On Thursday, Feb. 20, County Planning Director Adam Stumb provided an in-depth look at the public’s responses to a survey on the major land-use issues the county will face in coming years.
Accompanying the results were comments left by the 301 respondents of the survey, which was sent out in November 2013.
“(On) most of the questions, we allowed folks to leave a comment,” Stumb said during the county’s planning board meeting last week. “They took us up on that.”
The results show the county’s residents want housing that is more affordable. Approximately 55 percent of the responses said housing was not affordable, while 38 percent said it was.
Ashe County is below the state average in median home value, according to data provided by the planning board. Ashe County median home values are at $152,900, while the state average is $153,600.
“There were concerns that seasonal housing may affect the housing prices,” Stumb said.
Responses reflected that concern with 3 percent of responses suggesting the county needed more seasonal housing and near 75 percent saying fewer seasonal houses were needed.
Responders were also concerned about the development of U.S. 221 and what that would mean for the county.
“People are concerned about what is going to happen,” Stumb said. “Not about the road, but what may pop up along the highway.”
According to the responses, 67 percent believed the widening of U.S. 221 is the most important transportation issue in the county. The same percentage also believed the roads in the county are generally safe.
The results also showed 45 percent of people were concerned about the future development along U.S. 221, 29 percent were not concerned and 26 percent did not know or had no answer.
The Land Use Survey also asked where people commuted to work, where they see doctors, dentists and shop.
“We were asking health questions due to transportation,” Stumb said. “We were also seeing if there was a need for certain specialists in the county.”
Land and county growth
Next on the survey was if Ashe County needed more public land for parks, river access and open space. Approximately 62 percent agreed with the statement, mentioning how important state parks and the New River are to area tourism.
In addition, 62 percent of responders said they believed the amount of agricultural land in the county has not grown in the last decade. In addition, almost 87 percent said agricultural land is a key piece of the local economy.
According to the most recent information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ashe County saw a small increase in acreage from 2002 to 2007. Numbers for 2012 have not yet been released.
Stumb said it looked as though responders were accepting that Ashe County was going to continue to grow, but wanted to make sure it was focused in the communities.
“People want to see growth, but to a certain extent,” he said, noting people are wanting to see “localized” business and growth.
There were concerns about having public utilities along the highway corridors outside of city limits, with 42 percent in support and 31 percent against. An additional 27 percent did not know, or had no answer.
Some of the responses promoted having fiber optic and 4G networks in Ashe, or expanding trash pickups outside the city limits. Others believed growth would not be the answer.
While people were generally in support of development within the different communities of Ashe County, it was clear that they were concerned about Ashe County becoming similar to Asheville or Boone.
Stumb said many were concerned about polluting industries, development along the New River or having billboards on the highways.
Board member responses
Following the presentation, members of the Planning Board expressed gratitude to Stumb for his work on the information he found and the survey he sent out.
“I really appreciate you doing this survey,” Rick Surber, planning board member said. “It shows us what we are up against.”
Board member Arvill Scott, also said the board would welcome any additional comments people would like to give. Board member Darrell Hamilton said he didn’t know what the responses told the board about the county’s future.
“At this point I’m not sure what the survey tells us what our county wants except lots of jobs,” Hamilton said.
The next meeting of the Planning Board will be on Thursday, March 6. That meeting will focus on residential development, housing and subdivisions.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.