The Deer

I hope you and yours had a pleasant Thanksgiving.

After the Council vote Tuesday night, I drove home down Rosemary Lane. When I got to the curve at the bottom of the hill, a very large doe bounded up from the creek side of the road and dashed in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes and watched the deer stop in a thicket of trees in between the houses there. She turned, looked straight at me, then turned away and dashed into the night.

A couple of hours earlier I heard someone say that deer didn't exist in Franklin Woods, only vagrants. Heard someone say I didn't have the training or knowledge to understand the flooding situation. Heard someone else say there was no evidence of flood worsening, even though his former supervisor had told me a year ago that flood maps were at least two feet off in our area. Heard my councilman say not one word about helping us with flood control just 60 some days after saying in open session that we needed help with it, and after this same Council had voted for a Duharts Creek Urban Runoff Initiative to investigate stormwater mitigation a year ago. Heard someone imply they had the endorsement of an environmental group, only to hear a spokesman of that group say a bit later that they did not. Heard the city attorney tell me I had no standing to find out under what authority they were having a councilman vote remotely, even as I later read that it is a matter of potentially questionable legality if the absent member casts a deciding vote. And as an attorney friend later pointed out, our city attorney later asked specifically for that absent member to cast his vote before the Mayor did so that he might tie the result, before the Mayor voted to break a 3-3 tie and allow a rezoning. Was that absentee vote illegal? Probably not. No more so than untruthful or misleading or incomplete testimony. We trust our decision-makers to weigh all those factors and get the best result. The supporters of rezoning had a goal to get a result. That they did. Now they have my prayers for the least damaging results from their efforts.

How you get results matters to me. And I appreciate that it matters to many of you. I have never intentionally tried to exaggerate our claims about the parcel, but argue from facts and historic record and photo and video evidence. I appreciate the seriousness with which so many, on Council and elsewhere, took our information. I am proud that together we turned back a big box development, and also profoundly saddened that we were not able to convince enough votes to see beyond the present moment and keep this spot green for the whole community. Thank you for your support these last several years with the efforts on "No Big Box" and "Keep Franklin Woods," especially those who came to meetings and gave to our legal fund. And thank you for thirty years of organized fight as neighborhoods before that. I hope we are not the last thirty-year fight against a rezoning in Gastonia. Because that shows a multi-generational caring about place and quality of life. I worry that apathy, and lack of unity and community, threaten that. And yet many of our most passionate supporters in this fight were not long-time residents, but younger people who know that greenspace and water quality and sound floodplain management and sane amounts of vehicle traffic are part of healthy, happy places to live.

This will be our last post to you on this topic on our blogs and by email. Holler at us as neighbors if we can help in the real world, or just chat. Our family continues living in Gardner Park as it has since the summer of '69 (a good summer, as I recall, and a good Bryan Adams tune). Further discussions on the impact of this development down the road, and on other issues affecting our area, will be led by other, more capable, people. And, true to our local and now long-standing tradition, I am sure they will be.

That deer, on Tuesday night, at that moment of my questioning about what is reality to people anymore, I take as a comforting sign. You haven't been imagining things over thirty years of changes. And you have friends who agree with your worries, and who are glad you took the time to share your concerns. The deer was one of those friends. And I, another. May the deer and our shared City find a way home. JEE

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