Tom Downing said he moved to Leland from Pennsylvania nearly 20 years ago, deciding it would be a nice, quiet place to raise his family. Now, two decades later, the town is booming and Downing hopes Leland can retain its family-friendly feel as his grandkids grow.
“I know why people are coming here,” he said. “I just want it to keep that same character.”
The town adopted their Leland 2045 plan on Nov. 18, a comprehensive document meant to serve as a framework for how the town plans to keep, and build onto, their character as it grows in the next 25 years.
“It will serve as the primary land use policy document for the town of Leland,” said Ben Andrea, the town’s planning director.
The plan provides a vision for Leland’s future by focusing on six broad themes that encompass the town’s goals for topics like housing, environmental protection, infrastructure, cultural resources and the economy. While not exactly a blueprint for the future, Andrea said the plan will give residents and policy makers a clearer sense of direction for how its growing.
Leland councilwoman Pat Batlteman said the town would be crazy not to have this kind of plan in place, particularly with its population surge. Since 2010, Leland’s population has grown 73% and is projected to reach close to 75,000 residents by 2045.
“We’ve been discovered,” she said. “It seems like everybody in the United States that doesn’t like where they live wants to live here.”
According to Batleman, advertising the plan could help attract the kinds of businesses and transplants the town wants to see in its growth.
“Working off of a roadmap like this, you’re gonna catch the attention of the kinds of industry we’re looking for and you’re going to attract the kind of people that you want to create this community and make it a good community,” she said.
If Leland grows according to the plan, rather than concentrating in a central downtown location, the town will expand in different “community nodes” along major highways, striking a balance between commercial development and preserving the natural environment.
The plan will be referred to in decisions in all types of decision making, from considering annexations to determining which environmental resources to prioritize, to where to build roads.
“If you don’t have a roadmap like the Leland 2045 plan … you would be inviting chaos,” Batleman said. “I think what we did was just ensure that this town isn’t going to grow willy-nilly. It’s going to grow in a thoughtful, measured and intelligent way.”
Now that the plan has been adopted, the first step in implementation will be figuring out where to begin. According to Andrea, the town has hired a community development planner who will determine implementation priorities and budget needs. The implementation process will begin next year.
“We’re really excited to start, but we want to be strategic about it and do things in a logical way,” Andrea said. “There’s a lot of pieces and things to consider as we strategize on how to implement this great plan.”
Andrea said the department will be giving quarterly updates to the town council and is also working on updating the plan website so that people can check in on how the implementation is progressing.
Downing said he provided the town feedback when they were compiling the plan, and is now hoping to be involved during implementation.
“Yeah, it’s my family’s town,” he said. “It’s our future.”
Reporter John Orona can be reached at 910-343-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.