To help pay for the costs of growth in Raleigh

RALEIGH — To help pay for the costs of growth and to ensure that there will parks and recreation for newcomers, Wake County requires subdivision developers to set aside land for recreational use or to pay a fee in lieu of a set-aside. This Recreation Land Dedication Ordinance, passed in 2002, has generated over $1.7 million for acquisition of recreational land in the county.

Yet despite the importance of the RLDO for creating and maintaining parks as new development occurs, the county Planning Board recently voted 7-2 to repeal it.

Wake’s population has grown fast over the past 10 years. Five towns – Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Rolesville and Wake Forest – have more than doubled in size since 2000. Despite the current economic slowdown, the Raleigh-Cary metro area is projected to be among the fastest growing in the nation over the next decade.

We hope that the Board of Commissioners will take a more enlightened view and follow the advice of the Wake County Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee. That committee thoroughly reviewed the RLDO and came up with a list of recommendations to keep the ordinance in place and while modifying it to make it more usable. These include:

Actively seek joint county/municipal park or greenway acquisition with RLDO funds.

Expand existing county parks with RLDO funds where possible.

Purchase greenway corridor parcels.

Consider purchase of conservation/recreation easements when appropriate.

Seek school/park joint projects.

Clarify/retain flexibility in the ordinance language regarding distance.

Re-evaluate the effectiveness of the above recommendations in two years with the open space committee and consider whether a nationally recognized consultant in RLDOs should be hired to do a complete evaluation of the ordinance.

We urge the Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 1 meeting to reject the Planning Board’s shortsighted recommendation to repeal the RLDO and instead consider the committee’s practical recommendations that will maintain our quality of life here as we grow. The outdoor and recreational opportunities the RLDO supports are important for healthy living, environmental quality and economic growth – the very characteristics that make our region attractive to new residents and business.

Karen Rindge is executive director of WakeUP Wake County.

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