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China Grove looks to future with land use plan

CHINA GROVE — China Grove leaders are turning to residents for input about the town’s future.
Town government is in the midst of drafting its first-ever land use plan. The town contracted with Centralina Council of Governments to draft the plan and is having its second public hearing on Sept. 18 to get resident input.
The public hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. at China Grove’s municipal building, 333 North Main St. The city’s previous public hearing about the plan was in May and was poorly attended.
Lee Withers, China Grove mayor pro tem, stressed the importance of residents’ input and said the plan is vital to ensuring that the city has a say in how its growth is handled.
“I would love for us to have a part in our growth and not let the growth control us,” Withers said. “It’s something that I’m passionate about. I want to create a vision and an area where my children can live in.”
Land use plans are fairly common across North Carolina, said Centralina planner and analyst Nadine Bennett. A majority of communities in Centralina’s nine-county region, which includes Iredell, Rowan and several counties to the south, also have developed land use plans, Bennett said.
“Many of the larger communities in the region will do small area plans or corridor plans so they can be more detailed about specific areas,” she said. “For a town the size of China Grove, a fairly simple land use plan that lays out a vision for the community and offers some strategies for achieving that vision works just fine.”
She said the plan could include the community’s history, demographics, utility and road maps and existing land uses.
Currently, Bennett said, most of the background work is complete.
“We’ll basically gather around a very large map to talk about the past and future of China Grove,” Bennett said about the upcoming public hearing. “And, we even let people draw all over the map if they want to. When all of the input is received, I will put together the goals, objectives and strategies and present that back to the Planning Board for review and comment.”
Withers and Mayor Don Bringle said the plan could include where businesses, residential or industrial districts are located. Withers said the plan could also designate certain areas as mixed-use — business and residential.
Bringle said the plan could help any businesses or industry more easily find locations when looking at China Grove.
“It’s like zoning to an extent,” Bringle said. “Once you have some interest, you’ve got this template out there that you can show to the businesses.”
Withers said a land use plan could become especially important when Interstate 85 is widened.
The plan isn’t written in stone, as cities often tweak details after initial conception, she said.
It also isn’t free.
Though China Grove is a member of Centralina, it is paying about $5,000 in addition to normal expenses for its land use plan.
The Rowan County Planning Department is also involved in facilitating the plan.
A flyer for the Sept. 18 public hearing lists specific questions for residents to come prepared to address: “What are the opportunities/challenges facing China Grove today? What things (related to land use issues) are in need of change or improvement? What does a successful, self-reliant Town of China Grove look like? How and where do we want to grow?”

Contact Reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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