‘Great things, amazing things’: Spencer board talks parks, land use plan

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

SPENCER — The amount of good things happening in Spencer are exciting and a bit scary, too, Steve Blount says.

“Great things, amazing things,” the town Planning and Zoning Administrator told the Spencer Board of Aldermen during their planning retreat Friday. “Almost, if you asked me to vote today, too many great things. But that’s just because I’ve got to make them come true for you.”

Blount’s presentation was one of the last items during a full day of talking about the future of the town. Blount made a list of everything happening in the town of about 3,200: the recently finished town hall, the Stanback Educational Forest, the N.C. Transportation Museum, Yadkin River Park and the town’s library park.

He also pointed to the impending revision of the town’s parks and recreation master plan and the subject of his own presentation: a new comprehensive land use plan to guide Spencer through growth and making the most of its assets.

Blount pointed to the Stanback forest as an example of a unique and growing asset that could get better with good planning.

“It has an opportunity to grow with planning to connect to greenways, and the greenway has the chance to connect to downtown, and the downtown has the chance to connect to the river,” Blount said. “That’s what comprehensive planning is about. It’s taking all those good things y’all are already working on, plus other things, and putting a rope around them.”

Once all the town’s projects are tied together in a plan, it can be used to leverage outside resources. Blount said clear and decisive plans help get support from politicians. In Spencer, officials hope an immediate medium of support will be a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant. Blount said that kind of support will become natural with a comprehensive plan.

To attract new families to Spencer, the town board has to support amenities they may not be interested in personally, including bicycle lanes, Blount said.

“That’s your attraction, that’s your bait,” Blount said, noting other assets include the forest, greenways and the Transportation Museum are also good attractors.

Alderman Pat Sledge said the town has a number of lower-income residents and asked how the town would balance their needs and still bring vision to attract the people the town needs. Sledge said she is in Spencer because she was able to buy her home in Spencer for less than she could rent a decent place in Salisbury.

“I said the nasty old word gentrification,” Blount said.

Blount said every town needs to be concerned about where people will live. There are programs that require a certain amount of affordable housing. Large subdivisions with “cookie cutter” homes could be the solution to that issue, but those homes are now selling at a premium, he said.

“If it becomes a problem as we move forward, then you as a board will have to address it as an issue,” Blount said.

Blount said growth pressure could mean run-down homes get purchased, renovated and rented for significantly more no matter what.

“You can’t stop that,” Blount said, adding it will be more difficult to find cheap homes 10 to 15 years from now.

The best thing the town can do is attract more tax base to fund programs to help the other end of the economic spectrum.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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