NEWTON GROVE — On behalf of the Citizens Improving Newton Grove Committee, commissioner Laura Wheeler presented the town’s board and mayor with a schematic drawing of what plans the committee has to improve the overall appearance of the town.
According to Wheeler, the committee’s plan is to improve Newton Grove’s aesthetic appeal, using funds provided by the North Carolina Department of Transportation through a grant that can be used to plant new trees, shrubs or flowers, as well as doing things that make the town more appealing. The grant is for $50,000.
The committee is working with a certified landscape architect to develop the design that will, at the approval of the board, be submitted to NC DOT as application for the grant funds.
According to Wheeler, the plan looks at Newton Grove as two circles, an outer circle and an inner circle. The inner circle includes the center location of the town, including the main circle and the businesses that surround that area. Wheeler said the inner circle will be the main focus for now, with plans to address the needs of the outer circle at a later date.
“The purpose of the inner circle is for people to know they are in a town and they need to slow down,” Wheeler stressed.
CING’s plan is to plant new crepe myrtles and oaks around the town because those trees work well, according to DOT requirements for size, and they are slow growing. The committee and architect have also considered the possible growth into power lines, as well as visibility, when deciding where to place the new trees, according to Wheeler.
The committee, Wheeler said, plans to replace the lighting throughout the town, switching the current light fixtures to some that are more decorative and attractive for passersby to see. Additionally, the current 30-foot flag pole that stands in the center of town will be changed to a 50-foot flag pole, allowing the flag to be more visible to those driving towards the town’s center circle.
None of the crepe myrtles that are in the center of town around the circle will be removed, Wheeler said.
Many people, she added, may be familiar with the brick stamping being used in towns like Wilmington. The streets and sidewalks are stamped to look like brick paving in an effort to make the town more attractive. CING’s plan is to stamp the islands at the intersection of each highway that comes into the center of the town, and possibly stamp some of the walking areas at local businesses that are around the circle.
“We want the look of the town to overall improve,” Wheeler stated. “Our goal is to use the grant funds to do as much work as possible. We can use the grant funds for some of these things, like the new trees and brick stamping, but we can’t use the funds for the flag pole or new trash cans.”
In other business, the board decided to have further discussion before voting to adopt a long-range transportation plan that was presented to the board during the April meeting.
Last month, representatives from the NC DOT presented a plan to all towns located inside Sampson County that showed the department’s goals for improving transportation in 20 years. The only item on the plan that brought concern and discussion from the town’s board was an idea that has sidewalk being laid from the center of town to the intersection of Interstate 40 and Hwy. 55.
“I just feel it’s a long ways from downtown to McDonalds,” Mayor Barbara Burch stated.
However, some commissioners didn’t see the project as a negative and thought the plan is considering the potential growth of the town.
“They (DOT officials) are thinking futuristic plans,” Wheeler said. “I wish we could do the same and have futuristic plans for the town.”
According to Wheeler, Newton Grove can be considered a bedroom community and for that reason, daily commuters to Raleigh and Wilmington have made the northern Sampson County town home.
“We need to be looking at how to develop the area just off (Interstate) 40,” Wheeler added. “We need to come up with ideas before they (DOT officials) come back.”
Whatever the plan is, Commissioner Steve Jackson said he just thinks the town should have some input on what happens.
“We need to notify the citizens of what is to come,” Jackson said. “The people that are coming up with this idea don’t live here and know what is best for our town.”
Regardless of what the town adopts at this time, Faye Lewis, zoning administrator, said the plans can be modified in the future to better serve the residents and their needs.