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2001-05-07
Manteo, NC. Mayberry Beats the Lion

I've just returned from a one day visit to Mayberry, RFD. It was my first trip back to Mayberry since the early '60s, when I was a regular visitor every week -- as long as my homework was done. I met with Sheriff Andy Taylor -- whose hair is now silver -- but he's still the affable, outgoing character who endeared millions of Americans for 249 episodes on primetime TV. My arrival in Mayberry was at the invitation of real life Andy Griffith, and a group of citizens in his home town who were fighting plans for a Food Lion grocery store. The town of Manteo, North Carolina is about as close to Mayberry as you can get. Andy Griffith made this place home back in 1947, when he came to do summer theater. "If there's a Mayberry," Andy has said, "it's Manteo." In this coastal community of roughly 1,000 people -- where four centuries ago an entire colony of settlers disappeared -- small town quality of life also could vanish. An international grocery conglomerate named Delhaize, submitted plans to build a 45,800 s.f. grocery store on the edge of town, on Dare County land, right in a floodplain. In fact, the store would have to be raised by 6 feet of fill dirt just to meet code. It's not as if Manteo shoppers have been deprived of grocery stores. They have 3 local grocers already, and addicted shoppers have six Food Lions within a short drive of Manteo. There are 449 Food Lions in North Carolina alone. When the Food Lion roared, Andy Griffith and the full cast of Manteo roared back. I was invited to speak at a public forum on "Island Sprawl" (Manteo is on Roanoke Island), and nearly 300 people showed up to learn how to tame the Lion. Three days later, the Town Council voted not to annex the county land into Manteo, turning the Food Lion proposal into a harmless kitten. Manteo is just emerging from a 20 year revitalization plan that included upgrading their waterfront, adding new retail and housing, and enhancing tourism activities. The town is now poised to engage in a second 20 year plan, according to former Mayor John Wilson. The defeat of Food Lion has set the stage for this second phase of development in Manteo. "They've made a mess in Kitty Hawk," Griffith told me. "We can't let them do that here." By one vote, the town of Manteo escaped the lion's den.

What you can do: In episode 200, Aunt Bee reminds Sheriff Andy Taylor that "politics begins at home." Viewed from the outside, the slaying of the Lion in Manteo may only seem like a small victory in a small hometown. But Manteo is much larger than it looks. It is, after all, Mayberry -- a place and a lifestyle longed for by millions of Americans. All across the country, one Mayberry after another is being ravaged by developers. Home-grown activists wrestled the lion in Mayberry, and the message to developers everywhere is that if you roar at us -- we're prepared to roar back! For further information about Mayberry vs. The Lion, contact info@sprawl-busters.com










 
 
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