By 2040, New Hanover County’s population is expected to match that of present-day Tampa. Which is why the county’s launching a first-ever comprehensive plan to address the future of local land use, resources, infrastructure and development patterns. As one of ten communities selected by the American Planning Association to pilot this program, the county is depending on citizen input to help chart the course—and more than 120 members of the community attended the recent public launch of the plan.
Baby boomers and Gen X-ers represent the largest segments of New Hanover County’s population, and health care, retail and food service account for nearly half of its industry. Citizens’ educational attainments outpace state and national averages—as do their tendencies toward fast food and excessive drinking. Several waterways here do not meet Clean Water Act quality standards, and about fourteen percent of the undeveloped acreage is considered protected land. Jennifer Rigby, project manager of the comprehensive plan, says the planning department has been taking detailed inventory of present county conditions since July.
"Before you know where you’re going to go, you have to know who you are. And that’s what we tried to do today, was paint a picture of who we are today, so then we can develop our vision of who we want to be."
The county is asking citizens to join committees designed to address themes such as responsible regionalism and community public health. Each committee is charged with making policy recommendations that will inform the comprehensive plan—which is set to be unveiled in June of 2015.