Strategy formed for future growth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Shelby County’s supervisor of planning services envisions a small town sprouting within 10 years from The Village at Highland Lakes, Eddleman Properties’ 700-lot mixed-use development.

The Shelby County Planning Commission approved master plans for the development Monday night, signaling a trend in mixed-use designs among Shelby County planners.

Todd McDonald, planning services supervisor for Shelby County, called the mixed-use development a perfect manifestation of the policies set forth in the county’s new comprehensive plan, a document to guide county development over the next several decades.

With the completion of the Shelby County Comprehensive Plan, planning leaders hope to direct future growth through a strategic development concept.

Key to this concept are identifiable central places that serve as a focal point for the community. Two important principles of the strategic development concept are controlled growth that prevents dispersed, sprawling patterns, and maintaining the rural landscape and character of Shelby County.

The 124-page comprehensive plan is a text county commissioners and planning officials will use to guide future decisions. Broad themes of community and character appear throughout the document.

In an effort to create identifiable communities, the comprehensive plan encourages communities to provide a recognized community core, along with an emphasis on preserving current facilities. McDonald said the plan supports the &uot;village center&uot; concept, but the plan depends on zoning.

&uot;The key to doing that is to have land-use zoning in place,&uot; he said. &uot;Without that, we’re incentive driven.&uot;

According to McDonald, planning officials can only hope developers heed their incentives to locate in appropriate areas, near similar types of development.

&uot;Without land-use zoning, we have to work with developers and hope that market pressure and our goodwill will help them locate near similar developments,&uot; McDonald said.

New zoning legislation approved this year will make it easier for beats in the county to get zoning through petitions, McDonald said.

Before the amended legislation, 25 percent of landowners and registered voters in a beat had to sign a petition. Now, only 15 percent must sign, and the number of days for completing the process increased from 45 to 90.

The comprehensive plan also encourages coordinated planning for growth amongst cities and rural communities. McDonald described the Joint Land Use Management concept of the plan. This concept encourages consistency between county and city development.

The plan encourages communities to require new residential development to preserve the green infrastructure and to incorporate open-space into designs.

The Village at Highland Lakes, located along Shelby County Highway 41 next to Mt. Laurel, exemplifies the mixed-use model. McDonald said these developments that feature a mixture of low to high-density housing and light commercial development help internalize traffic. He said mixed-use development is a national trend.

&uot;People are tired of driving. People want things more convenient,&uot; McDonald said, referring to the walkable design of the Village at Highland Lakes.