How are we doing? – Growth outpaces planning

Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

GOAL: North Carolina preserves and enhances the quality of rural and urban life.

North Carolina has experienced unparalleled growth and economic expansion in the past two decades.

This expansion underlines a critical need for land-use planning and implementation.

If we are to honor important qualities that make North Carolina unique, we must preserve and set aside historic, cultural and ecological areas of our state.

Redeveloping existing industrial sites makes sense from both environmental and economic perspectives.

TARGET:  By 2020, all local governments will have and use plans incorporating growth-management strategies, development-monitoring measures, and natural resource conservation policies.

INTERIM TARGET:  By 2010, all state programs affecting growth should include land-use-planning incentives to encourage the use of existing infrastructure, including transportation, water and wastewater systems.

North Carolina is growing: Our population, just over 8 million residents, is projected to approach 9.6 million by 2020, but growth across the state has not been uniform.

The five largest counties — Mecklenburg, Wake, Guilford, Forsyth and Cumberland — saw an average increase of 26 percent in their population between 1990 and 2000.

Rapid growth also is occurring in coastal counties: From 1990 to 1997, Brunswick, Pender, Currituck, Dare and New Hanover counties all grew by more than 20 percent.

The western counties of Macon, Clay, Henderson and Polk also are experiencing high growth because of tourism and an increase in the retirement population.

The rate of growth is threatening the quality of life in many parts of North Carolina.

Land-use planning will become increasingly important in development and preservation efforts.

Effective land-use plans include four main steps: Analyze land suitability for various uses, allocate areas for future use based on suitability and need, direct future development into areas determined as suitable and coordinate local plans with regional plans and regulations.

Those steps are recommended by the legislative Smart Growth Commission, which was created in 1999 to address growth management and development issues.

The commission promotes the development of state, local and regional planning measures that balance the use, conservation and protection of resources on behalf of the entire state.

Priorities include strengthening the rural economy, protecting open space and supporting existing communities.

The commission also endorses sustainable land use and a variety of transportation options.


Number of counties that have land use plans:

Seventy-nine counties have land use plans, but the degree to which they effectively put the plans into effect varies from county to county.

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