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Connect Our Future Project lets communities plan growth

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Meeting on 14-county project to guide future growth in Charlotte region is Feb. 4

By Reece Murphy

Representatives of the Centralina and Catawba Regional councils of governments met with Indian Land residents to introduce Connect our Future, a three-year project that will help guide future growth in the 14-county region surrounding Charlotte.

The session, during a joint Indian Land Action Council/Indian Land Voices meeting at the Del Webb Library on Jan. 16, was the first of three scheduled meetings in Lancaster County. 

Connect Our Future is a strategic assessment process that asks community members, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations for their input on a regional growth framework to shape growth in the greater Charlotte region over the coming decades.

The project is funded by a $4.9 million Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Grant.

“Presently, there are about 2 million residents in the region and over the next 30 to 40 years, we expect to double that,” said Pat Martin of the Lee Institute consulting firm. “Doubling the population is going to create problems, jobs, resources, land-use questions, infrastructure questions.

“The question is, how are we going to grow effectively as a region, as a place we want to live and raise our children and our grandchildren?” she said.

Martin said according to the U.S. Census, the Charlotte region has been the fastest-growing region in the nation over the past decade. It’s also the only region in the nation without an existing regional growth plan, she said.

Attending the meeting was Lancaster County Council Chairman Larry McCullough, who represents Indian Land’s southern District 1.

McCullough said the framework that will result from the Connect Our Future project will allow Lancaster County and others in the region to pool resources for the betterment of all.

“If the region is healthy and remains healthy, all of the entities have a better chance to be healthy,” McCullough said.

During the meeting, Martin and fellow representative Robbie Howell asked residents to fill out questionnaires asking what they liked best about their community, what features they’d like to see in the community’s future, and what they believe are the biggest challenges facing the community.

Some said they’d like to see Indian Land have more green areas and greenways, better planned and connected roads and controlled development.

Martin said all of the information gathered during the first phase of Connect Our Future will be compiled and submitted to help with the framework’s development, with input from the community and its entities solicited for each step of the process.

She said the next step of the project, which would come between mid-2013 and early 2014, would be to explore opportunities for community and regional growth. The framework itself will be developed in mid- to late-2014.

From there, it’s all up to local governments and entities such as the Catawba Regional Council of Governments as to how to use the framework, she said.

“All of it leads up to ‘how do we want to build up and how do we not want to build up?” Martin said. “It will be a local facet by then. Who implements it, who funds it, all of that will be a local decision.”

ILAC President Pat Eudy said she thought the information was interesting and the project would help both Indian Land and Lancaster County in future planning. 

“We’ve got to come up with something; we’re growing so fast,” Eudy said. “It’s great for Indian Land. We need a strategic plan.

“I think it’s something that we’d (ILAC) support,” she said.

Eudy was not alone. Indian Land resident and new ILAC member Peter Lankes said he welcomed the opportunity to help shape the future of the community he’s grown to love.

“One of the questions they asked was, “In 10 years, what headline would you like to see?” Lankes said of the questionnaire. “I said, ‘IL ranked No. 1 in the region.’

“This is the kind of region that I always wanted to live in, out here with the horse pastures on this side and the convenience (of a city) on the other side,” Lankes said “I don’t want to see Indian Land turn out like the other places I’ve lived.”

But Indian Land Voice President Jane Tanner said she’s not convinced the program will live up to its intent, much like the highly touted $300,000 U.S. 521/S.C. 9 Corridor Study that was never followed.

“I’m just very discouraged with some of these projects we do,” Tanner said. “I don’t know if anything ever comes of any of these. It’s just a job for those involved.”

The Lee Institute will hold Connect Our Future open houses at 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Lancaster County Administration Building, 101 N. Main St., Lancaster, and 4 p.m. Feb. 12 at Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church, 238 Fort Mill Highway.

If you would like to schedule an open house about the Connect Our Future project at your organization, call the Lancaster County Planning Department at (803) 285- 6005.

For more details on the project, visit www.connectourfuture.org.

 

 Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151