WAXHAW — Preserving downtown’s charm and history while preparing for future growth is what the town’s small area plan is all about.
And during a kick off meeting Monday night at the Waxhaw American Legion, about 25 residents sat down with consultants to start setting goals and priorities for their downtown.
Monica Holmes, project manager with the Lawrence Group, said the reason the town needs this plan is two-fold.
“We’re looking at all the different types of issues in the downtown area to examine how we can make Waxhaw the wonderful place it is and will become,” Holmes said. “Recently, the economy has been in a downturn, but there’s still pressure from people who want to build downtown Waxhaw. We need to know what to build and where. Plus there’s a need for a new municipal facility in downtown, a police department and potentially a library.”
Holmes explained to the crowd the small area plan is based on sustainable development, “which maintains the integrity of its natural resources over the long term, promotes a prosperous economy and hosts a vibrant, equitable society.”
It also helps create a plan for downtown Waxhaw that will work for future generations.
“We’re imploring you in this room to carry this torch and take it forward the next five, 10, 15 years,” she said.
And beginning April 30, the town will host a series of public charrettes at the Waxhaw Women’s Club where the public can sit with consultants and go over every aspect of downtown.
The charrettes are intense design workshops and after each day, the planners will incorporate the public’s input and present the final presentation May 7 incorporating all of the discussion from the week. All meetings are open to the public and each night there will be an update during a pinup session.
Holmes and her team have walked every block of downtown Waxhaw and identified “ripe/firm” properties, which outlines which properties are ripe for redevelopment, which properties are firm in their use and will remain so in the next decade or two, and then properties that will eventually be ready for redevelopment and have identified potential uses for those areas.
The purpose of the public charrettes is to get public input on what they think are appropriate developments and improvements to downtown. The town’s greenway, pedestrian and parks and recreation plans will also play a part in the small area plan, Holmes said.
“Waxhaw’s historic district hasn’t really changed that much,” she said. “The trees grew up and there’s no more mill housing, but you still have a lot of the bones in tact and you really played off the railroad, and we want to build on those qualities and make it stronger and better.”
And residents want to ensure the historic charm is preserved.
Ed Benzel has lived in the area for 17 years. He actually lives just over the line in South Carolina, but everything he does is in Waxhaw.
“Are you going to try and match the facia of the buildings and old antique that’s part of the Waxhaw I fell in love with 17 years ago?” Benzel asked Holmes. “Because N.C. 16 looks just like any turnpike off New Jersey.”
Holmes said the only way to ensure that is with a small area plan that solidifies the town’s standards and codes so developers and residents know what’s permissible.
“If you don’t want these things, you have to have the codes in place to create a more walkable, historic Waxhaw and right now you don’t have that everywhere,” Holmes said.
She said the ideal small area plan will create a historic Waxhaw where people can work, shop and play, rather than a town they live in but travel elsewhere for work, dining and shopping.
David Kloth, a seven-year Waxhaw resident, said he wants to ensure the town’s strengths and assets are incorporated into the plan.
“This isn’t Charlotte or Monroe. Waxhaw is unique, it’s rural, which is what we love,” Kloth said. “There’s a lot of cyclists in the area, and do I hate getting stuck behind them in traffic? Yes. But I do want that preserved because it’s unique.”
To have your say, attend any of the public charrette’s next week at the Waxhaw Women’s Club, 200 E. South Main St., beginning at 1 p.m. April 30. For a full schedule and more information, visit the town’s website at www.waxhaw.com.
“Without your input and opinion we can only make our best professional opinion so we need yours to know we’re moving in the right direction,” Holmes said.