Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oaks at Fallon Park

I realize that after I post something that is somewhat vulnerable I have to follow it up with something else. So here I go...

There is a development going on at the end of our street called the Oaks at Fallon Park. It includes 82 single family homes starting at the $800,000. I think some of the houses are actually quite amazing and admit to fanticizing about living in them or building something like that for Matt and I.

But, then when I was walking home the other day I saw this beautiful tree getting knocked down.

I was sad.

There are some amazing trees in this development that I fear will get taken down. I'm not sure if I can do anything about it.

I wonder why they call it the Oaks at Fallon Park if they are going to cut down the Oak trees.


Patrick said...

First let me give the disclaimer on my post. I work in the land development industry. Keep that in mind as I write my thoughts about this. Okay, now that we have that out of the way I'll write a bit about your post.

Your husband and I actually talked about this Saturday as we were leaving to play golf. My thoughts are the Oaks at Fallon are a shining example of responsible infill development. From purely a land planning perspective the firm has done a great job of keeping cars off the street, utilizing rear loaded garages, creating a walkable community and interspersing new street trees in the area. You would be ASTOUNDED at what this City (and most for that matter) require as a minimum standard in the tree area. Suffice to say this project far exceeds those requirements. Further, these manner of projects have been proven to put significantly less strain on public works and the environment than would some of the alternative forms of development. In short this project is a benchmark for good, responsible redevelopment or infill development.

I think that as stakeholders in the community we do have a right to look at and consider developments like this. It is important that we do so! But in doing so we need to look through more lenses than just that of developer or environmentalist or long term resident or any number of parties. To craft any sort of logical argument we have to at least make an attempt to look at each parties viewpoints. Then we can weight those, along with our values, and make a decision. It's funny to me how folks typically can't or won't do that when it comes to development. Read some of the Raleigh blogs about it, WOW!

Hey and at least they aren't spreading out futher into greenfield properties!

Patrick said...

Oh, and to answer your question about what you can do, there are public hearings during the rezoning process where neighbors of the property are given time to comment. That's long passed with this project, likely before y'all bought there, but government does offer time for folks to comment on project. You'd be amazed at the comments that come up!

traci said...

Thanks for the insight Patrick. I do recognize the aspects of the community that you point out as positive. I also admit that I like the fact that we have $800,000 homes going in down the street from us.

You have a good point that we can't just look at everything from one angle.

Why does everything have to be so complex?

Patrick said...

Be careful what you admit, I might classify you as a capitalist! I think the thing I like most about the development industry it that it requires you to look at each stakeholders opinions and try to work with them. Which in turn can lead to some wonderful headaches! ;)

Jon said...

This is an ongoing partnership that my boss is a part of:


There will always be a balance between man's need to use natural resources and man's need to conserve them. Fortunately, there are many developers, engineers, architects, and politicians interested in smart development.

I agree with Patrick that there is a great opportunity to voice concerns and comments during these public hearings. I've never seen this development, so I can't really comment on it directly.

In general, water quality impacts can occur in watersheds with very little development, some people say as little as 10% impervious cover can result in surface water degradation. So yeah, very complicated issue.

Nastanis said...

I got motivated to find your blog!

Those neighborhood meetings are 99% of the time a complete joke. I promise had you gone and said, I'm concerned about preserving some of the huge oaks in the neighborhood. They would have said, oh of course, we too are very concerned and we'll preserve as many as possible, then gone and cut down the same number as originally planned. There is no motivation for a development that basically stands on it's own to listen to neighbors.

I agree, this neighborhood is certainly better than further sprawl, but what would have been even better were reasonably sized houses that preserved trees and green space. Density can be good, and this development is dense, but not in population. Obviously more people are not living here because the houses are bigger. However, again, there is no incentive to act responsibly. I certainly can't blame a developer for making a wise economic move.

In our often wonderful capitalist society, our only power is our ability to fight for regulations that require responsibility. There will be a handful of people who will give up economic gain to be responsible, but it is foolish for us to expect that.

Anonymous said...

Chewie here...
I've participated in numerous development projects as a citizen and I've seen both "good" and "bad" developers. I understand the need for return on investment (ROI) and I'd like to think that I can view things from a couple of different points of view.

There's definitely economic considerations for this developer and that's primarily what will (and should) drive him. The developer is not unlike a company that has shareholders who demand the maximum ROI. (might even be a corporatoin). They/He will pathalogically behave in a way that maximizes profit. Why leave trees up when he can make another $50-100K on another house? Why even spend the money he does on a street or storm drainage, etc.? Well, part of it (as patrick touched on) is requirements from the local government and the other part is marketing: He needs to do enough to attract buyers for the property.

On the latter point, apparently today's doctors, lawyers, and other people in debt who are buying these things obviously don't place enough of a value on shade, so keeping more trees probably depends on the developer's choices and good will.

In this case, Natalie is absolutely correct. There is little chance a developer will stop development of even one more house because an existing neighbor across the street wants to see the tree. The financials don't make sense. On the other hand, if his development "permit" _required_ him to keep a minimum number of trees (which it probably did) then it makes economic sense to keep _those_ trees. So what's really needed (from your point of view) is a change in the regulation to require more trees or to disallow the cutting down of certain sized trees (perhaps?). From that point of view, if you dug up some of the presentations from public meetings, etc. you could see if the developer misrepresented the amount of trees on the property that would be left and use that to go before city council and lobby them to change the regulation. (If you want to do this, I'm with you! I'll research and go w/ you if it comes to this!)

I tend to agree w/ Patrick that this is a pretty good example of infill overall, but even within this project are good examples of greed (oversized houses; undersized lots; not enough trees left standing) on the part of the developer. I bet you this development could have been done slightly differently and still made 80%-90% of the profit but looked and felt 100% better!