Long-Range Plan Needs Your Support
If you happened to miss it, I hope you’ll dig up Wednesday’s Pilot and read Steve Bouser’s wonderful column, “So Much to Love About Southern Pines.”
The editor eloquently reminds us of the little things, that when added together, make this remote slice of Eden so special — and worth preserving.
I’ve beaten this drum a couple of times before, but because we’ve another election coming up Nov. 8, it seems important to beat it again.
Southern Pines is feeling the pressures of growth and development. How the public responds to those pressures will mean the difference between (1) managing that growth in a sustainable way, so that as we grow, we preserve the things we love about Southern Pines, or (2) waking up one day to the startling realization that all the little things that we cherished about our community are gone.
The good news is, the public has already spoken on this issue in a clear and concise way. For it was the residents of Southern Pines, at the direction of the Town Council, who came up with our detailed, expensive and quite explicit long-range plan. It’s our plan.
In an extraordinary coming-together of Southern Pines residents, led by a 20-member citizen advisory panel, the plan got off the ground in October 2008. It included early one-on-one interviews with the Town Council and staff to help spotlight needs, public workshops, community questionnaires, photo exercises, informational booths at public events, newsletters, websites, and articles and letters to The Pilot. When the plan was complete, the council adopted it in November 2010.
The plan is “an outline agreement between residents and leadership, articulating and establishing expectations regarding key issues and town characteristics.”
Often referred to as a “vision” for our future, the plan acknowledges the pressures of growth, but clearly states from the outset that, “In Southern Pines, growth and economic activity are to be balanced with finite resources, and sensitive areas are to be protected from damage or fragmentation. ... Future development is envisioned to work, on balance to protect and enhance the aesthetic, biological, cultural, and utilitarian characteristics of the area’s natural environment.”
Regarding housing, for example, that means: “Much of Southern Pines’ charm, livability and pride of place comes from the traditional neighborhood layout and quality of housing stock. Preserving and building upon these characteristics is a town priority.” One has to wonder how the growing number of “cookie-cutter” apartment complexes, which wipe out great swaths of longleaf forest, fit with this vision.
In any event, the long-range plan is an exhaustive road map for how we have said we want to grow. My understanding of it is, that while it is not ordinance, or law, it is to act as a template for our Town Council to refer to as issues of growth and development arise, and that ordinances should reflect the vision as outlined in the plan.
Since the public has created this plan, it must understand that simply having the plan does not necessarily mean it will be implemented or adhered to. Maintaining what we cherish about Southern Pines is an ongoing process.
Whether it’s attending more open sessions at Town Council meetings, participating in presentations like that held at the Sunrise Theater on Tuesday to learn about possible DOT plans to construct a byway through Horse Country, or by understanding what the candidates running for Town Council stand for when you vote.
All of those running for council on Nov. 8 are decent and honorable folks, and their willingness to serve is commendable. They want the best for our community and understand that our physical environment is only as important as our relations with one another as friends and neighbors. Because that is the true essence of a small town community.
But if we are committed to our own long-range plan, which acknowledges growth, while preserving what we love about this place, then we must reinforce the plan by identifying the candidates for office who would best live up to, and be guided by it.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines and is a regular contributor to The Pilot and PineStraw magazine. Contact him at email@example.com.
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