DOBSON — The Surry County Planning and Development Department is beginning the process of updating the county’s land use plan, and public input is needed over the next few months.
The county’s land-use plan, which guides land development in the county, was first adopted in 2000 and was updated in 2006. The document is to be revised every five years. Also to be updated are the seven small-area plans that were adopted in 2003 to guide development at major intersections in the county.
The planning department will host four drop-in sessions over the next four months to solicit feedback from citizens. The sessions will be held on May 18, June 15, July 20 and Aug. 17 from 4 to 6:30 p.m. in the lobby of the central permitting office building, located across from the main government center building in Dobson. Citizens are welcome to stop by during any of these drop-in sessions to review maps and guidelines from the current land-use plan.
Kim Bates, planning director, said maps and general development goals from the land-use plan will be posted on the wall, and citizens can write comments or suggested changes on the posters or talk directly with planning staff. The process will be fairly informal.
“We just want citizens to tell us what they think … This is a prime opportunity,” Bates remarked.
The planning director said he did a trial run with department heads at a recent department head meeting. He said most people were pleased with the current plan.
Bates explained that the land-use plan has two main components: facts and values. He is working now to update the facts section, using new census information and reflecting changes that have occurred in the county over the past few years. He said the introduction to the plan is very optimistic, but the county has witnessed some very tough times since it was written. The introduction will read a little differently to reflect the times.
“Optimism is great, and hopefully we’ll keep it in that mood,” remarked Bates.
The public will be focusing on the values and goals aspect of the plan, such as the development goals for the county for the next decade. Bates said there may be some things people want thrown out of the plan or added.
“Hopefully we’ll get some clear messages,” said Bates.
With the seven small area plans, which focus on things such as traffic safety measures and infrastructure for specific areas of the county, Bates said some of the goals already have been accomplished. Many have not. These plans may need to be revised, Bates said. The future land-use map for 2015 also will be available for review, and Bates expects some changes to that. One example would be the Zephyr Road area, which is shown as a rural growth area on the map. Bates said it appears that folks in the area do not want it to be a rural growth area but want it preserved more in its natural state, plus some of the area has been annexed and is not in the jurisdiction anymore. Areas like that may be revised slightly on the map according to public input.
After the public comment sessions, any suggestions that were repeated significantly will be taken to the planning board for consideration. The board will hammer out what should be changed or adjusted then present a recommendation to the county commissioners for consideration, Bates said. The planning board meetings and county commissioner meetings are open to the public. Bates hopes the process will be completed by the end of the year or the beginning of 2012.
At this point, counties are not required to have land-use plans. Bates said planning officials in the state are trying to lobby for it to become a requirement. But counties that have land-use plans are required when considering rezonings or other development ordinance changes to address their consistency with the land-use plan.
Bates said the point is trying to have a plan that mirrors the collective voice of the people in the county regarding development.
“It’s very important. A lot of people may not realize how it affects them personally,” Bates said of the plan. He pointed out that it can affect how land is developed in your own back yard or nearby property.
The land-use plan is used by leaders to help interpret aspects of the zoning ordinance that are not clear cut. Bates said it can tip the scales on tough development decisions. The plan speaks to appropriate types of development uses for different areas of the county.
Bates said, “It helps us to focus a little more closely.”
The planning department is located in the central permitting building at 122 Hamby Road, Dobson. For more information about the land-use plan, call the planning department at 401-8350. The land-use plan can be downloaded from the planning department’s page on the county Web site: www.co.surry.nc.us. It is also available for review at the planning department.
Contact Meghann Evans at 719-1952 or email@example.com.