Waxhaw plans for the future

Union County Weekly

WAXHAW – Waxhaw is known for its “small-town charm,” but also continues to grow as a lively community for young families in North Carolina. This year Nerdwallet.com named Waxhaw the No. 1 “best city in North Carolina for young families” and Safewise Reports acknowledged Waxhaw as No. 21 out of 50 of the “safest cities in North Carolina.”

Mayor Daune Gardner said this is what makes Waxhaw special – and challenging – and is at the crux of why town officials are working toward the future.

“The challenge moving forward is to accommodate that growth without losing Waxhaw’s charm and community togetherness,” she said. “It’s figuring out how to grow a downtown that maintains a critical mass for the suburban type of growth in the landscape, while bolstering the core in a manner that continues to draw activity and connectivity.”

Town officials have currently entered a planning period – approving the town’s financial management plan through advisement from Centralina Council of Government (CCOG) Executive Director Jim Prosser, Town Manager Warren Wood managing the revision of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) and updating Waxhaw’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Waxhaw Board of Commissioners accepted CCOG’s Financial Management Plan for the town at its Tuesday, May 12 meeting.

Prosser recommended the town develop five strategies for long-term success: hire more fulltime staff to invest in experiential knowledge of processes and infrastructure; develop a cost-to-serve model for residential and commercial development; invest in inspectors to ensure everything is built to standard; create an economic analysis with the information provided from Waxhaw’s Comprehensive Plan; and research sustainable ways to impact financial costs of development and infrastructure in the future.

Prosser commended the board’s willingness to prepare for the town’s future financial viability.

“This is one of the few communities in this state that has undertaken the initiative to take on this job,” he said.

During the same meeting, Wood presented the board with a timeline for the revision of the UDO. Town staff will work from May through July reviewing, drafting and meeting with consultants and the public before finalizing the UDO.

Wood said the new UDO would simplify the town’s development process.

“Under our current UDO, too much has to be approved by the board; sometimes it takes an applicant a year to get plans approved,” he said.

The largest undertaking comes with the revision of Waxhaw’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan that was last adopted in 2009.

“When Waxhaw’s first Comprehensive Plan was adopted, there was an intent to take it further,” said Gardner. “It was very general and didn’t get into the detail we need to see now.”

The Comprehensive Plan will pull together recommendations from 10 town plans, including the Downtown Waxhaw Vision Plan and Future Land Use Plan; five county and regional plans, including the Western Union County Local Area Regional Transportation Plan and Union County’s Comprehensive Plan; and address issues brought to the board by community members, business leaders, field experts and consultants.

The topics that will be addressed in the plan include: land use and growth, management, transportation, economic development, municipal services and infrastructure, parks and recreation, natural and environmental resources, historic preservation and cultural resources.

The board elected David Godfrey in January, a 13-year planning board member, as chairman to oversee the plan’s revisions with the support of 11 committee members.

The board met with the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee on Tuesday, May 26, to discuss the committee’s progress. Godfrey and Jason Epley, a consultant from Benchmark Planning, updated the board on the committee’s public input sessions.

The committee created a “This is My Waxhaw” campaign and distributed 15,000 advertisements asking residents to comment on how they define Waxhaw and what changes they would like to see take place in their community.

Between 350 and 400 community members participated in a public forum, comment board, collective video, photography and social media campaign and table meetings over the last couple of months.

Godfrey said most of the public discussed traffic concerns, such as bottleneck traffic downtown, widening Rea Road to a four-way lane and addressing traffic patterns coming from Indian Land, South Carolina, via Highway 75.

“The greatest challenge will be helping the town determine the most important implementation steps given the many competing priorities and limited resources,” Epley said.

The steering committee hopes to finalize the plan by October, but it could change, depending on public response and the depth with which each topic is dissected. The board will set up a tentative timeline schedule of when topics will be tackled, so community members who are interested in participating will know when to attend meetings.

The information will be available on the town’s website at http://www.waxhaw.com.

“We want to incorporate the character of the people at the center of the plan,” said Godfrey.

He said it’s going to be a difficult task, but he is passionate about the future of Waxhaw.

“If you love Waxhaw the way I do, you are willing to work to make it a better place to live,” he said.

Gardener felt pleased with the work the steering committee has completed so far and looks forward to what issues will be brought to the table.

“Traffic, infrastructure and more voices to our community changes the nature of the conversation to some extent,” she said. “The core of the community hasn’t changed in 125 years, but we need to continue to work hard – pulling together the nostalgia, quality of life and the needs and interest of this community.”

Waxhaw residents are encouraged to join the conversation at http://www.bench markplanning.com/waxhaw or via social media using #thisismywaxhaw.

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