Editorial: Sustainable Growth Takes Center Stage
Moore County, North Carolina has always been a desirable place to live, work, and play. Although it is well-known as the Home of American Golf because of the first-class golf amenities here and as a popular retirement destination, Moore County continues to be appealing because of the big picture – its overall exceptional quality of life. It is not surprising that our communities continue to grow as more people discover our enviable lifestyle.
As the following editorial expresses, Moore County is fortunate to have local governments that recognize the importance of purposeful growth & development that won’t jeopardize those qualities that make our area so special. With the judicious management of current growth while also maintaining a watchful eye to the future, we can expect Moore County to sustain its appeal and continue to offer residents a superlative quality of life.
Southern Pines Planning Director BJ Grieve drew the heartiest laugh at last week’s Moore 100 panel discussion on growth when he said, “Most people don’t move somewhere because they have amazing sewer pipes.”
Grieve’s point, and the point of three other fellow Moore County planners, was that we are a vibrant community because of all the “softer” features that make places so special: quaint downtowns, thriving local merchants, pleasant parks, safe neighborhoods, quality schools, a diverse social scene.
Indeed, visitors to the Sandhills frequently marvel at our quality of life. It’s what turns many of them into full-time residents down the road, especially now in an age of remote work. But while those visitors don’t marvel at the “hard” infrastructure elements like wastewater pumping stations or road capacity ratings, those things are important to ensuring long-term sustainability. If we outpace our ability to keep up with the growth — demand for more water, road capacity, school classrooms, sewer availability — then quality of life suffers.
So it was reassuring during the recent Moore 100 panel discussion, sponsored by Partners in Progress, to hear from some of the gatekeepers and get the sense that Moore County has competent and professional planners at the forefront.
Growth has been steady here. Between 2000 and 2010, Moore County grew 18 percent, according to U.S. Census data. That pace slowed down a bit in the subsequent decade — the 2020 Census showed a 13 percent growth rate — but recent trends indicate interest in Moore County is heating up.
Some of what was disclosed in the panel discussion:
* Southern Pines, which continues to see significant growth on Morganton Road and highway corridors like U.S. 1 and 15-501, is also seeing a boom in applications for apartment complexes. It has approximately six projects “in the pipeline” that could add another 1,300 apartments to town.
* In Aberdeen, the town is seeing developers coming in with plans for N.C. 5, U.S. 1 and U.S. 15-501. And it has approved projects on the books totaling almost 2,000 single-family homes ready to go.
* In Pinehurst, the village has two building moratoriums in place in specific neighborhoods while the Village Council works to put in place specific development plans. One of those two areas, along the N.C. 5 corridor on the southern end of the village, has a lot of available land and interest from builders.
Meanwhile, in the county, Planning Director Debra Ensminger says her department is busier than ever with requests for major subdivisions. Five years ago, her department approved a bit over 6,000 permits. Last year, it did 7,553. It is on pace to exceed that this year.
Going Forward Together
It is worth keeping in mind that growth, regardless of where it occurs, affects everyone. As Aberdeen planner Justin Westbrook says, it’s a “symbiotic relationship,” which is why the respective government planners are all working together.
Planners are working not just to keep up but also look ahead at the all-important sustainability factor. Grieve is budgeting time and money to redo Southern Pines’ comprehensive land-use plan. The aforementioned Pinehurst small-area plans will establish greater control and guidelines for development. And county officials are looking at requiring developers soon to provide both water and public sewer for new projects.
It is heartening to see our communities working to address long-term sustainability. Growth is quickly pushing out of the Triangle as crowding and spiraling land costs send developers farther out. And as work-from-anywhere trends continue to grow, Moore County is poised to see more people choosing the higher quality of living that exists here.
And while those folks aren’t moving here just for the quality of our sewer pipes or our roads or our school system, those things will all need greater investment going forward to ensure we all continue to go forward.
(Editorial, The Pilot, 3/23/22)
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