Take Part in Lincoln County’s Growth – Speak Out Now, Speak Out Loud, The Law is in Your Favor

by Brad Champion

Beginning this week, citizens of Lincoln County have an opportunity to speak loud and clear about how they want their community to grow. At a time when the Charlotte metro area and greater region is growing at a frightening pace, citizens of our county have a rare opportunity to make clear to Lincoln county experts and elected officials how they envision the community’s growth and future.

As a first phase of growth management planning, Lincoln County will host several public meetings to discuss how to deal with growth in parts of East Lincoln County. The meetings are sponsored by the East Lincoln Betterment Association and run by Centralina professionals. Centralina is a state designated and funded organization offering services to local government, including resources and assistance in development of land use planning and control laws:

What are land use planning and control laws? We all know that a state or local government passes laws to control how we can use our land. Zoning laws and other ordinances are well known methods for land use control. Private agreements and court decisions constitute other land use controls. But in a new era of growth in the United States producing urban sprawl, increased pollution and overcrowded roads, the law and government and professional planners look for new ways to deal with new problems. Since the 1970’s new tools have been used to deal with complex growth problems that a simple land use ordinance cannot accommodate. Questions of how much growth should occur and when, are asked alongside the traditional question of where development may occur. Old zoning laws might simply identify whether a business can be built on a piece of land, while modern land use planning tools look at the bigger picture and set out goals and limits for a large area.

What does this mean for Lincoln County? The professionals working for the county, with the help of Centralina, will research and prepare small area plans for perhaps fifteen or twenty small areas in Lincoln County that face dramatic and uncontrolled growth in the coming years. The first three areas for discussion are located as follows: (1) Optimist Club Road and new NC 16; (2) St. James Church Road and New NC 16; (3) NC Hwy 150 and the county line. The plans, once finalized and approved by the county, will become a part of the county’s larger land use plan. Under North Carolina law, once a local government’s land use plan is researched, prepared (with input from citizens!) and approved by local government (here, the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners) all land use laws and ordinances must be consistent with the land use plan.

That means a small area plan, with a circular size of about one mile, with its center at highway 150 near the Catawba/Lincoln County line will become a guiding principle for any future Lincoln County land use laws or decisions. For example, if the small area plan approved by the County states that a maximum amount of space can be used for business or a certain percentage of space must be developed as park and recreation, then the zoning laws must accommodate that mandate, and any changes or variances under the ordinance must be consistent with the small area plan.

Here’s where citizens come into the picture. The county and its professionals do not want to make decisions without your input. At the Small Area Plan Input Meetings, we all have an opportunity to tell the county how we envision Lincoln County’s future. We can all explain how we feel the area around new NC 16 and St. James road should be developed, how Optimist Club Road and new NC 16 should be developed and how the area around NC 150 and the County line should be developed. These three Small area plans will control how county laws are written and interpreted, and this is just the first of many small area plans throughout Lincoln County that citizens can help shape.

How do you want your county to look in twenty years, thirty years? Well, that answer is up to the voters of Lincoln County. The first step in the process is giving your input on these and future small area plans. The next step is continued discussion. Talk with your neighbors, talk with your family, talk with others who are interested, then give your input to the county. The right and the burden are ours to contribute. When the time comes for the county to make a decision, speak out, let your preference be heard. Contribute to discussion at local meetings and with your friends and neighbors. Contribute to other discussions about the comprehensive county land use plan. Contribute to political discussion when its time to vote. This is how the citizens of Lincoln County have a say in how our county is developed.

We can change laws now to create our vision of the future. Now is the time to act when precious parts of our county that are ripe for development can be saved. Meetings will be in two rounds run by Centralina and hosted by ELBA, The East Lincoln Betterment Association, Contact either organization for information.

April 10, 2007 at 6:30 pm – East Lincoln High School Cafeteria
April 12, 2007 at 6:30 pm – Rock Springs Elementary Cafeteria
April 18, 2007 at 6:30 pm – North Lincoln High School Cafeteria

April 25, 2007 at 6:30 pm – East Lincoln High School Cafeteria
May 2, 2007 at 6:30 pm – Rock Springs Elementary Cafeteria
May 3, 2007 at 6:30 pm – North Lincoln High Cafeteria

Brad Champion is an attorney with Knox Law Center. The firm’s website is Opening soon is the newest office in Denver located at Hwy 16/73- Waterside Crossing. He can be reached at 704-315-2363 or 866-704-9059 (Toll free) or at [email protected].

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