09/22/06 — Residents talk about county's future

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Residents talk about county's future

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 22, 2006 1:51 PM

A handful of Wayne County residents joined with several dozen county and municipal officials to offer strategies for improving the county over the next 20 years during a Comprehensive Land Use community meeting Tuesday night at the Wayne Center.

The meeting marked the second time this year that residents have been asked to attend a public meeting to provide input on how they would like to see their county grow. At a January community meeting, residents were asked what issues they believed are the most important for county and municipality officials to focus on over the next 15 or 20 years. Their comments were used by the land use steering committee to develop a series of vision statements regarding schools, housing development, utilities, transportation, economic development, county services, recreation, agricultural preservation and public safety, among others.

On Tuesday night, attendees were asked what strategies and policies should be implemented to make the vision statements a reality. For the funding of county services, suggestions included improving school facilities, providing more practical education for students in the school system and more small business grants. Also, as improvements are made through policy changes, attendees suggested the county conduct positive marketing to inform the public of successful changes.

Of the nearly 50 people at the meeting, most were officials from Wayne County and local municipalities, including Goldsboro, Mount Olive and Walnut Creek. Wayne County Planning Director Connie Price said he had hoped the public turnout would have been greater, but that he was pleased with the progress made.

"Some of these visions can be hard to get a handle on, but I'm glad that each person considered the future of each one," Price said.

Attendees were divided into small groups to discuss strategies for each vision statement. After the groups discussed each vision statement, their suggestions were presented to the entire group and each person was asked to vote on the strategies that could make the most difference in 20 years.

Residents agreed that expanding public transportation to help people get to and from work would benefit the entire county. Attendees also said they believe that lobbying legislators for pushing highway projects, including the proposed U.S. 70 bypass that would run north of the existing bypass.

To improve economic development, most residents said they supported the expansion of agriculture and the protection of agricultural land. If the county is able to expands and improve its infrastructure, including schools, roads and sewer lines, businesses would be more inclined to locate to the county, they noted, which would lead to more and better jobs and a higher standard of living.

Although some residents believed the creation of voluntary agriculture districts are not realistic, others said the county should encourage those types of districts to help preserve farming as a viable occupation.

Several residents focused on improving toward water and sewer issues and the county's schools.

If the public were educated on the scarcity of fresh water, then more water conservation efforts would provide water for residents for years to come, residents said.

Also, planning and zoning policies could ensure that residential growth expands in areas with serviceable water and sewer lines, residents agreed.

Although no members of the Wayne County Board of Education attended Tuesday night's meeting, many residents provided their own ideas on the future of county schools. Many suggested the implementation of neighborhood schools to provide a sense of community and family involvement. The majority of attendees said they believe that new school district lines must be drawn.

Those residents who attended the meeting also expressed a desire to see more consistent housing standards among the various municipal governments, completing the county's major thoroughfares to improve safety and stricter rules for dealing with dilapidated homes and junk cars to improve the community's appearance.