Cleveland Planning Board OKs land use plan

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, May 17, 2023

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Planning Board approved a future land use plan after a presentation Monday night at town hall.

Vagn Hansen, an urban planning consultant with Benchmark, laid out a series of demographic and developmental trends dating back to the turn of the century and how those could impact the town’s growth.

While Cleveland’s growth during that time has been minimal, Hansen pointed to some components of his group’s study that should positively impact the town.

Cleveland’s median age is 33.4 years, compared to the Rowan County median age of 40.3 years, and the North Carolina median age of 38.6 years.

“It’s a much younger community, which is a positive thing,” Hansen said.

Since 2010, Cleveland has lost three residents, compared to the growth of about 65 between 2000-2010.

“Despite the decline in population, the age distribution skews younger,” Hansen said.

Typically, with a declining population, Hansen indicated that you would see a concentration of middle-aged individuals, yet that’s not happening in Cleveland.

“What you are seeing is kids being born,” Hansen told the planning board.

Hansen broke down the housing figures, too.

“Close to 80 percent of your housing stock is composed of single-family detached residencies,” Hansen said.

Multi-family units comprise slightly more than 10 percent, and mobile homes about 11.4 percent.

“You have a relatively young housing stock,” Hansen said. “With close to 93 percent of housing stock currently occupied, that indicates a need for additional housing.”

Submitting a formal future land use plan is a state requirement for municipalities.

“This will provide the town with the ability to show the state that it is in compliance with NC statutes,” Hansen said.

The plan includes everything within the city limits and surrounding areas, called the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

The land use plan outlined where future development should go and what kind of development the town could reasonably explore, given infrastructure constraints.

Hansen said the southeast portion of the ETJ would be best suited for residential development due to the natural direction of water flow needed to service those areas.

Even with the topographical assistance, Hansen said the town would still need to expand its current water services and capacity in the event of a significant uptick in development.

When Cleveland officials commissioned the study, the vision for future growth sought to enhance the town’s “unique and picturesque” scenery, describing it as “filled with small-town charm and friendly people who choose this way of life knowing that big-city adventure is within easy reach.”

The vision outlined Cleveland’s strengths, including historic homes and buildings, a host of various denominational churches, sidewalks and front porches.

“We’re surrounded by awe-inspiring nature, centuries-owned family horse and cattle farms, Third Creek, lush landscapes and some of the best family-owned restaurants in Rowan County,” concluded the vision statement.

The minds behind the future land use map considered that vision when delineating corridors for various future development. Those spaces included rural and agricultural, residential, civic, town center, commercial and industrial.

Civic space is comprised of the library, fire station and West Rowan Elementary School. The town center was described as the higher-density area in the “heart of the community.”

To implement the future land use plan, Hansen presented a list of nine strategies. Those strategies ranged from incorporating the map into the wastewater master plan, developing annexation policies that encourage orderly growth of areas outside the town, and updating subdivision regulations to ensure best development practices and standards.

Other strategies included facilitating the development of employment opportunities along the US 70 corridor, evaluating grants for parks and recreation development, and planning for future sidewalk and pedestrian scale lighting installations.

Planning board member Chip Adkins called it “a good plan,” adding that “it’s time” for the planning to become the process.

Meanwhile, planning board member Grayson Phillips indicated that the plan “complements the goals of the town board and the planning board and gives us the best opportunity to serve the people of Cleveland.”

The future land use plan will go before the Cleveland Board of Commissioners for final approval.