Earlier this year, Chapel Hill was named the most livable small city in the country by the United States Conference of Mayors.
Free public transit, a sustainable environment and local businesses all contribute to Chapel Hill’s small-town atmosphere and make it a great place to live. They make Chapel Hill unique.
So let’s not change that vision by considering a “big-box” store, such as a Wal-Mart or a Target. These stores would contribute to destroying the reputation Chapel Hill has as an offbeat town.
The noise, pollution and mass consumerism that this type of store will bring run counter to the values Chapel Hill espouses.
Yes, the presence of a Wal-Mart or a Target could potentially generate the sales tax revenue that the town lacks. Currently, many residents of the town travel outside county lines to shop at these “big-box” stores, which takes away sales tax revenue away from the county. This, in turn, takes away from the town, and to compensate, the town has had to maintain high property taxes to pay for basic municipal services.
But living in the most livable small town in the country has to come with a price. Property taxes are high, but that comes with the territory. While generating sales tax revenue through a Wal-Mart might lessen property taxes, it would also hurt the quality of life.
Large corporate conglomerates displace local businesses, create traffic jams and foster an atmosphere that doesn’t fit the small-town vibe Chapel Hill embodies.
It’s not that these stores don’t have their place. In large metropolitan areas like Raleigh, Durham or Charlotte, these stores can bring jobs and revenue. But Chapel Hill is unique and must be treated differently.
The town already has a Lowe’s Home Improvement and a Borders store and does not need any more high-density commercial development. There is also the issue of space. According to Emil Malizia, chairman of the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, space is the biggest barrier to allowing big-box stores. Simply finding retail space is difficult enough, much less finding the necessary space for parking.
Creating space by displacing other businesses is not an option. An argument could also be made that the town simply doesn’t have a market to support these types of stores.
While big-box stores might work in other cities, they simply aren’t for Chapel Hill. The most livable small town in the United States needs to stay that way by sticking to its values.
Christian Yoder is a senior journalism major from Charlotte. Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.