HAMPSTEAD — Southeastern North Carolina has seen exponential growth over the past decade, and the growth shows no signs of slowing down – that’s why Pender County is in the process of creating the Pender 2.0 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Pender 2.0 will be an update to the previous Land Use Plan which was finalized in 2010. With the amount of growth that has taken place over the past few years, the county felt it was necessary to update the plan after only 8 years.
Pender County is the 10th largest county in the state. It consists of six small municipalities and is the fifth fastest growing county in the state. Current population in the county is estimated to be 57,941 and estimations have the population of the county just under 100,000 by 2045.
According to Senior Planner Pat O’Mahony, the growth in Pender County can be broken down by assuming there are three new residents added per day. Just because new residents are moving to Pender County does not mean these residents are staying in the county to work, in fact more than 62 percent of Pender County residents work outside of the county they live in compared to the 9.12 percent of New Hanover County residents who work outside of their county.
“Growth in Pender County is representative of what is happening throughout much of coastal North Carolina, where traditionally rural, agrarian communities are being challenged and transformed by substantial development and land use change,” the draft plan states.
“Areas close to the Atlantic Ocean, and the scenic rivers of eastern North Carolina are experiencing enormous development interest and pressure. Transportation impacts, demands on the school system, and the need for more public infrastructure and recreational opportunities have made handling growth a significant procedural and budgetary challenge for the county,” according to the draft plan.
Pender County planning staff have turned to the residents for suggestions in creating the updated plan, and have held several meetings for public input. Residents can view the current draft of the new comprehensive plan online.
Several residents attended the public input meeting in Hampstead on Wednesday where they had a chance to voice their concerns, as well as ideas to help guide the county.
Traffic seemed to be a big concern of residents, as well as the call for more commercial locations within the county. New growth in the county along with possible new commercial locations are most likely going to appear along the U.S. 17 corridor, and south of Highway 210.
Top 10 public input suggestions
- Preserve, enhance, and maintain Pender County’s coastal habitat and agricultural
- Prioritize traffic congestion reduction and improve/increase connectivity along
the US 17 corridor to support residential communities and businesses.
- Ensure there is adequate school capacity to accommodate the projected
- Increase in population and continue to prioritize high-quality education.
- Manage development in coordination with existing and future roadway
networks to provide safe and uncongested travel within and outside of the county.
- Expand current water and wastewater services to better serve the existing community, future residents, and local business owners of Pender County.
- Support development that retains the county’s quaint, small-town feel, and history.
- Develop and expand broadband internet service access to better serve the citizens and local business owners of the county.
- Provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities that promote the safety of both
motorized and non-motorized users.
- Increase the number of parks, recreational opportunities, and public trust water access locations to promote a high quality of life for the county’s residents.
- Dedicate additional resources to traffic enforcement throughout the county, especially within the eastern portion of the county.