CHATHAM COUNTY: Commissioners approve strategic direction for land use plan

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

The Chatham County Board of Commissioners have approved a strategic direction for a conceptual land use plan, which had been under development over the past year with the leadership of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The approval was made during the commissioners' July 17 work session.

In the next few months, Chatham County and the EDC will work closely with the towns on developing a related infrastructure plan and will hold additional meetings for residents and businesses to educate them on the benefits of the adopted strategy and get their input on next steps.

“The goal for the strategic growth plan was to position Chatham County for sustainable, balanced job growth,” said EDC President Dianne Reid. “The adopted strategy will help achieve that goal by directing new growth away from working farms and environmentally-sensitive lands, while directing new growth to existing towns and economic development areas.”

County Commissioner Chairman Walter Petty commended the hard work of the EDC. “They took the initiative with this effort because they know that a land use plan is critically needed to help us attract more jobs to the county and preserve the jobs we already have, including preserving our working farms.”

Petty added, “Not only did they do an outstanding job in coming up with a strategy that we all can support enthusiastically, they saved the county thousands of dollars in consulting fees. They were able to take advantage of county staff expertise, private expertise and input from businesses and citizens.”

EDC Board Chairman Joe Glasson especially commended Jeremy Poss, who leads the GIS program for the county, for his expertise in generating maps and data needed to develop and review possible strategies.

Glasson said, “We believe the adopted strategy will result in the greatest growth in tax base from commercial and industrial property, estimated at 2.5 percent job growth each year, a win-win for everyone.” The population is expected to grow about 1.75 percent during the same period.

The adopted strategy includes a conceptual land use map that will help the county develop land use and incentive tools to be even more attractive to business and industry. “We are very glad to at last have a map that quickly shows business leaders and residents our overall strategy for development,” said Petty. “We also are pleased the strategy allows for flexibility to meet changing circumstances in the future and also helps protect personal property rights. The growth in our commercial tax base will help relieve the tax burden on individuals and families.”

One of key benefits of such a strategy is that directing growth to specific areas will make it more affordable to provide needed infrastructure, Petty said. “We do not want to lose businesses because of limited infrastructure, but we can’t afford to put infrastructure everywhere in such a big county.”

The EDC team working on the strategy used several guiding principles that focused on balance, preservation, economic prosperity, collaboration and flexibility.

Reid noted that the EDC will convene a joint meeting of all elected boards in the next few weeks to further discuss the strategic direction. “We also expect to make presentations to all the planning boards as well,” she said.

Commissioners noted that the county’s land use plan, policies and regulations also should be integrated into this strategy so that they two work together.

Other possible next steps include working with small communities around the county to development small area plans and identifying and adopting other plans that might be needed.

To view the adopted conceptual plan and map, see the news item on the county’s homepage at: