Woodfin is taking the first step toward a new comprehensive plan two months after having “egg on the face” for not having a similar plan in place and just a month before it’s set to consider a new code of ordinances.
The first step in compiling that plan to “establish a unified vision, along with goals and priorities intended to shape the town’s next 10-20 years,” is forming a steering committee, according to an Oct. 26 release calling for volunteers.
Woodfin, a town of about 8,000 residents, according to the U.S Census, is grappling with its growth, more than 7% between 2010-19. It has seen rapid development and development proposals, including the contentious Bluffs development seeking to construct almost 1,400 units on an 82-acre riverside parcel near Richmond Hill Park.
Town Planner Adrienne Isenhower said Oct. 27 the town is looking for 8-10 steering committee members who will help with citizen engagement and feedback on different topics of the plan representing different areas of the town.
That steering committee should be in place in November, with a first meeting set for late November or early December, she said. A timeline for the comprehensive plan process beyond that should be in place next August or September.
“Through the planning process, the community is invited to weigh in on important matters like land use, transportation, public services, infrastructure, parks and recreation, and cultural and natural resources,” the release says. “The process will document the vision and identify strategies to realize that vision.”
The town’s current comprehensive plan is an updated version of one drafted in 2008, which was passed to comply with state statutes known as Chapter 160D.
Woodfin repealed and replaced its code of ordinances in May to conform with those regulations, but the move was invalidated since the town apparently considered, but didn’t pass the comprehensive plan when it was taken up by the Board of Commissioners in 2009.
Isenhower said the town is currently operating under its previous code of ordinances, with the issue set to come back before the Board of Commissioners in November.
The board adopted that 115-page plan comprehensive plan at its Sept. 21 meeting in a unanimous vote with Commissioners Debbie Giezentanner and Donald Hensley absent, one month after being presented the plan for review and recommendations.
According to the minutes from that meeting, Attorney Sam Craig told the board that in his legal opinion, “the 2021 Comprehensive Plan distributed a month ago meets legal requirements for Comprehensive Plan from North Carolina General Statute 160D.”
The board then, in a 4-0 vote, unanimously approved both recommendations to change the plan made by the town’s Planning Board and the plan itself, according to the minutes.
The release says “community engagement is a cornerstone of a successful comprehensive planning process, giving residents an opportunity to say, ‘This is who we are,’ ‘This is what we want/need in our Town,’ ‘This is what I am concerned about’ and ‘This is what I am excited about for Woodfin’s future.'”
Any town residents hoping to take part in the steering committee can fill out an application on the town’s website at www.woodfin-nc.gov, and email it to Planning@woodfin-nc.gov.
“The town’s residents have the answers we need to thrive as a vibrant and welcoming community,” Isenhower says in the release. “We are actively seeking members who are passionate about Woodfin and its bright future.”
According to the town’s website, a Future Land Use Map will also be prepared as part of the comprehensive plan, which “will guide zoning and other land use decisions in a manner that is compatible with the identified vision outlined in the comprehensive plan.”
Woodfin is also in the midst of an election cycle for three seats on its Board of Commissioners, and the town’s comprehensive plan hurdles, along with other land use and development issues, were hot topics in a recent candidate forum ahead of the Nov. 2 vote.
Planning Board member and commissioner candidate Jim McAllister said: “The question is about the next 25 Bluffs that are coming. … We’ve got to flesh out this comprehensive land use plan, we must have a steep slope ordinance.”
Four of those hoping to gain seats on the board, including one incumbent, Giezentanner, addressed questions on the comprehensive plan process, steep slope ordinances, tree canopy protection and more.
One of those issues was code enforcement, as the town has recently hired new Planning and Zoning Administrator Penny Sams, who started with the town Oct. 18.
Sams comes to Woodfin after six years as a zoning enforcement officer with the city of Asheville and says while she has an Asheville address, is on Woodfin water and lives about eight minutes from Town Hall.
So far, she said she’s worked with a few town residents on houses that aren’t meeting minimum occupancy standards and issues of campaign or other signs in rights-of-way.
Derek Lacey covers health care, growth and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at DLacey@gannett.com or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.