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Wednesday, 10 October 2007 00:00

Growth roundtable has guidelines, but now must decide how to use them

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By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

What to do with advice to give, but no audience to receive it?

That’s the dilemma facing participants of the Haywood County Growth Readiness Roundtable. The diverse group of Haywood County representatives — including Realtors, developers, aldermen, town planners, and others — has brainstormed for months at a series of workshops to create a comprehensive list of development guidelines for their community.

At the final Roundtable Workshop on Oct. 4, participants presented a list of 22 recommendations. Included are guidelines for parking, streets, open spaces, runoff, and tree and land conservation.

However, the recommendations currently don’t bear much weight. They haven’t been presented to anyone yet.

Now, the question is — can the group get those that call the shots when it comes to local development to listen?

 

Getting the word out

That’s precisely what discussion at the final meeting centered around. Now that the guidelines have been created, what should the next step be?

It was clear that the group wants its recommendations to be available to anyone who could benefit from them. They wouldn’t just be for the county to consider. Rather, the idea is to disseminate the information to Realtors, developers, government officials, and others. The goal is to make individuals aware of their responsibility to adhere to smart growth principles

“Education is so important. If we educate people...we won’t be dependent on others to protect us. I think the individual should take some responsibility through education,” said Richard Swanson, a local Realtor.

The group members must take it upon themselves to be the ones to educate the public, said Michelle Raquet, a Division of Water Quality representative.

“It’s up to you guys to present this to your board and commissioners,” she said.

Dick Alexander, a long-time community leader from Cruso, talked about the importance of locals educating out-of-towners on smart growth practices. Alexander said people are convinced to sell land at high prices with little thought to how the land will be developed.

Some ideas about how to share the recommendations with the right people include:

• Sending out the report to the town, county, Realtors and developers.

•Workshops on smart growth for builders before they start work on a project.

• Making Realtors responsible for advising buyers on smart growth options.

• Having a resource specialist available to potential homeowners.

• Additional licensing courses for contractors.

• Presentations to various groups, like the Board of Realtors.

The suggestions are the first comprehensive list of development recommendations for Haywood County. Currently, the county only has guidelines for specific types of development, like roads and steep slope construction.

Waynesville is the only town in Haywood County with a land-use plan. However, the guidelines created by the roundtable differ from that plan because they dictate residential — rather than commercial — development, and don’t focus on appearance.

Neighboring Jackson County has adopted a set of development guidelines. However, the recommendations made in Haywood differ in several respects. They’re less technical than Jackson’s and don’t cite percentages and numbers. Also, the Haywood guidelines, at this point, are just suggestions since they haven’t been formally adopted by the county.

 

From the bottom up

The Readiness Roundtable was a grassroots effort. It started when Haywood Waterways Association, a local non-profit, received a grant to solve pollution problems on the Hyatt Creek Watershed. Specifically, the grant aimed to pinpoint sources of non-point source pollution, which is pollution that stems from any number of sources, like sediment or runoff from the road.

Haywood Waterways initially had the idea to construct a low-impact development site — one that would demonstrate “green” building techniques — on property near the old Dayco site. Problems prompted the group to switch gears, according to project manager Eric Romaniszyn. It decided to funnel money into something that would have an impact countywide — drafting a set of development recommendations.

George Ivey, coordinator of the Bethel Rural Preservation Project, praised the various initiatives taken by Haywood Waterways.

“I think Haywood Waterways is a quiet success story. They’ve done a lot of work below the radar screen, working with landowners in a cooperative way and getting good results in trying to protect water quality. This is another step in this direction. They’re looking for practical ways to make a positive difference.”


The Players

A diverse range of participants from all fields attended the Haywood Growth Readiness Roundtable workshops.

• Larry Ammons, chairman, Haywood County Commissioners.

• Joe Sam Queen, NC state senator.

• Claire Stewart, Haywood County Parks and Recreation Director.

• Nathan Clark, Maggie Valley Town Planner.

• Tim Barth, Maggie Valley Town Manager.

• Glen Barnett, Lake Logan representative.

• Michelle Raquet, N.C. Division of Water Quality.

• Ron DeSimone, president, Haywood Home Builders Association.

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