Greenway key as Weddington land-use plan develops

WEDDINGTON – The recently completed Weddington land-use survey has given town leaders a lot to think about as they move forward on planning development for the near future. And one of the things they’ll have to work into their plans is a greenway.

More than half of the 659 residents who completed the survey said they are interested in seeing a town-maintained nature trail for walking and biking. A greenway topped the list of what residents would like to see established over the next five to 10 years to “most improve the quality of life in Weddington,” beating out sit-down restaurants, a passive park with a pavilion and stage and a library, among other choices.

The council will begin meeting every other Thursday beginning Jan. 17 and running until March 28 to revise the town’s land-use plan, which helps dictate what type of development is needed, and where it can go, in Weddington. North Carolina law requires towns update land-use plans every 10 years.  Council members hope the survey will help them make changes to the plan in line with the desires of the Weddington residents and what they want for their home, especially when it comes to quality of life.

Despite 56.5 percent of residents who took the survey saying greenways are their most desired way to improve area quality of life, Town Planner Jordan Cook said residents haven’t shown a lot of favoritism toward the idea in the past. About three years ago, when discussions of joining the Carolina Thread Trail greenway system were held, “people who showed up at public meetings did not express much interest in greenways,” Cook said.

Cook hopes the meetings over the next couple of months result in a plan on how to proceed with plans for any possible greenways. There currently isn’t anything set in stone on how Weddington would develop the nature trail.

If the town decides to add greenways Cook said they most likely would be in line with the Carolina Thread Trail plan. The trail currently includes more than 100 miles of greenway stretching across 15 counties. Nearby Indian Trail has been in discussion to include a greenway in one of the town’s new park projects, though it hasn’t been announced whether that project would be added to the Carolina Thread Trail.

Although Weddington opted out of participating in the thread trail, it can join at any time.

“There are greenways proposed through the Carolina Thread Trail Plan. My understanding is that we can come back at any time and propose new locations as long as they are in line with the current plan,” Cook said.

While many residents may be in favor of adding greenways to Weddington, Mayor Walker Davidson feels many homeowners may not be in favor of having the greenways near their own property. Once the town decided where to build a greenway, the path could alter the opinions of some who are eager for such a project.

“I think what happened was there are people who say they want greenways, but they don’t want it going through their backyard,” he said.  “A lot of times property owners don’t want a public space adjacent to their property.”

Although he has not personally heard residents bring up discussions of greenways in the town, the mayor has spoken to many residents about the walking trails in their neighborhoods and how they would like to see more connections between the different neighborhoods.

Davidson said this is another way the town could choose to create more walking trails.  In the survey, only 7 percent of residents said road connectivity between neighborhoods would increase the quality of life in Weddington over the next five to 10 years. However, one resident wrote on their survey, “Absolutely love Weddington but would love to see more sidewalks throughout our communities to tie communities to one another.”

Almost 61 percent of residents also said preserving the open space in Weddington should be one of the most important focuses of the new land-use plan, something council member Pam Hadley said she puts in line with the creation of greenways.

“If you look at the results from the land-use surveys, open space has always been really important to the residents,” she said.  “I don’t know whether it’s been defined as greenways or not, I’m not sure. I put it in the same category as open space.”

Prior to the survey, Hadley has spent time talking to many residents and has even walked all of the neighborhoods in the town talking to residents, but the mention of greenways isn’t something she said has come up in conversation.

On the survey, many residents wrote about what they thought were some of the key issues the town needed to focus on.  One resident wrote, “I feel the town is not keeping up with the times with regard to greenways, parks and libraries.”

Despite the results of the survey, many residents wouldn’t like to see any change at all and appreciate the rural qualities of Weddington.  One resident wrote, “Most of the above require the use of undeveloped land and create either more density or more traffic.  Therefore to keep the rural character, none are desirable.”

To see the full survey results go to http://townofweddington.com/wp-content/uploads/file/SurveySummary_12172012.pdf.

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