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Group seeking to plan region’s growth hosts open house on Monday

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

 

An initiative to help plan the region’s future growth will be hosting an open house on Monday to seek the input of Lincoln County residents.

The three-year “CONNECT Our Future” project is being driven by a group of more than 100 participating local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations whose intent is to develop a regional framework for the growth of a 14-county region.

The open house is one of about 30 taking place since last November through this February in the project region, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties in North Carolina and Chester, Lancaster, Union and York counties in South Carolina.

Residents who drop by the open house, to be conducted between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday at the Lincoln County Senior Center on Gaston College’s Lincoln Campus in Lincolnton, will be given the “opportunity to provide input that will help to build a planning framework to address the region’s growth and ensure the continued vitality of local communities,” a press release announcing the event noted.

Those attending the open house will be able to view exhibits explaining future growth challenges, as well as the processes by which they can be addressed. Local government staff will also be on hand, and questionnaires will be provided to those interested in sharing their thoughts.

“It’s important for residents to take a few minutes to come out to this open house and tell us what’s important to them, because our community, our county and region will grow and change over the coming decades,” said Lincolnton City Council member and CONNECT Representative Devin Rhyne.

“If we plan together in our region now, it will help to ensure the changes that do occur are the ones we want, the ones that improve quality of life for our residents and community, and give us an even more robust region.”

Input being sought includes that relating to what is valued and appreciated about the community and region as a whole, as well as what challenges are deemed the most pressing.

“That input will be developed into evaluation criteria and will be used later in the process to evaluate scenarios for how the region could grow,” the release said. “Attending and providing input will ensure the perspective of residents of Lincolnton and Lincoln County is incorporated into the process.”

The past decade has seen significant growth in the area surrounding Charlotte, which has emerged as America’s fastest-growing region of any area with a population greater than 1 million people. Within 20 years, the population is expected to grow by 50 percent, and double by 2050, meaning the addition of more than 2 million people to the region, according to the release.

However, the region is also one of the largest in the nation to be without a framework for growth. Once completed, such a framework would “help to ensure the region can match growth with good-quality jobs, necessary transportation, quality housing that is affordable, clean water, improved air quality and other social and physical infrastructure improvements,” the release noted.

In coming together across local boundaries to collaborate on the project, the communities involved will be better able to avoid the negative consequences of growth.

Funded by a federal grant, the three-year planning process to build a regional framework will take into consideration existing community plans, public engagement and local values. The framework will consist of policies, strategies and tools for voluntary use and adoption by local governments, while establishing a network of relationships to address issues that come up both locally and regionally.

The Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG), which was the grant recipient on behalf of the CONNECT member local governments and organizations, and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments (CRCOG) are helping to coordinate, facilitate and staff the process. To learn more about the initiative, visit www.ConnectOurFuture.org.

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