Big plans rolled out

Joel Strickland with the Mid-Carolina Rural Planning Organization and Suzette Morales with N.C. Department of Transportation talk about the Comprehensive Transportation Plan with the Sampson Board of Commissioners. A presentation was also given to City Council this week.

Two massive long-term planning documents encompassing all things transportation and infrastructure — two key areas of focus for Clinton and Sampson County’s growth into the future — were brought to local governing boards recently.

Suzette Morales, N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT), presented both City Council and the Sampson County Board of Commissioners a general overview of the Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for Sampson County, a document that has been in the works for nearly two years.

The DOT Planning Branch staff have been making the rounds with the plan in recent weeks, visiting each local government board to update them on its status.

“For the past year and a half Sampson County has been working on the Comprehensive Transportation Plan,” said Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose. “We’ve had quite a team working on this plan.”

Overall, the plan identifies present and future transportation deficiencies, and generates recommendations that decision-makers can use to guide future transportation decisions. Multi-modal in nature, the CTP includes highway, public transportation, rail, bicycle and pedestrian needs.

“It is long-range and fiscally unconstrained, a ‘needs list’ for year 2040,” said Morales. “A CTP does not determine a pinpoint location of new projects or make a promise to build projects.”

However, having such a comprehensive plan is a vital first step toward realizing projects, whether they are connector roads in Clinton or Roseboro, or the creation or expansion of thoroughfares, bike paths and pedestrian walkways across the county.

“It starts with the CTP study,” said Morales.

The CTP study involves both government officials and the public in an effort to determine the area’s future transportation needs based on the best information available including, but not limited to, population, economic conditions, traffic trends and patterns of land development in and around the town, Morales noted.

Sampson’s plan is a joint effort between Sampson County and all of its municipalities, as well as the Mid-Carolina Rural Planning Organization (RPO) and DOT.

“What’s so great about the CTP is that it is developed cooperatively, so municipalities, the county, the RPO, DOT — they all come together and agree that these are the projects that are important for the county,” Morales pointed out. “It uses land use plans, public input and it’s just more beneficial for everyone in the end.”

That effort is continuing.

“We’re going to continue with our local meetings, get more public involvement,” Morales said. “Once we get the plan updated, we will come back for adoption.”

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Clinton 2035 OK’d

Dale Holland of Holland Consulting Planners formally presented the Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Plan at the Council meeting. The in-depth plan has been the subject of numerous public meetings and Council workshops for months.

“We’ve had over 600 people directly involved in the development of this plan,” said Holland. “There have been over 20 public meetings conducted throughout this process. I applaud the input the Clinton public has provided for this plan. About 6 percent of the city’s overall population has participated. I think that’s an astounding amount of participation for a city, regardless of the size of the municipality.”

A road map on where and how the community will grow and change over a given period of time, the massive plan guides short and long-range planning within the Clinton planning area, including future growth, planning, zoning and development decisions.

The purpose of such long-range plans is to address needs 20 to 25 years in the future, including identifying future transportation and infrastructure needs, determining future community facility and service needs, guiding future community parks and recreation investment and serving as a tool when applying for state and federal grant money for large city projects.

Among the highlights, Holland has addressed the possibility to expand land use sectors in the future, including adding mixed use development and medical district, neither of which currently exist in local planning. Holland said having a medical district could see the growing area around Beaman Street protected and expanded further, while mixed use would open up new avenues for development.

Holland said numerous projects on the city’s horizon — a water plant expansion, Royal Lane Park revamp and renovation projects eyed for the police and fire stations — would further move the city forward. Clinton’s central location was also a benefit, and with growth expected to come with N.C. 24 widening, this was a prime time for looking toward the future, Holland said.

“A lot of work has gone into this — thousands and thousands of hours,” said Mayor Lew Starling.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the plan, which was unanimously approved.

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