Brunswick County invited the public to once again participate in its plans for the future.
With Blueprint Brunswick 2040 advancing through county government, several department heads were on hand during a community drop-in meeting held Oct. 25 at the Brunswick Center at Supply to answer questions, present maps and define policies that make up the new initiative.
Brunswick County Blueprint Brunswick 2040 is scheduled to go in front of the planning board for a public hearing this month and to the county commissioners for consideration of adoption in December.
“Events like this are 100% important,” Brunswick County Planning Director Kristie Dixon said. “This was created based on the input we received from the public. Not the staff. Not the county. This is the public’s chance to come and review all of the input we received and the policies that came out of it.”
Brunswick County started gathering public feedback on its future plans in October 2020 when surveys were sent out on possible land uses and other parks and recreation topics to residents over a five-month period. More than 6,400 surveys were returned, providing key information on the direction of the plan’s first drafts. Those initial plans were presented in an open forum last November where the public was invited to view the project and provide additional input. The information and input received was once again used to craft the plan that debuted on Oct. 25.
“This all started out with engaging the public,” said Dixon. “There were a lot of surveys and we took all of that information and generated it into public policies. This is about policies, and the policies that shape this vision.”
As they entered the forum, attendees were given stickers to place on various poster boards with different lists of policy priorities. This exercise highlighted where citizens wanted to see their tax dollars spent. Affordable housing, Dixon said, was an issue about which county residents consistently expressed concern when looking toward the future, particularly as growth continues to impact Brunswick County.
“This land use plan will guide growth and where it’s going to be,” Dixon said. “Everything will be to help guide Brunswick County into the future. We’re constantly taking input.”
‘It’s a balancing act’
Meg Nealon with Nealon Planning held a pair of presentations in an effort to outline some of the Blueprint Brunswick 2040’s approaches towards managing growth and maintaining the quality of life residents expect.
“We know the change is coming,” said Nealon. “People are concerned about growth, as they should be. The quality of life is what attracted people to the area in the first place. As we’ve gone through this process, the goals that are stated in this plan, the policy recommendations are aimed directly at conserving the things people love in Brunswick County. It’s a balancing act.”
Finding ways to address affordable housing is a challenge, Nealon said, and requires a multi-layered approach.
“Land use is just one aspect of the solution,” Nealon said. “This is not just a Brunswick County issue, or North Carolina issue. Affordable housing is nationwide. Market conditions in the area are different from one community to the next and there are no single magic answers. It takes a concerted effort from a lot of different agencies to find a solution that works locally.”
‘This is their plan’
Participants had the opportunity to review a number of different policies incorporated in the plan, as the forum provided policies for infrastructure, health and well living, economic development, open space, land use capabilities, community facilities, public access and conservation.
“This is their plan,” said Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Perkins. “Their input is what made this plan come to life, their recommendations and comments on a plan that will be with us for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Perkins said one of the main goals of the county is to stay ahead of the growth instead of waiting to react. Residents have expressed a lot of interest in indoor public facilities, said Perkins, as well as more parks, walking trails and pickleball.
“Pickleball has become a big thing in Brunswick County with the population we have,” Perkins.
Bald Head Island, Belville, Bolivia, Navassa, Northwest and Sandy Creek are incorporating their comprehensive land use plans into the Blueprint Brunswick. Participating municipalities will all have to adapt to the plan once Blue Brunswick 2040 is adopted by county commissioners.