Planners seek input on how to manage growth in York County, the region

03/20/2014 6:56 PM

03/21/2014 9:07 AM

Connect Our Future is seeking more public input as it develops a regional plan to help local governments manage an expected influx of 1.8 million people and 860,000 jobs over the next 40 years.

The group – representing 54 governments in the Charlotte region, including those in York, Chester and Lancaster counties – is seeking comment on four potential growth strategies and 10 factors that affect those strategies.

The factors residents have identified as important to guiding growth are:

• Parks and greenways
• More transportation choices
• Working close to home
• Improving air quality
• Improving water quality
• Supporting local communities
• Supporting local farms
• More housing choices
• Reducing the cost to commute
• Controlling the cost of providing government and other services

“We know growth won’t exactly happen as it’s seen on paper, but this is to help policymakers make better decisions,” said Cole McKinney, regional initiatives and technology director of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments.

The Connect Our Future initiative is a partnership between the Catawba Regional Council of Governments – representing York, Chester, Lancaster and Union counties – and the Centralina Council of Governments, which represents 10 North Carolina counties.

The two councils secured a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop a regional plan for growth. The partners raised an additional $3 million in public and private money for the project.

Four growth-strategy maps and the list of factors affecting growth were developed from numerous public meetings. More than 5,000 people have offered opinions so far in the process.

The maps reflect the group’s projection of growth:

• Under existing policies and conditions, with development outside existing cities or towns, and a reliance on a car to get to work, shopping or recreation.
• If all local comprehensive plans and other planning documents were adhered to, with suburban and urban growth, preserving farmland and a reliance on a car for transportation.
• In existing communities with “activity centers” where people can walk, shop and work, with an emphasis on mass transit.
• In existing communities with “activity centers” and regional mass transit.

The maps are not neighborhood specific, McKinney said. Connect Our Futures wants people to look at the maps broadly.

A series of meetings is scheduled to gather more comments from residents. The goal is to identify one preferred map and five top factors affecting growth.

After those meetings, the plan will be presented to local governments.

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