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Is More Growth Bad For The 'Good Growth' State?
12 May 2008
Bill Fulton
California Planning and Development Report



As Barack Obama would be the first to say, you can’t underestimate the importance of North Carolina anymore. At 9.1 million people and counting, it’s now the 10th most populous state in the nation, and it has added a million people just since the 2000 Census. Another few boom years and North Carolina – along with Georgia – will pass Michigan in population.
All this growth is clearly increasing North Carolina’s political significance. But is it bad for a place that has always called itself “the good growth state”? Only three days after the North Carolina primary, the state’s policy wonks gathered in Greensboro at the behest of the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. The stated purpose was to talk about how to deal with the fact that growth is straining the state’s infrastructure. But in the process, the wonks are gingerly beginning to address the question of whether growth should be managed. (I attended as an observer and as an out-of-state expert.)

As a Californian, I was struck by how similar the situation in North Carolina today is to what we in California experienced during the postwar boom – and how intractable the problems sometimes seem. North Carolina, for example, has hundreds of small water agencies, many of them on the economic margin; yet the small agencies have no political incentive to consolidate, and the big agencies have no economic incentive to absorb them. The state’s school finance system is muddled, with both county and state government playing a role in paying for new schools; yet there are no standards for school design or construction and, of course, there is not enough money.

There is never enough money for roads and highways, but there also isn’t much recognition that the actual pattern of growth may play a role in demand for transportation. The event itself was held at The Proximity, a brand-new hotel in Greensboro selected for the event partly because its building operations make it one of the nation’s “greenest” hotels. But the Proximity isn’t really proximate to anything. It straddles a parking lot in an industrial park alongside a limited-access highway two miles from downtown. It is nearly impossible to walk from the Proximity to the nearby office buildings.

Which raises a systemic problem in North Carolina: an unrelenting pattern of sprawl that is driven partly by the state’s own rural past. Half of the state’s residents use septic tanks and a third use water wells. Most residents aspire to the very large lot in the woodsy, rural-style landscape. There is virtually no urban tradition.
There are exceptions throughout the state. In Durham, the old tobacco warehouses have been converted to lofts and restaurants, and downtown has taken off partly because of the new Durham Bulls stadium. And in Charlotte, Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican candidate for governor this year, has created a buzz around light rail. But Durham and Charlotte are far from the norm. McCrory faces an uphill battle, and not just because the state usually elects Democrats as governor. It’s nearly impossible for the mayor of Charlotte to win votes in the rest of the state because he is usually viewed as too urban in orientation.

Indeed, the growing divide between urban and rural may be North Carolina’s biggest problem in facing growth. Textile mills have closed in the small towns, and the rural areas are losing population. Meanwhile, the three big metro areas along the I-85/I-40 corridor – Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point), and the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill) – are growing faster than anyone could have imagined and sprawling so much they will soon blend together.

Here in California, we’re lucky in certain ways. We must address growth issues because our metro areas are bounded. The four South Atlantic states – Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia – are combined almost exactly the same geographical size as California. California currently has 38 million residents; these four states currently have 31 million residents. But more than half of the land in California is publicly owned and off-limits to development, whereas most undeveloped land in the South is in private hands.

And, of course, California has a peculiar history. We skipped the agrarian era of development and, because of the Gold Rush, went straight to an urban, mercantile economy. This created different expectations from the beginning about what life would be like – close to the ground but close to each other, as Cal Poly’s architecture dean Tom Jones likes to say – and so we have never had to struggle with emerging from a rural past. Like the rest of the South, North Carolina must struggle every day with the dream of being rural and the reality of being urban. That’s what makes it increasingly difficult to keep growth good.www.cp-dr.com/node/2021
 

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i've thought about that so much but never in terms of a "rural tradition". commuting between any triad/triangle cities is hell!
 

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Typically, Winston-Salem is completely overlooked in this article. Although Durham's tobacco warehouse conversions are applauded, the many downtown warehouses and factories that have been converted in W-S are lumped into "the rest of the state", not to mention the new downtown baseball park u/c. The implication is that Durham and Charlotte offer a bit of urbanity, but the rest aspires to be rural backwater. I agree with much of the article...suburban and country living is very sought-after in much of N.C. But there are several medium to large cities that don't fit that model.

Some Winston-Salem conversions in progress at the time of the photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/neworleans/942183736/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/pbeaulieu/90856768/


http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncbrian/296111864/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/cosmophotos/2055723084/


http://www.flickr.com/photos/freds/13415929/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/ncbrian/296111713/


http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/352082592/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/neworleans/942208354/
 

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It's an interesting article, but I wish the author would touch on the social aspect a bit. California is far more diverse than North Carolina, its diversity helped shape its urban areas like San Francisco. I feel that for cities in North Carolina to obtain any bit of urbanity, it must also be more socially acceptable to varying issues. IMO, Charlotte and Raleigh are probably the only cities and Greensboro somewhat that seems more open minded towards LGBT and racial issues. Trust me, I've been all over North Carolina and have been to every major city in the state to notice. Charlotte has the closest thing remotely resembling a "Chinatown" like LA or San Francisco's, although technically it wouldn't be a Chinatown in Charlotte, it's more like an influx of Vietamese and Mexican owned strips of shops along Central Avenue and other areas of East Charlotte.
 

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It's an interesting article, but I wish the author would touch on the social aspect a bit. California is far more diverse than North Carolina, its diversity helped shape its urban areas like San Francisco. I feel that for cities in North Carolina to obtain any bit of urbanity, it must also be more socially acceptable to varying issues. IMO, Charlotte and Raleigh are probably the only cities and Greensboro somewhat that seems more open minded towards LGBT and racial issues. Trust me, I've been all over North Carolina and have been to every major city in the state to notice. Charlotte has the closest thing remotely resembling a "Chinatown" like LA or San Francisco's, although technically it wouldn't be a Chinatown in Charlotte, it's more like an influx of Vietamese and Mexican owned strips of shops along Central Avenue and other areas of East Charlotte.
Durham and Chapel Hill/Carborro are well known to be the most open minded and accepting communities. Asheville is a very free thinking city as well. The only reason you found some acceptance in Raleigh or Charlotte is because they are larger cities. Charlotte is a very conservative area, even though you might find pockets of liberlism. It's the home of Billy Graham...
 

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I would not call Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro open-minded and accepting. Liberal, yes. Open-minded, no. Accepting, only if you have the same beliefs with the existing population. Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem (although I hear conflicted views about the latter) are more open-minded and accepting communities, as they include people from ALL groups. To me, THAT is diversity, and it happens naturally, not being forced. Leaning heavily towards one side of the socio-political spectrum is not diversity.

Also, I agree with what you (WeimieLvr) said about Winston-Salem... It is often overlooked and this is a shame... Winston-Salem has done a great job preserving its past and balancing it with new developments. There are several great renovations that will breathe life to some older buildings and it must be emphasized that Winston-Salem is a leader in preservation, not a follower. With that having been said, the American Tobacco Complex in Durham is mentioned more because it is the largest renovation in the state, with over 1 million square feet... This is a huge project and makes everything else look small. This is probably why it receives so much attention.
 

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I would not call Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro open-minded and accepting. Liberal, yes. Open-minded, no. Accepting, only if you have the same beliefs with the existing population. Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro and Winston-Salem (although I hear conflicted views about the latter) are more open-minded and accepting communities, as they include people from ALL groups. To me, THAT is diversity, and it happens naturally, not being forced. Leaning heavily towards one side of the socio-political spectrum is not diversity.

Also, I agree with what you (WeimieLvr) said about Winston-Salem... It is often overlooked and this is a shame... Winston-Salem has done a great job preserving its past and balancing it with new developments. There are several great renovations that will breathe life to some older buildings and it must be emphasized that Winston-Salem is a leader in preservation, not a follower. With that having been said, the American Tobacco Complex in Durham is mentioned more because it is the largest renovation in the state, with over 1 million square feet... This is a huge project and makes everything else look small. This is probably why it receives so much attention.
I pretty much associate liberal views with being open minded and accepting...and Carrboro is definitely liberal:

Carrboro has a reputation as one of the most liberal communities in the Southern United States. It was the first municipality in North Carolina to elect an openly gay mayor, Mike Nelson, in 1995 and the first municipality in the state to grant domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples. In October 2002, Carrboro was among the first municipalities in the South to pass resolutions opposing the Iraq War and the USA PATRIOT Act.
As is Chapel Hill:

Chapel Hill has historically tended to be politically liberal. In fact, disgruntled conservatives have referred to the town as "The People's Republic of Chapel Hill." Former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms once called the town a "zoo" and suggested it be "walled off" from the rest of North Carolina.
Having lived in Winson-Salem and Greensboro in the past, I found that there is a lot of small-town thinking in both cities...but because of the heavy religious influence of the Moravians in W-S and the Quakers in Greensboro, there is an overall atmosphere of tolerance. I still contend that both Raleigh and Charlotte are considered tolerant places only because of their size. Diversity in a community is great, but it definitely does not create tolerance and/or acceptance.
 

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Durham and Chapel Hill/Carborro are well known to be the most open minded and accepting communities. Asheville is a very free thinking city as well. The only reason you found some acceptance in Raleigh or Charlotte is because they are larger cities. Charlotte is a very conservative area, even though you might find pockets of liberlism. It's the home of Billy Graham...
There are different aspects of conservatism, I only find Charlotte to be fiscally conservative. Just because Charlotte is the home of Billy Graham, it does not represent the whole city. Coming a non-white and openly gay person's point-of-view, Charlotte and Raleigh is more open minded towards those issues. I can say I don't get stares strolling down in a Charlotte mall b/c of my flamboyant styled long hair while walking with my two female best friends whom are Asian and black. I go to college in Winston-Salem, and when I do the same in Hanes Mall or the Wal-Mart off Peter's Creek, I can say otherwise. I never had a problem with my sexuality or my close circle of friends of different races in Charlotte. There are more gay clubs in Charlotte than the single one in Winston-Salem. How many city in North Carolina has a gay male strip club? Charlotte. I went to Charlotte's 2nd worst performing high school, Garinger it is one of the most diverse high schools in the area, there are plently of openly gay students when I went there. Even our senior class vice president of SGA was an openly lesbian. My cousin is mixed, black and white and she loves Asheville and her then boyfriend is white and I heard nothing but stories of how people looked at them. I wouldn't say Charlotte is ulta-liberal nor is it conservative, it's the most progressive city I've noticed in North Carolina.
 

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There are different aspects of conservatism, I only find Charlotte to be fiscally conservative. Just because Charlotte is the home of Billy Graham, it does not represent the whole city. Coming a non-white and openly gay person's point-of-view, Charlotte and Raleigh is more open minded towards those issues. I can say I don't get stares strolling down in a Charlotte mall b/c of my flamboyant styled long hair while walking with my two female best friends whom are Asian and black. I go to college in Winston-Salem, and when I do the same in Hanes Mall or the Wal-Mart off Peter's Creek, I can say otherwise. I never had a problem with my sexuality or my close circle of friends of different races in Charlotte. There are more gay clubs in Charlotte than the single one in Winston-Salem. How many city in North Carolina has a gay male strip club? Charlotte. I went to Charlotte's 2nd worst performing high school, Garinger it is one of the most diverse high schools in the area, there are plently of openly gay students when I went there. Even our senior class vice president of SGA was an openly lesbian. My cousin is mixed, black and white and she loves Asheville and her then boyfriend is white and I heard nothing but stories of how people looked at them. I wouldn't say Charlotte is ulta-liberal nor is it conservative, it's the most progressive city I've noticed in North Carolina.
People "looked at them"? I look at people all the time...Charlotte is definitely not known for it's tolerance, sorry. Like I said, Charlotte has more of everything because of it's size, not because it is a more tolerant city than the others. Having the most gay bars or strip clubs is not something tolerant cities aspire to...
 

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People "looked at them"? I look at people all the time...Charlotte is definitely not known for it's tolerance, sorry. Like I said, Charlotte has more of everything because of it's size, not because it is a more tolerant city than the others. Having the most gay bars or strip clubs is not something tolerant cities aspire to...
"Looked at them" I mean as I find Charlotte more accepting of inter-racial couples than some places in North Carolina, that is socially accepting. I disagree with you I do find Charlotte more tolerance having lived in Winston-Salem for my college years. However this is my view, a young 22 years old's point of view. I find Charlotte to be different than what it was 10 years ago, there is an influx of northerns and there maybe more transplants than native Charlotteans now. This change in demographics is what making the city what it is. Also with the change, it brings more varying views and tolerance.
 

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"Looked at them" I mean as I find Charlotte more accepting of inter-racial couples than some places in North Carolina, that is socially accepting. I disagree with you I do find Charlotte more tolerance having lived in Winston-Salem for my college years. However this is my view, a young 22 years old's point of view. I find Charlotte to be different than what it was 10 years ago, there is an influx of northerns and there maybe more transplants than native Charlotteans now. This change in demographics is what making the city what it is. Also with the change, it brings more varying views and tolerance.
Once again, I will state that Charlotte seems more tolerant because of it's size. There is more of everything there so it seems like you are accepted. It's that way in any decent sized city.

People looking at you doesn't mean they are intolerant...if you have an outlandish hair style you are trying to be looked at, don't you think?
 

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We can agree to disagree on this, and I say it with deep respect for your views, as we are both entitled to our own opinions.
So you disagree with the statement that liberal minded people are tolerant and open-minded? I've never heard anyone describe liberal thinking as anything different...
 

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Winston-Salem was the state's largest city during the glory days of urban development. When Winston-Salem was the state's largest city in population, it was also the smallest in land area among the state's big cities of that time. The streets are well designed and it's almost impossible to get lost, when driving there. You will also find historic neighborhoods stretching from one end of the city to other. It is the type of city people think doesn't exist in North Carolina. The city has also done a good job building up in downtown and around the medical centers, though it has demolished many high density historic areas over the years. The state's first downtown luxury residential high-rise is still standing on Fourth Street. Its now used as arts-related offices though. Some of the original downtown apartments, rowhouses and higher density structures are still standing. In 1925, the city's population density was around 7,000 people-per-square-mile. Unmatched in the state. At that time, places like Waughtown and Hanes (where Hanes Mall is) were seperate incorporated cities with their own town governments and the state didn't have the liberal annexation laws it has today. Winston-Salem and Greensboro exchanged the largest in the Triad title through annexations in the 1960's, until Winston-Salem discovered the down side to building the first limited-access highways in the state. Greensboro's highways were still under construction, but Winston-Salem's were open for 10-15 years, allowing the city's population growth to move to Clemmons and Kernersville. The city would follow the same road as its peers from the 1910's and 1920's (Birmingham & Richmond) in the 1970's and 1980's, before turning things around. Winston-Salem became the only major city in the state to lose population in a decennial census in 1980. This is around the time people started to forget Winston-Salem. Today it is the fastest growing city in the Triad again in both urban growth and annexation growth. Winston-Salem is second only to Raleigh in density growth. It is benefiting from the popularity of historic cities, neighborhood restorations and a more diverse economy than it had 25 years ago. It is the least dependent on industrial jobs of the Triad's cities and this has helped Winston-Salem grow.

The Hanes Mall and University Parkway areas are the main shopping strips for a 20 county rural mountain area in southwest Virginia and northwest North Carolina. You will see Virginia license plates in parking lots in these two strips and at the Wal-mart talked about. You will meet people from the very rural Appalachians. They are from dry counties, where bars aren't allowed, and these Appalachian towns have no public water/sewer systems to support retail/restaurant growth. Winston-Salem is the nearest retail to them. Similar shopping areas inside the city limits of Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro attract people from Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham and Greensboro or their suburbs. you can find malls in the suburbs/exurbs of these cities in places like Gastonia, Rock Hill and Concord, to use a Charlotte example, and they have rural people shopping in them, but you won't find malls in Yadkinville, Cana, Mount Airy, Danbury, Elkin, Galax, Independence, Hillsville and Mocksville. They travel to Hanes Mall Boulevard or University Parkway in Winston-Salem for shopping. So the retail centers in Winston-Salem will attract people from Winston-Salem, Kernersville and Clemmons, like the shopping areas in the state's other cities and they will attract people from the those rural mountain areas as well. You will find the same atmosphere at the nearest malls to rural/mountain areas in other parts of the state. Asheville Mall is the worst. This 20-county service area is also the reason Winston-Salem has two of the state's three largest hospitals and the best medical care. On the downside, it contributes to traffic problems.

If you explore the areas of the city that don't attract people from the mountains and farms, you will find the city is artsy, diverse and gay friendly. Before the annexation, Winston-Salem was second only to Durham in diversity among the state's five largest cities. Winston-Salem has the only real ethnic neighborhood I've found in the state. Waughtown Historic District is a little Mexico that can attract some of the top music performers to the area from Mexico and contains more than stores/restaurants/clubs. You can find corporate headquarters in the neighborhood. It is home to the state's largest hispanic media company and one of the southeast's major Hispanic food distributors. They hold a large food trade show in downtown Winston-Salem each year. The hispanic spending in Winston-Salem is twice that of Greensboro and High Point combined and is centered around this one neighborhood. The gay friendly areas are DADA, West End, Holly Avenue, Sunnyside, West Salem and Washington Park. I was walking though DADA once with a friend and people thought we were a couple. I am straight and Christian and my friend is also. This friend from Charlotte refused to go to that neighborhood/district again. Places like West End, West Salem Sunnyside and Washington Park have rainbow flags on houses. Holly Avenue is a very colorful and diverse artist neighborhood. I surprised many people, when I shared these neighborhoods on the forums a few years ago. The city also has a weekly gay film night and the newspaper shares a list of activities for gays. I discovered several downtown businesses are gay or lesbian owned, including a great jazz club & bar on Fourth Street. A gay dance club painted a large mural on Seventh Street with a space theme in the 1990's. This faded mural was painted over though, when a late night live music club bought the building in 2004.

SBER (Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse) agreed to renovate an additional 1,100,000 square feet of old factories and the largest urban coal-fired powerplant in the southeast in downtown Winston-Salem with their own money into retail, office and residential. I'm guessing Winston-Salem has more factories downtown than Durham? I know the Reynolds Complex was the largest in the state and downtown had additional factories for everything from batteries to steel. Salem Ironworks largest factory is only a block or two south of the city's tallest building and was renovated to the Downtown Middle School 15 years ago. One of the more interesting renovations of a factory, along with the renovation of factories on the southeast corner of downtown into a bio-tech research park in the 1990's. Though not a factory, the city's historic arcade was renovated for the Downtown Elementary School. The 1916 factory, were "Prince Albert in a Can was made," is now the Forsyth Government Center, where County Commissioners meetings are held and several county offices are. The factory's 7-storey expansion was convered into a parking deck. A textile factory was converted into an art school and gallery with plans to expand, by converting a warehouse behind it into the HanesBrands Theatre. My favorite renovation is a federal courthouse converted to a concert hall & art gallery. It was the largest federal building in the state at one time and several well-known national performers have played there. Winston-Salem has a "northern" urban appearance, due to these tall historic factories. Many people look at downtown and they don't see many new structures or cranes and assume the city isn't changing or growing, but it has the most downtown residences in the Triad and most of these new residences are hidden in historic buildings recently renovated for lofts. I can show you photos taken two, three and four years ago of these historic factory lofts before their renovations. The city's diverse mix of housing isn't found anywhere else in the state. From rowhouses to original colonial homes dating back to the 1700's to small 4-6 room Victorian houses. Most of this is due to the city's historic status as the "City of Industry" and leading city by far in the state during the Industrial Revolution. It is a very interesting place to see. It is often over-looked, because the city lost it's title of largest in the Triad. The city also lost passenger service at its airport (once the top airport in the southeast, according to Capitol and Eastern Airlines) and several large headquarters in recent years, including Piedmont Airlines and Wachovia National Bank. After the losses, Winston-Salem ranks second only to Charlotte in Fortune 500's. I wish Novant Corporation would go public. Their revenue is in the billions.

People often view a city as if it was exactly like their own city, but cities are different and Winston-Salem is the most unique of the state's largest cities. It's not easy to compare it to another city in the state. Traveling there feels like traveling to one of the northern rustbelt cities, near the mountains. In my opinion, it is the most over-looked city in the state. Though it has around 230,000 residents, it looks larger and I've found many outsiders share these same opinions. Many are surprised by the city when traveling through it (they may have never heard of it before) and stop to look around.
 

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I have lived in Winston Salem most of my life. I love it here. I love the people, the atmosphere. The can do attitude of the people here is fantastic. Winston Salem was dealt some serious blows over the years economically but we always come back that much stronger. It is a great place to raise a Family.

I have traveled all over the United States and through out the world. It is hard to beat North Carolina. I guess that is why so many people are moving here now. They have finally discovered what most of us have known all along.
 

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So you disagree with the statement that liberal minded people are tolerant and open-minded? I've never heard anyone describe liberal thinking as anything different...
Yes, I do... There are open minded people along the entire spectrum of political thought. To say otherwise would demonstrate close mind, IMHO. There are liberal people who are open and respectful to other people's ideas, and there are liberals who don't want to hear what you have to say if you disagree with them. Maybe you hang out with like-minded people too much ;)

BTW, the same holds true for people on the other extreme, in case you think I will defend them. Why don't you pretend to be a conservative and try to engage into a conversation with liberals in Chapel Hill and Carrboro? Try something similar in Raleigh and then tell me which place is more open-minded... You may be surprised with the results.
 

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There are different aspects of conservatism, I only find Charlotte to be fiscally conservative. Just because Charlotte is the home of Billy Graham, it does not represent the whole city. Coming a non-white and openly gay person's point-of-view, Charlotte and Raleigh is more open minded towards those issues. I can say I don't get stares strolling down in a Charlotte mall b/c of my flamboyant styled long hair while walking with my two female best friends whom are Asian and black. I go to college in Winston-Salem, and when I do the same in Hanes Mall or the Wal-Mart off Peter's Creek, I can say otherwise. I never had a problem with my sexuality or my close circle of friends of different races in Charlotte. There are more gay clubs in Charlotte than the single one in Winston-Salem. How many city in North Carolina has a gay male strip club? Charlotte. I went to Charlotte's 2nd worst performing high school, Garinger it is one of the most diverse high schools in the area, there are plently of openly gay students when I went there. Even our senior class vice president of SGA was an openly lesbian. My cousin is mixed, black and white and she loves Asheville and her then boyfriend is white and I heard nothing but stories of how people looked at them. I wouldn't say Charlotte is ulta-liberal nor is it conservative, it's the most progressive city I've noticed in North Carolina.
You are entitled to your own perceptions, but Charlotte is not known for being a tolerant place. It is certainly better than it was in the past, but compared to other cities its size, it has a long way to go. Charlotte is known not just as a very religious place, but a very conservative religious place. Charlotte also has more uh, southern culture than Triangle cities, which many would consider to be at odds with tolerance. I personally find Asheville and Durham/Chapel Hill to be very tolerant and progressive cities, whereas Charlotte is shockingly conservative.
 
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