By Darrell Metcalf
Barnardsville – Where the county is heading and how to get there was the focus of several meetings held by Buncombe County, including one in Barnardsville. According to the county’s website, “the Board of Commissioners is developing a strategic plan that will guide the County into the future.” The plan noted as a “process as well as a product,” will define priorities, guide county operations, and drive future policy and budget decisions. Per the county, it should include a mission, vision and values while drawing a vision for the future.
While the plan is a commissioner-driven process, it is to be informed by employee and public involvement. Additionally, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government and futurist consultant, Rebecca Ryan, are facilitating the planning process.
Public Engagement Sessions (or Strategic Priority Community Sessions) have been held at five different locations recently to obtain insight and input for determining the next steps of the process. These five sessions were held in addition to and as a response to eight public meetings that were held in October and early November at 200 College Street in Asheville. Through early December, sessions have been held in Barnardsville, Black Mountain, Enka-Candler, Skyland and Downtown Asheville.
Commissioners identified four focus areas on which they would like public input. The focus areas consist of: Environmental Stewardship, Educated and Capable Community, Vibrant Economy, and Resident Well-Being. Within each focus area, community trends are identified in order to assist in generating draft goals. Examples of the community trends that have been identified are: Growing racial gaps in educational achievement, a growing population, declining public school enrollment, growing housing costs and supply, loss of farmland, growing jail populations and growing cost of living. These are a few of the named trends provided.
The meeting, which was held at Barnardsville Community Center on December 2nd to obtain feedback from local residents of North Buncombe County regarding the Strategic Plan, was not well attended. Only seven members of the area were in attendance. Worksheets were provided to members as they split up into groups to brainstorm and generate ideas based on the focus points supplied to them by the County officials.
While the agenda was supposed to be guided by the already identified focal points for discussion, much of the opinion and pursuant comments by community members advocated a desire for autonomy from the jurisdictional restriction that originates from the greater Asheville area.
Community members were encouraged by the county employees to note all their concerns and ideas on the provided worksheets.
With the conclusion of the Public Engagement Sessions, the Board of Commissioners would hold a Commissioner Workshop at 200 College Street on December 17th. In January, the Commissioners aim to adopt the Strategic Plan. Through June of 2020, a departmental action plan will be developed and the Strategic Plan will launch in July of 2020.
Additional details regarding the process in development of the Strategic Plan for Buncombe County can be found on the County website under the County Center subtitle.