Mark Washburn

All this nonsense in north Mecklenburg must end

Near the shores of beautiful Lake Noman, work continues apace for toll lanes to serve the booming region.
Near the shores of beautiful Lake Noman, work continues apace for toll lanes to serve the booming region. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Something must be done about these Lake Norman cry-babies.

They roost up there in their mansions beside the inland sea, whining about how abused and neglected they are.

Of course, they’re right, but that’s not the point. Nobody ever meant them any harm, nobody set out to mess with them. It was just convenient.

True, North Mecklenburg High School was the county’s most crowded for years. With an enrollment of more than 2,000, it was the biggest in the state.

But there were more pressing needs elsewhere for schools, and once the bonds went through, we built them a new high school. It’s nice.

True, it took decades for I-485 to get built up there, but you have to start somewhere and we started at the other end. Have they no patience?

True, we included the idea of a Red Line train to the region back in 1998 when selling the idea of a half-cent transit tax, but the train went south instead. Lake Norman gets express buses, and the region’s nearly $4 million annual contribution to the transit tax barely covers their cost.

True, I-77 through the region is the most congested Interstate in the Carolinas, but money was urgently needed elsewhere, like four lanes of I-85 through Salisbury.

But we’re busily building them zippy toll lanes they can pay some-yet-to-be-determined amount to drive on for the next 50 years if they’re in such a big hurry.

Are they grateful? Nooooo.

Now there’s talk about exploring creation of a new county along the shores of the lake. It would unify the pile of towns along I-77 that share common issues of growth, environment, education and transportation.

If Mooresville in south Iredell – another fast-growing suburb with a well-respected independent school district that could serve the new jurisdiction – joined in, the new county would have a population of more than 125,000.

This we simply cannot allow.

In the governing business, we consider the Lake Norman towns to be ACC country – Absolute Cash Cows.

Not only do we save because they provide their own services like police and parks, but their lucrative property taxes, among the highest in the Southeast, slosh in reliably as the morning tide, underwriting all manner of good deeds across Mecklenburg.

They act like they deserve special treatment because of all the growth up there. Bulletin to the ’burbs – there’s growth everywhere.

True, the north Mecklenburg towns grew in population by 844 percent since 1990, but why does that make them special?

Charlotte has nearly doubled in population in the same period and it seems to be getting along OK.

Charlotte is getting along so well, in fact, that it threw its corpulent political weight behind the Lake Norman toll lanes, ensuring they would get built despite the opposition of county commissioners, all other Mecklenburg municipalities and bordering towns in other counties on the regional transportation board.

And so now Lake Norman whines that maybe it’s time to talk about sailing away into their own jurisdiction. They act like they’re going to be effectively isolated anyway for 50 years.

Which is true.

But it’s not something to cry about.

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