Restoration NewsMedia

Johnston unveils draft of land-use plan

Johnston residents attend the third and final public forum on Johnston County’s next Comprehensive Land-Us Plan. Johnston County photo

By Scott Bolejack | 919-424-1776

SMITHFIELD — The essential pieces of Johnston’s proposed land-use plan might well be its goals.

Among the many aims are protecting established neighborhoods and preserving farmland, rural landscape and natural, historic and cultural sites. Also on the to-do list: growing and diversifying the economy to employ a skilled workforce and assuring housing that is varied in price, product and place.

“We know the county is going through a lot of change; y’all are experiencing that every day,” Ben Hitchings of Green Heron Planning told an audience during the unveiling of the proposed plan. “This is a really important document that helps establish policies and strategies for how to protect the things you love and add the things you need in the years ahead here in Johnston County.”

Hitchings’ firm and a county committee derived the goals from survey responses and public forums where Johnstonians laid out their land-use wishes. “Folks have given us a lot of input,” Hitchings said.

And from that input, themes emerged, he said. “Recreation was one big theme, a desire to see more of that, to see more of a county role in recreation, particularly with what we call passive recreation — trails and hiking and just being outside in the woods and fields,” Hitchings said.

That theme produced another goal: high-quality passive and active recreational opportunities connected by trails.

Farming came up a lot too in the forums and survey responses, Hitchings said. “We know how important agriculture is to the economy of Johnston County and also the way of life and the rural landscape,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with folks who live on centennial farms or even bicentennial farms. We heard in spades the importance of agriculture.”

The rising costs of land and housing yielded another theme, Hitchings said. “One of the things we heard about was the importance of providing a variety of housing at different price points,” he said.

Some Johnstonians prefer to live in large homes on expansive lots, but not all of them do, Hitchings said, referring, for example, to empty-nesters. “Your kids may have just graduated from college or high school and are going off on their own,” he said.

That couple might want to downsize to a smaller home with little yard to maintain, Hitchings said. “What is the opportunity for them to be able to buy a place and stay in the county?” he said.

“We also heard about growth impacts — the way that growth looks, how intense or spread out it is, what kind of impacts it creates on our roads, our schools, our water and sewer infrastructure,” Hitchings said.

Johnstonians place a lot of value on infrastructure that’s ready when growth comes calling, he said. “We know that is so important for supporting the various activities we engage in on a daily basis in the county and managing the impacts from our activities,” Hitchings said.

Another key piece of the proposed land-use plan is its future land-use map, or FLUM for short. Among many things, it envisions where in Johnston will be home to farms, open space, rural living, higher-density housing, employment centers with industry and office, and mixed-use developments akin to Flowers Plantation near Clayton.

“That map is not the zoning ordinance or the zoning map,” Hutchings said. “But it does help to inform possible updates to the zoning map and the standards for allowing new development in the county.”

The plan’s goals and preferred land uses, if adopted, won’t happen overnight, Hutchings said. “It’ll take years and years of work to implement the vision in the plan,” he said.

The draft land-use plan is online at