As community members spoke at the Feb. 20 Brunswick County Board of Commissioners meeting about what they felt needed to be in the county’s Blueprint Brunswick 2040 Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Parks and Recreation Master Plan, commissioners listened.
Before commissioners voted to adopt the plan, over 20 Brunswick County residents voiced their advocation for a community pool facility to be built in close proximity to the Southport, Boiling Springs Lake and Oak Island area during the public comment and public hearing portion of the meeting.
“So, this is meant to guide Brunswick County,” Planning Director Kirstie Dixon said. “It provides an action plan…”
The approved plan replaced the county’s previous CAMA CORE Land Use Plan and Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Folks can find community survey responses, goals, recommended facilities, needed amenities and possible plans in the new master plan.
Dixon explained that the plan is two documents combined into one and serves as a blueprint, policy guide and marketing tool, not a legally binding document, to see what specific areas in Brunswick County need improvements whether it be with a park, facility or a pool.
She noted the plan is in collaboration with the county’s North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Comprehensive Transportation Plan, Water Plan and Sewer Plan.
Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Perkins said the plan addresses where parks may be needed in certain areas as the county continues to grow.
“This plan also will help with grant applications, as [Dixon] said, and just the future of how Brunswick County will move forward with the future parks and rec,” he said.
Project consultant Meg Nealon, of Nealon Planning, said that the county, as well as project consultant Michael Norton of McGill & Associate, have held a lot of community meetings, whether in person or virtual, to hear what the community had to say about the drafted plan.
“Public engagement was the cornerstone of preparing this plan. Section 160D-501 of NCGS and the Coastal Area Management (CAMA) of 1974 requires Brunswick County to adopt and maintain a land use plan,” the Feb. 12 meeting agenda item stated.
Some residents spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, while others used the public hearing time for the plan to share their thoughts on what their community needs.
Many public commentators told commissioners that the drive to the Dinah E. Gore Sports and Aquatics Complex, located on the campus of Brunswick Community College (BCC) in Bolivia, is too time consuming.
“I swim at the BCC pool on a somewhat regular basis, but I have neighbors who have no way of getting over there,” one Southport resident said. “So, it would be great if we could have a swimming pool that was close enough [that] people can ride their bikes, including children and senior citizens moving in the area.”
Between the drive to and from the complex and the lengths it takes to book a spot to use the pool, residents felt the pool has become too small and too far for those who need to use it.
Members, parents and staff of the Brunswick Aquatic Club Gators Swim Team, South Brunswick High School Cougar Swim Team and the Southport Marlins swim team showed up to the meeting in swim caps, towels and face paint in support of a new swim facility.
Like other community members, they too travel to the Dinah E. Gore Sports and Aquatics Complex in order to swim together and practice.
One commentor stated that the space is small, and the demand is so high that it is nearly impossible to reserve a spot at the pool.
“We can’t do it alone, it’s too big a project for Southport-Oak Island, or Southport, but we can do it together on a county-based initiative,” another resident said.
Nealon said many components of Brunswick County were considered as the lengthy document was put together. Some of the key factors included were demographics, culture, health care, infrastructures, population growth, history, community, economics, public access and utilities.
Management development tools and implementation steps are also in the blueprint, however, the county has the option to not implement any plan from the approved blueprint if they so choose — it is a tool and guide, not a contract or promise to the county.
Although the factors were considered and the document is a guide, residents like Peter Key want action to be taken for the wellbeing of local families.
“We don’t have enough low-cost housing,” Key said.
He said there are too many families, neighbors and community members living out of hotel rooms because there are no affordable houses in the area for them to rent or live.
He told commissioners that affordable housing and a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) aquatic center were things they needed to look more into as the county brings in more residents and visitors.
The plan was adopted at the meeting, but it is now up to the board to either take the initiative to put some of the blueprint recommendations and plans into action or not.
Savanna Tenenoff is the staff writer at the Brunswick Beacon. Feel free to reach out with comments, questions and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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