a Monday evening, is the perfect opportunity to see what actions the school board and the commissioners are taking for the people of Gates County.

One issue I hope to hear discussed at this meeting is a report on the current status of student enrollment in Gates County schools and I'd also like the school board to inform the commissioners of the capacity of each school and where we stand right now. Can any of the schools accept any more students?

According to figures from the planning board, there are many homes site developers that are standing by waiting for the six-month moratorium to end. We are currently in the fifth month and if the board of commissioners doesn't move immediately to extend that moratorium, I believe our schools will see a marked increase in their student populations.

As I see it, it is optional as to whether we approve any further development, but it is absolutely mandatory that we educate the children coming into this county.

The commissioners and County Manager Mark Biberdorf claim there are &uot;not that many&uot; new students arriving in our schools and that current students are shifting around with families who are moving into new homes.

I disagree with those statements because on the street where I live, there are 30-plus new homes and all have children. All are families moving in from outside Gates County.

It is time for commissioners to take action on problems the county is facing, especially with regard to the school population. I commend the county for taking action on getting zoning maps created and the planning commission for taking a harder look at development in the county, but it is time to take additional action.

Consider this; several months ago, the Camden County Board of Education enacted their authority to disapprove development when there was no more room in their schools.  We need to insist upon such action and have a similar "facilities clause" written into Gates County's ordinances.

There is another issue; that of the "planned unit development." In Gates County, we are headed toward urban density while we continue to have only rural infrastructure. These planned unit developments, which place two houses on a single acre, would only add additional stress to what is already a growing problem.

Take a look at other areas; Suffolk, Va. for instance where you can see the results of housing jammed so closely together that neighbors can hear each other breath. Situations like that only lead to serious problems within the developments, not to mention the toll that type of growth would take on surrounding neighborhoods.

We know the problems Whitehurst Farms has had just about from its beginnings. Several times, citizens have come before the commissioners, as Carol Whitt did this month, to relay reports of youth running wild with drugs and loud music being only a part of the problem. Gates County Sheriff Edward Webb has publicly stated that he scarcely has the manpower to attend to the growing number of problems in that one neighborhood. What would it be like if we have everyone jammed into these planned unit developments?

It is discouraging that the county has these needs and yet our officials seem not to recognize the school growth, the negative aspects of planned unit developments, or the cessation of the moratorium as serious problems.

I can tell you this; I would not sit in their place for even one meeting. It has to be tough sitting there and deciding the fate of this county and its people. Could it be that our officials are afraid of making wrong decisions?

I would be more afraid of not making any decisions. All they have to do is look at problems already occurring here and they could also take a look at surrounding counties, like Camden.

The handwriting is on the wall and the future is coming at warp speed.