Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor is urging residents to provide input at an open house Feb. 18 to discuss components they value about their community and what they think are the biggest growth challenges faced by the region.“I’d love to have the room packed,” said Taylor about the upcoming discussion that’s part of a 14-county growth plan. “It’s nice to have members of the community come our and give their input. I really like that and challenge them to be a part of this bigger picture.” The “bigger picture” is a three-year planning process for a 14-county region, including Matthews. About 30 open houses organized by “CONNECT Our Future” through February to collect information from residents about what they value in their communities and what they think are the biggest challenges faced by the region. Taylor said he thinks controlled, careful growth is Matthews’ biggest hurdle. “Our biggest challenge is balancing the needs and the growth of the town with the history and charm of our downtown,” he said. “We are know for this small-town Southern charm, but in reality we are not a small town anymore. We are just short of 30,000 residents and growing.” The mayor pointed to the $32 million sportsplex under construction not far from the intersection of I-485 and Independence Boulevard. “That’s about 150 acres of county and Matthews land under construction,” he said. “But there is also about 130-ish acres in private land surrounding that that is prime for mixed-use, live-work facilities, hotels and restaurants. I think it will be a boon not only for Matthews but for Union County. But we also don’t want it to take away from downtown Matthews and its quaintness and the services and utilities needed for that area.”Taylor pointed out that Matthews saw strong growth in the 1980s and 1990s. “Now the remaining parcels are so scarce that we have to be a little more choosy,” the mayor said. “We have to go out and find the complementary services and business that will meet our needs. We really have to grab the ball now.” Matthews is among more than 100 local governments, businesses and nonprofits participating in the three-year “CONNECT Our Future” initiative to develop a regional plan for the growth of a 14-country region. The project region which includes: Anson, Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties in North Carolina and Chester, Lancaster, Union and York counties in South Carolina. According to organizers of “CONNECT Our Future,” in the past decade the region surrounding Charlotte has emerged as America’s fastest region of any area with a population greater than 1 million people. Within 20 years, the population is expected to grow by 50 percent and double by 2050, meaning the addition of more than 2 million people to the region. The region is also one of the largest in the nation, they say, without a framework for growth.The three-year planning process to build a regional framework is being funded by a federal grant. The growth plan is designed to help ensure the region can match growth with quality jobs, necessary transportation, affordable housing, clean water, improved air quality and other social and physical infrastructures. The Centralina Council of Governments, which received the grant on behalf of the CONNECT member local governments and organizations, and the Catawba Regional Council of Governments are both helping to coordinate the study process, including the 30 public open houses. To learn more about the initiative, visit www.connectourfutureorg.
Friday, Feb. 01, 2013
How should Matthews grow in the future?
Resident input sought at Feb. 18 open house
Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor wants to see controlled growth discussed as part of a Feb. 18 open house on regional growth in 14 counties. TOWN OF MATTHEWS
Want to go? The Connect Our Future open house for the Matthews region will take place 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 18 at Matthews Town Hall, 232 Matthews Station St. For information on the 14-county project or any of the other 30 open houses or to volunteer, visit www.connectourfuture.org.
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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