Planning for Better Future
Leland and Belville ask citizens for growth ideas.
Leland and Belville intertwine in various spots and so do, it seems, their basic thoughts for the future. Both towns launched programs in 2021 inviting citizens to voice their opinions on growth.
Residents of each town express a desire to hold on to small-town community values, but at the same time they want their towns to be smart and create proper infrastructure for the wave of new people, businesses and cultures that continue to find a home in northern Brunswick County.
Managing Growth in Leland
The Leland 2045 plan launched in January with the first virtual presentation and meeting. Residents shared their wish lists in real time to Leland’s survey questions. The Round One survey results include demographics of the survey takers, things liked about the town, concerns and town priorities. Major assets this initial group of citizens lauded were the townspeople, location and weather. Concerns included managing growth, increased traffic and the need for jobs and additional shopping.
A second round of public engagement was held in March, presenting the draft vision and theme statements for feed back and also potential growth scenarios for Leland. A third round of public engagement will be held in August.
During the early part of the year, COVID restrictions forced a new way of interacting for the townspeople and town planners.
“We had to rely on doing online meetings and pushing surveys out,” explains Town of Leland Director of Planning and Building Inspections Ben Andrea. “It wasn’t bad because we got plenty of public engagement, we just had to do it in a different way. In our first meeting we had about 90 people join us, which was really great, because if we’d had an in-person meeting, I’m not sure we would have had 90 people show up.”
The population of Leland doubled from 2010 to 2020 and is currently at about 27,000 citizens. Projections show the population could triple in the next 25 years. Now is the time to be planning what that will look like.
“The 2045 Plan is important for residents of Leland because it is a vision of how it should grow over the next 25 years,” Andrea says. “Leland has grown a lot. We know Leland will continue to grow because it is a great place, and partly because it is not land constrained like Wilmington and New Hanover County.”
A Priority on Gathering Places
After a year of lockdowns, some of the main things people have requested are areas where they can interact with each other.
“I think that need has been amplified with people being constrained into their homes,” Andrea says. “People still want a place to interact with each other whether that be in parks, a shopping center or a restaurant.”
Residents mention greenspace preservation as a planning priority, along with the call for a pedestrian-friendly downtown. Neither Leland nor Belville have a traditional downtown, but each have plans to improve their hub areas.
Leland has a core vision to develop a pedestrian-oriented downtown area in the Gateway section of town near Village Road and Old Fayetteville Road, which is the original part of Leland. Residents are starting to see that slowly come to life with the building of Harrington Village, with the 726 Brewery going up west of Town Hall and with the multi-use path coming soon in tandem with the resurfacing of Old Fayetteville Road.
“We have a number of pedestrian projects underway to create a network to improve bicycle facilities,” Andrea says. “The multi-use path will go all the way from Town Hall to the high school.”
Andrea urges all residents, newcomers and Leland lifers alike, to participate in the 2045 Plan and let their ideas be heard.
“This is an opportunity to help create a legacy for such a great growing community,” Andrea says.
Belville Aims for a Waterfront Downtown
For a town of about 2,400 residents, the Belville Vision 2030 Plan sets some high goals for developing their downtown area on the Brunswick River, not the least of which would include a hotel with a small convention center.
A steering committee took aim at the ideas for developing the original Belville town area, which is adjacent to Highway 74 and east of Highway 133. The public was invited to give input via a survey and two open meetings in April. The town received more than 300 remarks regarding proposed development.
“The concept is to turn what we call the original old downtown of Belville into a show place, much like Mayfaire near Wrightsville Beach,” Belville Mayor Mike Allen says. “We want a real downtown area. A place where you can go, park your car, get out and have every amenity you might want. There will be shops, restaurants, a marina and possibly a water taxi to downtown Wilmington,” Allen says.
The proposed expansion is due north of the existing Brunswick Riverwalk Park and consists of land being used by the Department of Transportation and some privately held land.
“We (the town) only go up to the pumping station there at 133, from that point on, we are negotiating with DOT to take that property in, most of it will go into the park system,” Allen says.
The town has a contract with a property owner that goes back prior to Allen’s mayorship in 2012. They are still negotiating details.
“One thing we are looking for at the riverfront is a hotel with a convention center that would seat up to about 400 people,” Allen says. “Wilmington has a huge convention center. We want something that appeals to the smaller business owners and groups.
The Belville Vision 20/30 Survey is available on the town’s website or paper copies are available. The town held two public meetings in April.