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Maintaining agricultural nature tops land use plan priorities

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A field of corn is seen beside the new Southwest Bypass from Davenport Farm Road on June 22, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)


By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Maintaining southern Pitt County’s agricultural roots while allowing development to continue near Greenville and its neighboring towns are the uses being recommended for property along the Southwest Bypass.

County government and municipal officials are creating a land-use plan to guide development expected along the bypass and its five interchanges, which is in an area that has already seen significant residential and commercial growth in recent decades.

The project, a joint effort of Pitt County government, the city of Greenville, the towns of Ayden and Winterville, the Greenville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the state transportation department and Stewart Inc., a consulting firm, has been underway 16 months, identifying the type of development that will likely be pursued and is suitable for the area.

The public can learn about and offer comments on the proposed plan during a open house meeting being held from 4-7 p.m. on Monday at Pitt Community College’s Goess Student Center, 169 Bulldog Run, Winterville. Formal presentations will be held at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

A land-use plan is a guide for future development in an area, said Eric Gooby, Pitt County senior planner.

“It helps us make recommendations for rezonings or other developmental proposals, to say yes, that type of development is appropriate for the area it’s being located, or it’s not appropriate,” he said. “It’s a framework for (planners) to use to make those type of recommendations.”

A meeting was held in April so community members could comment on the development they want in the planning area, which is approximately 45 square miles that extends from Statonsburg Road’s interchange with the U.S. 264 Bypass to just south of Ayden.

“What we heard a lot of from the public is that they are interested in preserving that agricultural, rural feel to the area,” Gooby said. The question now is if the proposed plan accomplishes what the community requested in April.

The proposed land-use plan shows 33 percent of the area, mainly east of the new bypass, will be designated agricultural. Development in the area would likely have density and size restrictions.

Eight percent, located mainly east of the bypass and south of Winterville, would be conservation design, which encourages development away from sensitive natural areas by allowing smaller lots in exchange for preserving the natural areas as open space.

Another 11 percent of the area would be classified as suburban residential which allows for single family homes with a density of 1.5 to three homes per acre.

About 10 percent of the area, mainly located between Stantonsburg Road and U.S. 13 and the N.C. 11 interchange south of Ayden, would be designated as industrial.

There are a total of 12 character areas proposed in the plan.

Along with discussing the character areas, Monday’s presentation will include preliminary plan recommendations on issues such as land-use policy, infrastructure, aesthetics/gateways, transportation, recreation and open space and lighting effects.

It is possible that enacting the proposed plan’s recommendations may requires amending existing zoning ordinances, Gooby said. An example is lighting governance, a new issue for the county, he said.

“We know based on the development we are anticipating at these interchanges it’s going to have to addressed. Particularly in the interest in preserving that rural feel. Part of that is maintaining a dark sky,” Gooby said.

That may require the installation of downward lights or systems that cut off so lighting isn’t continuously shining.

The need to make a good first impression on travelers using the new bypass was another concern. The interchanges are gateways to Greenville, Winterville and Ayden

“It’s about making sure it’s a pleasant area, that you don’t have a bunch of things that are unsightly,” Gooby said. “It’s not necessarily about restricting what goes at the interchanges but more about the aesthetics of them. Having vegetation and or having landscaping required or how the use is situated on the lot so you don’t have a big asphalt parking lot. It’s about establishing character at the interchanges.”

The interchanges at U.S. 13, Forlines Road and N.C. 102 also mean more traffic will be using those roads, so plans are needed to lessen the effect on local traffic.

It also is hoped the land-use plan will help Greenville Utilities and the towns of Winterville and Ayden agree to service boundaries for providing sewer service, which will drive most of the development.

Following Monday’s meeting, a finalized draft plan will be written. The partner organizations then will review and either endorse or concur on the project.

The Pitt County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the plan in August with the goal of adopting it and incorporating it into the county’s existing 2030 Land Use Plan, Gooby said. The goal is also to have the city of Greenville and towns of Winterville and Ayden adopt the plan.