Growing With 'Infill'
Last updated 1/6/2021 at 4:14pm
When the North Carolina General Assembly basically nullified involuntary annexation, cities were forced to grow within their own boundaries. The only choices have been to build taller structures, renovate unusued spaces or fill in the open spaces.
The latter mode, commonly referred to as “infill,” has been the tool most implemented in Brevard. From 1918-2020, there were 57 new homes built in Brevard on these vacant spaces. Examples of these infill areas can be found on South Rice Street and along West Main Street.
A drawback of some infill projects is that homes are built so closely together that they have very little yard space and may detract from the more spacious aesthetics of a neighborhood. However, having greater home density allows for the city to increase its population while preserving more green space.
The other significant benefit of implementing infill is that homes are constructed, as the Unified Development Ordinance notes, on land “that is enclosed by other types of development that are already served by public infrastructure, such as transportation, water, wastewater and other utilities.” Thus, the city does not have to spend more money to extend these utilities yet benefits financially by having more residents use those utilities. It’s also better environmentally because less area is disturbed for transportation and less water is needed because there are fewer miles of water pipes. (The latter is analogous to an 80-pound child having .7 gallons of blood while an adult weighing 180 pounds has about 1.5 gallons of blood.)
While infill is typically used in reference to residential construction, infill is also being used commercially. The area between Neely Road and the Asheville Highway used to have a great deal of open land. Now, however, a new hotel, restaurants and other businesses are being built and opening in that area. We may or may not like the businesses going into those spaces, but again, they are being constructed near city utilities and are not destroying pristine land with high aesthetic value.
Renovating unused spaces also has the same benefits as infill. The city and the Heart of Brevard have done a good job of keeping most of the downtown buildings occupied. It would be wonderful to see some other spaces, such as the old Kmart building occupied, but private ownership of those buildings comes into play.
As for building taller structures, they would be incompatible with our current structures and possibly destroy the small town charm of Main Street. (Many cities in Europe have limits on the heighth of most buildings in order to preserve the character of their towns.)
Cities either grow or diminish. With a few exceptions, the City of Brevard has done a relatively good job promoting growth without destroying its small town ambience.