Moore County began indicating last year that it had no appetite for urban sprawl. Several months later, the Board of Commissioners appears to be sticking to that diet.
A significantly revised land use plan is making its way through its latter stages and could come before the commissioners for approval later this year. At its heart is an abiding theme of directing development closer to municipalities and urban areas that have utilities close by.
“The No. 1 goal is to protect and preserve the rural areas,” County Planning Director Debra Ensminger told commissioners recently. The updated land use plan “is right in keeping with what you guys have guided us to do to guide development closer to the towns if they can accommodate it.”
In the end, what this could mean for Moore County is fewer “pop-up” subdivisions along two-lane roads in otherwise agricultural areas, less traffic congestion, and a more thoughtful, coordinated way of approaching growth.
‘All New to Us’
The land use plan is the latest signal that county officials are serious about handing a handle on growth before it gets away from them.
Ensminger reminded commissioners that, last year, they approved new limits on major subdivisions. Those developments are now being funneled to areas zoned for acre and half-acre lots that are closer to urban areas, and have water and sewer more readily available.
In addition, the county has begun working more collaboratively with its municipalities on shared highway corridors and development guidelines on them. For instance, when a developer wanted last year to build a new shopping center on U.S. 15-501 and Juniper Lake Road just north of Pinehurst, the county got the developer to work with the village on higher design standards for the project, as well as a better handle on traffic.
That led to even more talks last fall with Aberdeen, Pinehurst and Southern Pines about developing a set of minimum standards for five key roads that crisscross and connect their respective jurisdictions: U.S. 1, U.S. 15-501, N.C. 211, N.C. 5 and Midland Road.
“This is all new to us,” Ensminger said. “We have never done this before.”
Indeed, cooperative planning has been long on talk but short on action over the years, so what’s happened of late is considered substantive progress. Still, there’s more to go, and the county’s stated desire to push development closer to urban centers is a great start.
A Profound Impact
There’s still a lot more work to be done on the revised land use plan before it ultimately goes before commissioners for approval. A consultant will help work up the details, and county planners want to get more feedback from the municipalities.
Ultimately, this will be among the most important things the commissioners do this year, because the plan will have a profound impact on the look and livability of Moore County. Are we to become just another far-flung suburb of Raleigh, with clusters of subdivisions popping up willy-nilly on two-lane country roads? Will we build out water and sewer lines inefficiently?
If you drive to the Triangle now, you can see plenty of examples of this in Wake, Chatham and Durham counties.
Or will we respect our agricultural industry and historical roots and protect farmland? Will we channel development to areas that have the infrastructure — the roads, the sewers, the ancillary service businesses — to meet future needs?
Moore County is growing. In the last six months alone, developers have either announced or indicated plans that could add more than 2,000 homes between Carthage and Aberdeen. And that’s not counting already-approved developments elsewhere in the county.
This new land use plan — and its design to protect against urban sprawl — will ultimately balance our appetite for growth and make Moore a healthier community.