Urban sprawl: a tale a thousand times told. Cloudburst of urban growth - neighborhoods up for sale and mushrooming shopping malls
WHEN John and Teresa Strasser bought a house outside this small bedroom community near Raleigh, N.C., four years ago, they could see a cornfield, a horse farm, and a 150-year-old barn from their porch. The handful of other houses in their subdevelopment were tucked back out of sight in a wooded cul-de-sac. Occasional cars passed on Kildaire Farm Road.Skip to next paragraph
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Today, even on a Saturday, cars whiz steadily by their house - so steadily that this year Kildaire Farm Road is being widened to five lanes, like similarly located roads around the country.
A 56-acre shopping center is under construction at the new stoplight, and a $24 million hospital is planned across the road. Just beyond the Strassers' split-rail fence, fire trucks rush out loudly at all hours from a new fire station not far from where they live.
Fast growth has shocked many residents of this town, until recently known for its quiet, village-like atmosphere. This is a tale that could be told countless times around the United States.
Eight miles from the high-tech industries of Research Triangle Park - and now touching the city limits of Raleigh - Cary has become one of the fastest-growing towns in the urban South.
Its present population, about 40,000, represents a 100 percent increase since 1980. And the rapid growth is expected to continue. `SUDDENLY, we're surrounded,'' says John Woodward, a neighbor of the Strassers, referring to the shopping malls, subdevelopments, and office buildings that have sped like a line of wildfire out Kildaire Farm Road.
Mr. Strasser and his neighbors are proposing an unusual solution to the encroachment on their neighborhood: They have put their entire 10-year-old subdevelopment - all 22 acres and 11 houses - up for sale as commercial property.
``An island of nice homes in an area of high building doesn't make much sense,'' Strasser reasons.
He stacks a load of firewood in the yard as his two-year-old daughter and four dogs romp nearby.
Raising his voice over the roar of a passing truck, he explains that the homeowners hope to sell their subdevelopment, called Ponderosa, for a price that will allow them to buy again farther out of town.
The selling of an entire neighborhood, while unusual, has happened before in high-growth areas.
In 1985, nine homeowners in a nearby development sold out to an investment group, which resold the property to a developer of an office complex and shopping center.
In Atlanta, the nonprofit group Research Atlanta has documented proposed buyouts of 16 complete neighborhoods near the city.
In the Ponderosa, all of the neighbors had to agree before they could put their property on the commercial market. Among the 11 families here, there were very different feelings. When the idea was first discussed 2 years ago, some didn't want to sell.
`WHEN my wife was living, we laughed at them for talking to us,'' says Henry Donleycott. His son, Pat, and daughter-in-law also built a house in the subdevelopment to try to keep the family close.
In a front yard as harmonious and meticulously tended as a Japanese garden, Mr. Donleycott walks along a gravel path, calling out the names of crepe myrtle, rhododendron, wax myrtle, and dogwood, along with holly, azaleas and ligustrum.
``My missus had a lot to do with the planting - we worked on it together. We planted that photinia when it was four foot high,'' the 78-year-old man recalls, referring to a 15-foot hedge along the edge of his yard.
From behind the wooden fence Donleycott added to block off Kildaire Farm Road, the constant traffic pounds like a frenzied and wearying surf.
As he talks on this Saturday morning, a telephone truck parks in front of his house. Workmen kick on a generator. They are marking the underground telephone line so it won't be cut when the road and nearby bridge are widened.
Even with the noise, Donleycott says, he'd just as soon stay here. But some of his neighbors have to move whether they can sell their houses or not.