“It’s about maximizing the goals and preferred outcomes we’d all like to see,” said Linda Glitz, senior planner at Land-of-Sky Regional Council, which created GroWNC. “It’s about preserving our watersheds and forest lands while focusing on land use.”
The three-year GroWNC project encompasses five counties in WNC — Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania — and encourages “voluntary, locally implemented market based solutions and strategies.” In 2012, GroWNC held a series of public input meetings around the five counties, including Haywood. Participants were asked their thoughts on where they live, what they love about their community, what could be improved upon, as well as individual demographics and opinions.
Funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, GroWNC aims to provide and foster connectivity, sustainability and economic growth within the region.
“Our planning and our actions need to look at multiple things,” Glitz said. “For example, you shouldn’t just be looking at transportation, you should also be looking at transportation with employment and housing, and getting all of those things to work together.”
During her presentation, Glitz showed a “word cloud” of key terms expressed in surveys taken in Haywood County. In terms of what people liked about living in Haywood, the words “climate,” “friendly people,” “the mountains,” and “sense of community” appeared the most.
“Five years from now, how is this project going to be funded and kept going?” asked Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown.
Glitz said there are already initiatives in the works put forth by GroWNC that have gotten the ball rolling in terms of the projects long-term sustainability. She encouraged any and all to use their website (www.gro-wnc.org), which will make sure the project doesn’t sit on a shelf but remain in use through digital interaction.
“We’re hoping if we can get enough projects started — and we already have some going — that we’ll keep moving forward,” she said.