03/08/06 — Committee weighs future growth issues

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Committee weighs future growth issues

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 8, 2006 2:11 PM

A task force charged with helping guide growth in Wayne County met Tuesday and talked about schools, housing, public safety and a civic center, among other topics.

The Comprehensive Land Use Steering Committee is continuing to go over issues brought up at a public hearing in January. Last month, committee members discussed transportation, industrial recruitment, taxes, sewer service and farmland preservation.

Glenn Harbeck, a consultant hired to advise the group, said it will continue to be guided by the suggestions made at the public hearing.

Improving Wayne's schools quickly came to the forefront of Tuesday's discussion.

Harbeck said committee members did not want to "get into the school board's business," but that education was one of the major issues raised at the public hearing and that its broad effect on life in Wayne could not be ignored.

"They have authority on how the schools are run, salaries, class size and the curriculum in accordance with the state. Our business in this plan has more to do with the location of future schools and the development around them," he said.

Since schools work as magnets for residential and business growth, Harbeck said, it would be better for the committee to focus on the location of schools and how that could benefit the county.

Several committee members acknowledged that it would be difficult to discuss the public schools "without stepping on some toes."

Harbeck said the committee could discuss residential development in connection with new schools. For example, he said, Onslow County's school system is designed to accommodate residential development. Many students do not have to be driven to school by their parents because of the close proximity of campuses to their homes. Wayne could benefit from similar planning, he said.

As a result, he pointed out, planners could look ahead and foresee needs for highway and utility improvements to serve those residential and commercial areas that could be expected to spring up.

Committee member Blair Tyndall said some roads in Rosewood are impassable in the morning and afternoon because of the close proximity of schools. Committee members noted that other schools in the county are far from some residential areas.

"I don't want any kids to have to get on the bus at 6 in the morning just to get to school and to not be able to come home until 5:30 that night. We need to have a happy medium so the kids are treated fairly," committee member Chris Gurley said.

The talk of residential development led to discussion of the need for sewer service across the county, something planners have said would be costly. County Planning Director Connie Price said that if residential development booms near a new school, sewer service would be needed.

Shifting gears, Harbeck opened the discussion to the increasing number of baby-boomers preparing for retirement and how the county will be able to accommodate them. Residential areas with less yard space to maintain and located closer to medical facilities and shopping areas will be needed, he said.

At the same time, young families will need affordable housing, committee members said.

In the coming months, Harbeck said the committee will prepare vision statements for each issue brought up at January's public meeting. Later in the year, members will create policies for those issues that will be considered for the comprehensive plan.

The committee's next meeting will be on April 4 at 6 p.m. at the county Chamber of Commerce.