Michael Norton of McGill Associates

Brunswick County’s Planning and Parks and Recreation departments are working on the 12-month initiative Blueprint Brunswick 2040 to craft two plans: a Comprehensive Land Use Plan; and a Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Together, these two plans will guide future growth, decisions and investments in infrastructure and services in the county.

This month Brunswick County is hosting virtual and live in-person sessions at county parks to discuss the project and hear residents’ thoughts. Meetings have been held in areas served by Ocean Isle Beach Park, Smithville Park, Lockwood Folly Park and Leland Park. The final meeting date is 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 18, at Waccamaw Park (or in the Waccamaw Building, if necessary, because of weather). Brunswick County will stream the session scheduled for 6 p.m. for individuals to watch from home.

Making the presentations have been Michael Norton and Jim Ford of McGill Associates and Meg Nealon of Nealon Planning.

Ford said about 1,000 people so far have responded to the survey.

“Traffic and roads,” he said, “have been highlighted as an important area.”

Following are some of the facts they listed which will have an impact on planning:

• More than 80% of the county is in agricultural use.

• The population in 2040 is projected to be about 210,000. The current population is about 143,000.

• The median age is 52.8.

• In land use, single-family and residential comprises 17%. In tax base, single-family and residential comprises 76%.

• Total housing units are 86,968. Of that, 54,226 are occupied and 32,742 are vacant (homes rented to those who stay fewer than two months). “Possibly indicating a strong short-term vacation rental market is that 38% of all housing is unoccupied,” the report states.

• The number of renter-occupied homes is 11,369, and 52.8% of renter households spend 30% or more of household income on rent.

• County residents spend $330 million outside the county on retail purchases.

• As of 2018, 28.6% of county residents older than age 25 have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

County commissioner Chairman Frank Williams said about the survey, “Brunswick County is a special place, and we want to maintain our county’s character and quality of life as we grow.

“The county wants to preserve our natural resources, protect our neighborhoods and respect and uphold private property rights while continuing to be a great place to do business. If this new plan is to be effective, it must have balanced input from all sectors of our community, not be dominated by any one group. That’s why it’s so important for as many citizens as possible to provide input during this planning process.”

The project is in the second of four phases. Since July, staff members have gathered data and maps about the study areas, hosted steering committee meetings and met with county commissioners. Now the initiative is focusing on its next key component: the community.

County Planning Director Kirstie Dixon said, “As one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, having strong comprehensive plans now is crucial to ensure we’re preparing for the growth we’re going to get over the next 20 years.

“Where will new housing and commercial developments go?

“What kind of infrastructure will we need to stay connected?

“What kind of programming and facilities are needed in our parks?

“And what will it all look like?

“These are all questions we want to ask you as we work on these plans.”

Individuals can find resources, maps and the online survey at BlueprintBrunswick2040.com, and are asked to complete the survey by January 1, 2021. The Blueprint Brunswick 2040 Public Input Survey consists of 28 questions and takes about 20 minutes to complete. All responses are confidential.

As an example, this is one of the questions: Every community can identify opportunities for improvements. On a four-point scale from most important to least important, which of the following do you think apply to Brunswick County? Lack of community character, lack of commercial development, too much commercial development, housing (variety, quality, quantity), economic disparities, lack of affordable living, lack of availability of some services and lack of after-hours options, lack of entertainment options, visual blight and clutter along roadways, encroachment of development on agriculture and sensitive environmental areas, lack of employment opportunities, lack of recreational opportunities, utilities (water and sewer), traffic and roads.

Another question is: Before the pandemic, in which of the following recreation programs and special events would you or others in your household participate on a regular basis? And these were the choices: N.C. Fourth of July Festival, N.C. Festival by the Sea, N.C. Oyster Festival, summer concert series and movie nights (hosted by area municipalities), area gallery walks, Senior Games/SilverArts programs, county youth football and cheerleading, county youth soccer, county youth basketball, Boys and Majors Dixie Baseball, Dixie Belles and Debs, Special Olympics, summer camps, 50-and-older day trips, 50-and-older athletics (basketball, softball, golf, coed volleyball, etc.), fitness and instructional classes (tennis lessons, etc.), family-oriented community events (Little Princess Ball, Grand Tea, Halloween, Easter events), other.

And another of the 28 questions asks to rate from most to least important on a four-point scale the following list of recreation activities that could be offered at a public park or recreation facility: jogging or walking trails; bicycle trails (paved); nature-based recreation (nature walks, wildlife observation areas); pickleball, courts; baseball and softball fields; outdoor basketball courts; community center; high-ropes course; climbing wall; spray-ground/splash pad/interactive water feature; shuffleboard courts; multipurpose field; tennis courts; open-space and natural areas; picnic areas, off-road biking; game courts for cornhole, horseshoes, bocce, patanque; sand volleyball courts; outdoor playground; indoor gymnasium; community garden; outdoor fitness stations; oversized outdoor chessboard; teen center; indoor fitness facility; disc golf; environmental center; ice skating; facility rentals; skateboard course and obstacles.

Phase 3 (plan development) is set to begin in December and run through April 2021. Phase 4, (plan documentation) is set to end in July 2021. Public hearings will take place before plan adoption.

For more information about Blueprint Brunswick 2040, email Kirstie Dixon, planning director, at kirstie.dixon@brunswickcountync.gov, or Aaron Perkins, Parks & Recreation director, at aaron.perkins@brunswickcountync.gov.