03/19/13 — Council takes look at plans for future

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Council takes look at plans for future

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 19, 2013 1:46 PM

Four public hearings dominated the Goldsboro City Council meeting Monday night, but little was said on any of the subjects, which ranged from conditional use permits to a new long-term plan for the city's future. None, though, required the council to take any action and each will likely appear before the board again.

The first was a presentation on the new Envision 35: Goldsboro Urbanized Area Comprehensive Plan. This planning effort, which began in November 2011 and ended in January, is focused on Goldsboro and a large portion of surrounding Wayne County -- 49 percent of the total area in Wayne County.

"We are dealing with a significant part of the entire country," said Dale Holland, with Holland Consulting Planners, which helped produce the plan. "This is a document for use as a policy guide for future decision making, particularly land use decisions."

He explained during his presentation that the plan was the result of about 30 one-on-one interviews with community stakeholders, two public input meetings, a number of committee meetings, and nearly 200 surveys completed by county residents.

According to the plan's vision statement, the goal is for Goldsboro to be a regional community with attractive residential neighborhoods and a diverse economy, anchored in Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, valuing the importance of agriculture.

To make that vision a reality, the plan identifies a number of issues that must be addressed: improvement of traffic patterns, support of Seymour Johnson and its airspace, use existing infrastructure when developing, revitalization of existing Goldsboro areas (especially downtown), support of agriculture, improvement of education and school facilities, diversification of the economy, and the maintenance and expansion of the city's infrastructure. One unique aspect is that it also includes a health component focusing on how the city can address issues of chronic disease and obesity through its land use plans.

The biggest issue, though, Holland said, is the city's population trend. Right now, Goldsboro's population is in decline, dropping 3.6 percent from 1990 to 2000 and 7.1 percent from 2001 to 2010. Even the modest 2.5 percent growth predicted between now and 2040 is still slow, he said -- well behind the 13 to 14 percent predicted statewide and the 8.6 percent predicted for the eastern region.

"It's a cause for concern that generated a lot of attention," Holland said.

Among the goals to address those concerns, are to maintain water, sewer and drainage systems adequate for the urbanized area; support education system improvements; support Seymour Johnson; improve the downtown area; support infill development, especially downtown; maintain an efficient transportation system; revitalize/improve existing residential areas; support a business friendly environment; support agriculture; preserve environmental quality.

City Planning Director Randy Guthrie explained that with the Metropolitan Planning Organization and several other entities still needed to hear and sign off on the plan, it's not yet near done, but should be by the end of the summer as it continues to be tweaked between now and then. However, he said, he is confident that it addresses many of the public's concerns.

"This was really a chance for the public to tell us what they want the community to look like in the future," he said.

Then, once it is adopted, Guthrie explained, it will be used "as a blueprint, a road map for future development decisions" involving transportation, economic development, construction, and more.

In other business, the council held a public hearing on a request for a conditional use permit for a new business in the Berkeley Place Shopping Center on Berkeley Boulevard between Ash Street and Seymour Johnson. The business, Tournament Lounge Games, was requesting the modification to the zoning use to reduce the number of parking places required for the business. Owned and operated by Jesse Artis Jr., the goal, he explained, is to give youths and teens another safe place to enjoy in Goldsboro -- a place where they can come and play video games in a tournament style and win gift card prizes for top finishes.

"It's just about trying to do something different in Goldsboro," Artis told the council.

Parking, however, did spark a little discussion as John McNeill, owner of part of the shopping center, stood to express his concern about the business crowding out his other tenants.

Now, though, it, along with the next two items, will go to the city Planning Board for consideration and will likely be brought back on April 1.

The first is a conditional use permit to allow Tractor Supply Co. the ability to put up outdoor displays and unscreened storage in front of the former Big Lots store in the Little River Shopping Center. No timetable was given, but the request does represent the first step in the company moving from its current location on Cashwell Drive.

The second is an amendment to city ordinances to allow guns to be fired at indoor firing ranges within city limits, and to add to several zoning areas the potential for conditional use permits to allow indoor ranges to be built.

Other actions were approved on the council's consent agenda, most notably, the condemnation of 12 properties standing in the way of the Berkeley Boulevard Widening Project between Royall Avenue and South Drive; the acceptance of an informal bid of $36,925 by Dudley Construction of Tarboro for a lead-based paint abatement and housing rehabilitation project at 802 N. Virginia St., paid for by a Community Development Block Grant and the HOME investment Partnership Program; and the awarding of a $78,000 contract to SP8 Enterprises of Coats for the construction of a new playground shelter in Stoney Creek Park near the Ash Street parking lot, and the construction of a new restroom facility near the Walnut Street cul-de-sac.

And finally, the council gave its implicit approval to the pursuit of a $110,000 non-matching grant that the parks and recreation department hopes to win to create individualized master plans for five of its parks -- Herman, Mina Weil, H.V. Brown, Fairview and Quail.

Felicia Brown, recreation supervisor, explained that if received, the grant also could pay for signage at the parks, but no other tangible items. It is, she said, expressly for planning purposes. The individualized plans for each park, she explained, would complement the overall department master plan, which was completed last year.

"With a master plan for each park, we can look at what specifically is there now, and what we want to do in the future," she said.