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Creating a cohesive vision for WNC’s future

Six months after meeting with Haywood County residents to discuss ways to improve the community, a group called GroWNC is returning to the county to present various scenarios for the region’s future growth.

GroWNC is an effort between Haywood, Transylvania, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison counties to start thinking collaboratively about ways to develop the economy with a focus on sustainability.

During the first round of meetings in May, GroWNC leaders were simply looking for feedback on the group’s overall objective and general goals.

But, at its second round of meetings on Nov. 29, GroWNC will be looking for more specific comments on a set of scenarios illustrating potential growth or change in the region.

“We have a lot of different outcomes and measures,” said Carrie Runser-Turner, senior planner with Land-of-Sky Regional Council, a multi-county planning and development organization.

For example, does the region need expanded broadband and cell phone services? What type of jobs should the mountains be chasing? How can cultural and natural resources be protected as we grow?

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“What would it look like on the ground to have those things in the future?” she said.

One of scenarios will show projections for Western North Carolina’s future if things continue as is.

“What would our future land use pattern look like in 2040 if we continue on the path that we are on?” Turner said.

People who attend one of the meetings on Nov. 29 will be asked to look at the different scenarios and offer their thoughts. Attendees will be asked to pick the scenarios they like best. From there, GroWNC leaders will create a single blended scenario that charts the growth that WNC residents want to see.

Government leaders can then look at the future as agreed upon by those residents as guidance when making decisions about their own community.

“We really hope that that final list of options will really be a menu that our local government can choose from,” Turner said. “Something the whole region can work toward.”

In between the May meetings and now, GroWNC leaders met with nearly 90 focus groups of eight to 12 people in order to get even more specific about what problems WNC residents see in the area and what they want to see in the future. The discussions included people of every age, race and social status.

“It was a really broad group,” Turner said.

The things that people from Haywood County loved the most about living in WNC were the friendly people, the mountains, the climate and the sense of community. But, those same people indicated that the county needs better roads, more entertainment, more jobs and improved public transportation, among other things.


Examining growth

GroWNC will host its second round of community meetings from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 29, at the Agricultural Center on Raccoon Road in Waynesville.

The group is focusing on seven core areas: jobs and economic development; housing; natural resources; cultural resources; energy; land use; transportation; and health and wellness. or 828.251.6622.

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