By ELENA MARSH
Residents from across Moore County gathered in the auditorium at Pinecrest High School Thursday to share their thoughts on the future of the county as a whole.
What they had to share will be considered when deciding how the county’s land use plan will be updated.
Since September, the Board of Commissioners has been working with a team of consultants to update the document that helps govern new growth and development in the unincorporated parts of the county. It primarily lays out how property is zoned and what sorts of development can be accommodated. The land use plan is a nearly 100-page document that includes details on subjects ranging from the intended function of the county economy all the way down to the different soil types found in the region.
The plan’s last update took place in 2013.
Close to 100 people turned out for a public forum at the 1,300-seat Robert E. Lee Auditorium at Pinecrest. With more than 20 people signed up to speak, a time limit was implemented giving each person three minutes to share their thoughts.
For those uncomfortable with sharing their thoughts at the microphone, they were given large index cards to write down comments to be reviewed later.
Notable attendees included: Jerry Williams, Pinebluff mayor pro tem ; Cameron resident Nick Lasala, an organizing member of Moore Family Farms; Tom Adams, a candidate for the Moore County Board of Commissioners in the upcoming primary elections; Amy Dahl, a candidate for the Moore County Board of Education; and the members of the Moore County Planning Board.
All five commissioners attended but did not comment. Instead, commissioners decided before the meeting to focus on listening to comments.
The conversation was led by consultant Ben Hitchings from Green Heron Planning, who the county has been working with on the update process since September.
The focus question of the night was what participants envision for the future of Moore County. The most common theme among those who volunteered to speak was a desire for a “no growth” approach to planning. A portion of the commenters said they liked the plan the way that it is and that changing it would potentially open the door for more growth.
Many of those in the northern part of the county, hailing from the Vass, Carthage and Robbins areas, commented that they would like to continue to see a greater focus on agricultural industry. Many cited an increasing number of speculative and tract homes and neighborhoods being built on what once was farmland.
Likewise, those in the southern part of the county, primarily Southern Pines, Pinehurst and Aberdeen, reiterated that they, too, did not like the faux craftsman homes, nor did they appreciate the development happening on Morganton Road and U.S. 15-501 in Southern Pines. Traffic was another sticking point that all ends of the county agreed was dissatisfying.
Across the board, speakers were all against the idea that “growth” is something the county should welcome and that accommodating significant new development could lead to a spoiling of the county and its “town and country” feel.
There were some who commented that growth would have a certain inevitability and that a vigilance toward controlled and measured growth would be the highest priority.
As the meeting came to an end, commissioners did share a few closing remarks, inviting everyone to attend future meetings and bring along more people who have a vested interest in the county’s future.
“We had a great showing,” said Commissioners Chairman Nick Picerno. “People were honest, they were respectful, we listened intently and nobody said anything that I thought was unreasonable. I just love people that love their county.
“But, they have to remember one important fact: we are growing fast and it is under the current plan. So, if we don’t do something to the current plan, then we can anticipate the current and continued rapid growth.”
Commissioners plan later this week to reflect on what they heard and answer questions posed at the forum. In the upcoming weeks, answers to questions and comments are planned to be posted on a new webpage on the county website designed to be a resource hub for all things related to the land use planning process.
“We invite you to stay in touch with this process going forward using the website,” said Hitichings.
The back page of the agenda given out to attendees included a survey that asked participants to fill out questions on how they would like to receive information and how they might like to participate in the public process.
Contact Elena Marsh at (910) 693-2481 or email@example.com.