By Brian Graves & Justin Jones, Staff Writers
Monday, December 3, 2012 —
David Brinkley once said, “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.”
With a new project beginning this week, everyone will be entitled to everyone’s opinion on what will be the best steps to ensure a bright future for Stanly County.
A new, three-year planning process has begun called Connect Our Future.
It is an idea that is deemed important because the region in which Stanly County is located has become one of the fastest growing regions in the nation, with the population expected to grow by 50 percent in 20 years and doubling by 2050.
This process allows residents to provide input in building a framework to address the growth in the region and assure the vitality of local communities.
Stanly Countians are asked to help with the first stages of the process by attending one of two open houses being held next week.
The first will be from 4-7 p.m. Monday at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center in Albemarle.
A second open house will be held from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at the Crutchfield Campus of Stanly Community College in Locust.
Albemarle Councilwoman Martha Sue Hall, who is the chair of the Centralina Council of Governments Executive Board, has reminded fellow council members and the public of its importance at city council meetings over the past few weeks.
“It’s important to hear from residents in communities throughout the region because we are developing evaluation criteria that will help guide this process as we consider how our region should grow,” Hall said in a press release.
“Open houses are designed for people to come in and share what they like about qualities and characteristics of that community. And, what do they want to preserve?” Albemarle City Manager Ray Allen said.
“If there’s a major concern their voice needs to be heard.”
These initial “needs and values” open houses will be followed next year by community meetings to explore various options for meeting the challenges of growth.
A similar process led to the redevelopment of downtown Chattanooga and the building of the Tennessee Aquarium.
The nine counties in the Knoxville, Tenn. area also held a similar visioning process where thousands participated in giving their ideas on everything from improving transportation to preserving cultural icons.
During these initial open houses, residents will be asked to submit their thoughts and ideas on what they like about this region and what they think are the biggest challenges ahead.
Residents are welcome to drop in at anytime, view exhibits, talk to the staff members and provide input.
Stanly County is not alone in this endeavour.
More than 100 local governments, businesses and non-profits in the 14-county region are participating in the three-year initiative.
Stanly County Commis-sion Chairman Lindsay Dunevant says this is an important process and all county residents should take the opportunity to participate.
“This is not a time for our county to sit on the sidelines when planning for the future,” Dunevant said.
“Stanly County needs to be right in the middle of this and be pro-active in determining our needs and the best way they can be met for the benefit of our county.”