“I think as always with big plans, there’s areas that could be improved, but I think as a whole, it’s a very good representation of what the town needs to be doing,” said Anthony Sutton, a Waynesville alderman who was formerly the chairman of the town’s planning board.
In that previous role, Sutton spent more time on the document than almost anyone outside of the planning department.
Sutton’s planning board got ahold of the draft plan about a year ago, after a year’s worth of planning and public presentations.
Titled “Waynesville 2035: Planning with Purpose,” the 179-page document covers everything from agriculture to zoning and plots the path of future development in and around the town.
Its predecessor, “Waynesville: Our Heritage, Our Future, Town of Waynesville 2020 Land Development Plan,” had served the same role for almost two decades, as its title suggests, however such master planning documents require regular updates and revisions to maintain relevancy.
Such plans are usually a prerequisite for municipal financial transactions like grants and loans, as funders want to be sure future projects and developments are part of a well thought-out long-term plan that has significant community support, as opposed to frivolous fast-track flights of fancy.
Perhaps most importantly, the plans lay out geographical zones where the community has decided it wants growth, and where it doesn’t want growth. The 2035 plan also spells out what kind of growth the community would like to see – residential, commercial or industrial – and what density that growth should aspire to.
For more than a year, a number of public meetings and comment sessions were conducted in all quarters of the community, from which decisions expressed in the plan originated.
A steering committee, in conjunction with consultants Stewart, Inc., JM Teague, and Chipley Consulting, compiled the input for presentation.
“We came up with a consensus of what was to be put into the plan,” Sutton said. “One of the areas that we can continue to improve is where we put smart growth and how we help revitalize different areas.”
Smart growth principles promote infill development at the expense of sprawl, and the preservation of spaces that make communities like Waynesville unique.
At the regular Waynesville Board of Aldermen meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 11, the plan was presented to the public by lead consultant Jake Petroskey of Stewart, who discussed major concepts included in the plan and answered questions. Aldermen also entertain public comment about the plan, which was minimal.
At the Tuesday, Sept. 8 regular Waynesville Board of Aldermen meeting, public comment will again be heard, and aldermen can decide to vote on adopting the plan at that time or hold off if they feel changes are warranted.
But it’s not a stretch to say that the robust public input period — followed by planning board study — may have resulted in the plan meeting public expectations.
“I haven’t been contacted by one single individual,” Sutton said. “I do know that whenever we were in the planning session of this, when I went to all the community meetings that were held in each community and got lots of feedback, that was incorporated into the plan, but I’ve not gotten any pushback or actually even a single conversation from anyone.”
Likewise, Alderman Jon Feichter said he’s happy with the result.
I couldn’t be more pleased,” Feichter said. “I think that the steering committee aided by the members of the community really did an outstanding job. The thing that is most impressive to me is how well thought out the plan is. It’s very thorough and I think that that’s necessary. What comes out of these plans, the ordinances and the building and zoning board really impacts virtually all aspects of the community. I really like how they considered comprehensively how this is going to impact the community.”
And even if issues crop up in the future, Sutton stressed that the plan is always open to adaptation.
“It’s very expansive, but it’s a living document,” Sutton said. “It’s a working document that gives the planning board and the town something to look forward to and work toward and strive towards. So it’s not like tomorrow the zoning and the whole town is going to change. That’s not how that works. People will always have input on zoning changes within the districts.”
To view the plan, visit www.waynesvillenc.gov.