Recent approval by the commissioners to rezone 67.68 acres of land just outside Peletier town limits from a rural agriculture district to B-1 and B-3 is another indication of what is becoming a growing challenge for the county’s future land use planning.
Carteret County’s growth is continuing in spite of negative economic impacts of the ever present COVID-19 pandemic and this fact should spur the county commissioners and local municipal leaders to aggressively plan for the county’s future. Otherwise, the growth and associated problems such as traffic congestion, public access and environmental concerns, will overwhelm the capacity and funding for the solutions.
Over the past few months, the county’s finance office has reported month over month record breaking numbers in room tax revenues which is somewhat unexpected considering that many tourist communities have seen a decline in visitation out of fear of the pandemic. At the same time that tourism remains high, so too is commercial and residential construction, which is continuing unabated despite increased building costs and a dearth of available labor.
Another clear indication of the growth that demands aggressive planning is the increase in rezoning requests within the county, seeking to change land use from low impact uses such as rural designation to high impact uses such as commercial or multi-family designations.
During their Aug. 16 board meeting, County Commissioners approved the rezoning of 67.68 acres of land located on N.C. Hwy. 58, from a rural agriculture district to B-1 and B-3 for development by Dirt2Dream, LLC. Plans for the property, located near Peletier town limits and across from a 156-acre parcel recently rezoned to recreational camper park district, is being planned for development as both private athletic fields and “more traditional highway commercial space.”
This zoning request was contested by nearby residents who argued that the development will increase traffic on a 2-lane highway that is already a major artery for travelers destined for the Emerald Isle and Bogue Banks beaches. Additional concerns noted were the increased noise in what has been a quiet, rural setting, along with the environmental impact particularly associated with stormwater control, which is becoming a consistent problem countywide after heavy rain storms.
As News-Times reporter Elise Clouser notes in her story, the county commissioners acknowledged these concerns but said, as they approved the rezoning request, that development is inevitable. “Progress goes on,” Commissioner Mark Mansfied, a local realtor, said, “Times change and things change and there’s a major highway coming to this area, I mean (Interstate) 42, and we’re going to have more development and we’re going to have more people.”
Peletier residen, Lauren Daniel, attending the county commissioner’s meeting during which the rezoning request was approved, stated that she wasn’t opposed to the request but did go further asking the commissioners to be thoughtful when planning for development and growth in the area, especially regarding stomwater management
Mr. Mansfield is correct in his conclusion. Growth is coming to the area and yes, there is no way to stop what is best described as the oncoming tsunami of people and development.
The eventual construction of I-42 that terminates in Carteret County will result in both commercial and residential growth that is not yet fully understood by either the county’s residents or its local and county government policy makers. With only about ten years remaining before the highway project is to be concluded, time is fast running out to create a long term land use plan that will accommodate the challenges that are sure to come with this growth.
The recent record breaking tourism revenues along with the on-going construction projects are a clear indication that this growth is well underway. The impending federal infrastructure funding, some already in hand at the state level, is going to accelerate many highway projects. This will in turn facilitate accelerated private development, which potentially shortens the time available for planning.
Mr. Mansfield’s remark, “We’re going to have more development and we’re going to have more people,” at the very least shows that the commissioners are aware of what is happening, which is good news. But it also raises the question, that if the county commissioners recognize this fact, what are they planning to do about it?
This observation should not be the end of the conversation but the beginning of a major review of the county’s land use plan to include all eleven municipalities and various interest groups to include public input. Every day the county and its municipalities delay planning, the potential damage and the corrective costs for repairing these damages increase.