Board approves Land Use Plan 2020

Keith StrangeStaff Reporter

September 5, 2012

DOBSON — Surry County now has a new land use plan, one which county officials say will pave the way for effective land use for the next several years.

During its meeting Tuesday night, the board of commissioners unanimously approved the plan following a week’s delay to review minute changes to the document.

The action came as the board met for its regular meeting at the county government center in Dobson.

Addressing the board, County Planner Kim Bates said the plan changed little from the original document.

“Basically, this draft is the same as it was,” he said, noting that the only adjustments made to the plan were to include a summary of recent and ongoing projects and a few corrections in the table of contents.

Bates said he is comfortable that the plan can be used as a guide for future land use within the county.

“We’re satisfied that this plan is a comprehensive document for the county’s future growth,” he said.

The plan was first brought before the board a couple of months ago, after county planners held public meetings for discussion of the document.

During its Aug. 20 meeting, the board decided to punt action on the plan in order to have a week to review changes made by Bates.

The proposed plan is designed to address emerging land use issues and conservation strategies. It is being updated to include current economic factors, Bates said.

The current plan, Land Use Plan 2015, was adopted by the board of commissioners in October 2006, and Bates has noted that frequent updates to the document are encouraged in order to qualify for grant funding for prospective businesses.

“People who fund projects like to see that you have an updated plan,” he said shortly after the plan was unveiled. “It can actually impact the economic development of the county. Having an updated, well-thought-out plan shows that you have your fingers on the pulse of the patterns and trends going on.”

The proposed plan takes the current economic climate into account, and tightens down on the amount of land designated rural growth areas, according to the planning director.

The draft employs blue text to present updated information. It also includes maps showing existing land use trends and future recommendations.

“Taken together, these maps would encourage a more compact development pattern than previously recommended, near existing water and sewer lands and urban centers,” Bates said. “This may prove to be the most significant message of the updated plan, an even more diligent, more conservative stewardship of county resources may be advisable in these times.”

The proposed plan, presented to the board of commissioners during its May meeting, constricts rural growth areas, updates the small area land use plans and takes into account economic factors including:

• The 60 percent decline in manufacturing jobs in the county since 2000.

• The doubling of the county’s unemployment rate since 2004.

• The slowing of residential development.

But while all these factors are taken into account, Bates noted that the document should be viewed as a guideline rather than a mandate.

“This plan is just a plan and isn’t an ordinance,” he said. “It’s a framework for thought when we’re trying to make difficult land use decisions.”

Reach Keith Strange at kstrange@heartlandpublications.com or 719-1929.