BOONE — The Boone Town Council met with municipal staff to discuss the upcoming Comprehensive Plan update at a workshop.
The council’s annual retreat focused on the “nuts and bolts” of town operations in the first half of the meeting before transitioning into conceptual conversations about Comprehensive Plan priorities, Town of Boone Director of Planning and Inspections Jane Shook said.
Shook said the morning began with conversations about agenda items such as changes to town fee schedules to account for increased costs, which the council gave the Department of Planning and Inspection permission to not meet the full cost recovery.
The department presented the council working documents to help community members better understand zoning and use regulations. Shook said a residential primer, multi-family analysis and zoning maps will be available on the town’s website once completed. She said these documents became priorities when questions regarding residential use continuously came up during Watauga County Housing Council meetings. These documents will put needed information in one place to streamline the process for community members rather than searching through ordinances, Shook said.
Throughout the Jan. 31 meeting, the council reiterated prioritizing the Comprehensive Plan, stating that outside of a few continued assignments and progress toward affordable housing initiatives, the Department of Planning and Inspection will be granted “autonomy and flexibility” to focus on aspects of the plan. Shook said current assignments of the department include refining traffic impact regulations and analyzing the impact of drive-throughs in the town.
Shook stated the boards and commissions overseen by the department — the Board of Adjustment, Community Appearance Commission, Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission — will function as normal with some potential scaling back in work for the HPC and Planning Commission to allow time to focus on the Comprehensive Plan. Shook said the HPC will meet with council to discuss a balance between current projects and the planning process.
Though changes to the Comprehensive Plan are being labeled as updates, Shook said it is unlikely the same formatting will be used. She said the plan is anticipated to be much broader and include many individual plans currently observed by the town — though some existing documents may be utilized.
During the afternoon portion of the retreat, the council shared their vision for the Comprehensive Plan process in “broad strokes.” While not yet in the planning process, the town is working towards next steps.
The restructuring of council meetings allow for work sessions, with an hour of this just for discussions about the Comprehensive Plan.
Shook said that the Department of Planning and Inspections is working on an Urban Tree Canopy Analysis and collaborative efforts towards affordable housing initiatives while Sustainability and Special Projects Manager for the Town of Boone George Santucci completes a Climate Active Plan. Shook said these steps will help guide the Comprehensive Plan update process.
The council decided that all matters related to the plan will be through the lens of environmental health, equity and affordable housing. The council discussed areas in which they will seek community input, which they hope to get from a variety of sources.
“The plan is looking at how we want the community to be within 20 to 30 years and what’s it going to take for us to get there — and that’s going to include the built environment, the infrastructure. It’s going to help the town make decisions in the future regarding investments,” Shook said.
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