Published 3:19 am Thursday, May 24, 2007

By Staff
Want to find out how Washington plans to manage growth, development and land use in the city? Attend the informational meeting scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 31 at the Washington Civic Center.
That’s when and where a draft of the city’s proposed land use plan will be available for review. Among those who will be at the meeting to answer people’s questions will be Bobby Roberson, the city’s planning and development director, and Dale Holland, representing Holland Consulting Planners, the company helping the city develop the land-use plan.
The Coastal Area Management Act requires counties in the state’s coastal region to develop land-use plans, which must be updated every five years. Municipalities in a CAMA county come under that county’s land-use plan, unless they opt to develop their own land-use plan. That’s what Washington decided to do, and that’s why the city is updating its land-use plan.
Why the need for a plan?
About 35 years ago, North Carolina and other coastal states realized their coastal regions, including sounds and estuaries such as those at and near Washington, were being threatened from pollution caused by a growing population, industrial development and increased usage of coastal areas as recreational areas. Responding to those threats, the Legislature passed the Coastal Area Management Act in 1974.
It’s a piece of legislation that has served the state well. CAMA has been amended over the years, providing even more protection to the state’s coastal areas.
There are groups such as the N.C. Coastal Federation that would argue the state isn’t doing enough to protect and preserve its coastal regions. There are groups, perhaps like builders and developers, who would argue CAMA regulations are too restrictive.
It’s tough to argue with CAMA’s goals. Some of those goals, as outlined in the city’s synopsis of its land-use plan, are:
When the city began preparing the updated land-use plan on Sept. 13, 2004, it adopted a participation plan which was intended to make sure interested people would have opportunities to participate in development of the plan. Sixteen meetings at which the public had opportunities to attend and provide input for the plan have been held from Nov. 1, 2004, to April 26, 2006.
The draft land-use plan that will be available for review next Thursday isn’t set in stone, yet. The City Council must conduct a public hearing before it approves the revamped land-use plan. That provides another opportunity for the public to comment on the land-use plan. After the council is finished with the land-use plan, that plan goes to the Coastal Resources Commission for final review and, hopefully, approval.
The informational meeting should help educate people as to what the city’s plans are when it comes to land-use activities and policies within its jurisdiction. The public hearing, which will be held later this year, gives people another opportunity to voice their opinions and recommendations on the matter.
Washington residents and others are urged to attend both events. After all, the Pamlico-Tar River, Pamlico Sound and their estuaries are their waters. They should play a role in developing land-use rules that help protect those waters.