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Wednesday, 29 October 2014 14:15

Forest Hills hosts workshop, explores planning issues

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fr foresthillsThe Village of Forest Hills is about to go on a vision quest. The quest begins Nov. 3 with a community workshop. 

The village will be the latest community to ponder a vision, a long-range view. It follows in the footsteps of nearby Jackson County neighbors, most notably Cullowhee.

Village of Forest Hills Mayor Kolleen Begley said the charrette will focus on gaining input from residents and property owners about how they view the community evolving. The process will take into account zoning issues and how the prospects of eventual zoning regulations in Cullowhee may impact the village.

“We feel it’s important to get resident and stakeholder input as a consideration to include when making any future land-use decisions,” Begley explained in an email. “We would also like to start some long-term planning for ideas that could further enhance the Village so it continues to be a desirable location to call home.”

The mayor said that the town was taking a “proactive approach” to planning as a result of WCU’s growth and the action in Cullowhee — where the community is currently mulling zoning restrictions and development standards — and the expected impact such would likely have on Forest Hills. 

“Cullowhee basically surrounds Forest Hills,” Begley pointed out. “Because of this, the Forest Hills board anticipates that we will be approached at some point in the future by landowners or prospective buyers potentially requesting rezoning or conditional use permits for some of the undeveloped areas in and around the Village boundaries and on Highway 107 in the ETJ area — areas that are currently zoned residential with certain restrictions.”

Subjects that may be discussed during the charrette include sidewalks, walking trails, commercial development and community spaces.

“I would like to see it become a more walkable community with some uniqueness to it,” Begley said, sharing some insight into her personal vision for the village, though she added that she was “only one,” and that the community vision would be a group effort. 

The mayor said that Forest Hill’s vision-planning process will look different from neighbors Cullowhee and Webster. Cullowhee’s process has focused on zoning designations, which Forest Hills already has, while Webster’s planning process will focus on history trails and strengthening existing ordinances.

The Village of Forest Hills is using the same consultants as Cullowhee and Webster. Kostelec Planning & Chipley Consulting will be assisting the town with its planning process.

“The Forest Hills board felt that would be logical since they are already familiar with the area,” the mayor said.

 

Want to go?

The Village of Forest Hills is hosting a community charrette from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3, at the Cullowhee Valley Elementary School cafeteria. The workshop will focus on planning issues and drawing up a long-range vision for the community.

 

Planning next door

Forest Hills is not alone in its efforts to address future planning issues. Nearby examples include the community of Cullowhee and the Town of Webster.

For the past year, the Cullowhee community has explored adopting zoning standards and development regulations. Jackson County formed the Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee to assess the matter, and soon a decision will be made on the group’s proposals.

Critics of Cullowhee’s potential zones and standards argue that personal property rights are being trampled. Proponents of the standards contend that such regulation is needed to address what has become unbridled and unregulated growth — largely due to the growth of Western Carolina University — resulting in large student apartment complexes being located near single-family dwellings.

Webster, meanwhile, is taking advantage of a $5,000 grant from the Southwestern Commission Toolbox Implementation Fund — along with a match — to take a look at the town’s walkability and history, as well as any potential advantages of strengthening existing ordinances. In the words of Webster Mayor Nick Breedlove, the town’s process will focus on “where we are, where we want to go and what we could do better.”

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