York County residents asked to 'connect' with area planners

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comSeptember 17, 2013 

  • Want to go? Connect Our Future meetings will be held at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at Manchester Meadows, 337 E. Mount Gallant Road, Rock Hill. York County residents may sign up for any of the meetings. To participate, visit www.bit.ly/YorkCounty or call 704-714-4438.

— Two hours, planners say, can affect the next 40 years. It’s two hours planners hope York County residents will be willing to spend.

Connect Our Future will host three identical meetings Oct. 10 at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill. More than 70 participants from throughout the county are signed up, but the hosts would like more than 100.

“This phase of the process is going to be a hands-on, participatory exercise,” said Sushil Nepal, project manager. “It’s a mini planning process with your neighbors.”

Connect Our Future is a partnership with the Centralina and Catawba Regional councils of government, and more than 100 municipal, business, nonprofit and educational participants. More than 80 events will be held in its 14-county region during a three-year public process.

This round of public meetings is the second. A third, next year, will be to show residents how their feedback formed what’s expected to be a long-range planning guide. The idea, Nepal said, is to allow communities to “choose a preferred future.”

“This isn’t planning for tomorrow,” he said. “This is planning for way beyond tomorrow.”

Community members will show where they want business, residential or other growth to be located and places they may want to avoid it. Ultimately planning documents and decisions come down to municipalities, but with so many municipal stakeholders involved in Connect Our Future the expectation is much or all of the recommendations will be adopted.

“Our hope is that because they’re involved throughout, implementation is going to be easier,” Nepal said.

Steve Allen, planning services manager for York County, is a participating member. Any final decision impacting York County will come from its Council, but the ongoing process will create a tremendous amount of data that may be used.

“They’re creating options,” Allen said. “They’re creating tools. You can use them if you want to.”

Another reason Nepal expects adoption is the wide range of resident interest. Residents are being asked what they want, he said, not consultants or outside planners. The main takeaway from the more informal first round of meetings was communities want to maintain much of what makes them unique.

“What we heard is that communities are interested in preserving their own local character,” Nepal said. “Just because we’re doing this planning process for the region doesn’t mean everything has to fit everyone.”

The Connect Our Future process may be familiar to Lake Wylie residents, after hundreds attended community meetings and filled out an online survey last year to help create an area plan through the county. The document that came from that process hasn’t come to York County Council yet, though it did take a hit when the county planning commission voted July 16 not to recommend it.

Allen said that document still should come to Council for final say, though there’s no timeframe.

“We hope so,” he said. “We’re still evaluating.”

Want to go?

Connect Our Future meetings will be held at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 10 at Manchester Meadows, 337 E. Mount Gallant Road, Rock Hill. York County residents may sign up for any of the meetings. To participate, visit bit.ly/YorkCounty or call 704-714-4438.

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