EDITORIAL: Habitat Ruling On Solid Ground
Pinebluff would be wise to face the music and abandon its unseemly effort to keep Habitat for Humanity out.
The town commissioners made a wrong decision in the fall by voting 3-2 to deny the request by Habitat of Humanity of Moore County for a conditional-use permit for a proposed 75-home subdivision on an 81-acre tract. Superior Court Judge James Webb made that clear earlier this month in issuing his ruling favoring the nonprofit ministry, which had appealed the Town Board's decision. Webb ruled that the town had acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" in its denial and ordered the town to grant the permit.
We prefer not to think that the town was acting in consciously discriminatory fashion, but its decision certainly created that impression in a lot of eyes, which is a shame.
A group of neighboring property owners had asked to join the battle, arguing that the value of their property would be adversely affected if Habitat were allowed to build its subdivision. Their attorney contended that Habitat's development was not in harmony with the surrounding area. But Habitat's attorney, Doug Gill of Southern Pines, pointed out that the tract had been zoned for development for many years and that there was an existing subdivision on one border.
Gill also argued that the town had improperly determined that the permit should be denied and that it failed to follow its own procedures, which required hearing only sworn testimony during a public hearing. He said the record showed that no real evidence was presented at the hearing.
Webb agreed, and with justification. It is not enough in a quasi-judicial hearing, which is required in this case, for speakers merely to present opinions that they just don't like something. Just because some folks don't like the idea of Habitat building there is simply not enough. There must be sworn testimony and evidence showing how a development would harm the surrounding area.
It is clear that the town and these owners simply don't want Habitat to build in that location, pure and simple. It seems a classic case of the NIMBY (not in my back yard) syndrome.
These folks have the wrong idea about Habitat and its participants. This is a praiseworthy organization that helps local residents achieve the dream of home ownership. These are good, decent people who need a hand up, not a handout. It does them a disservice to imply that merely having these people as neighbors would somehow harm the surrounding area.
If anything, Pinebluff -- as well as any other town, for that matter -- should welcome Habitat with open arms.
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