Frequently Asked Questions about GroWNC
1. What is GroWNC?
GroWNC is first and foremost a listening process, so that together, we may create our future. It is also a planning effort that will examine core issues relating to growth in a five county portion of the WNC region. The residents of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania Counties will be asked for their input, their ideas, and their solutions related to economic development and job creation, natural and cultural resources, housing, transportation, land use, energy, and health that will help to create a plan for our future.
2. Wasn’t it called something else? Livable Communities Initiative?
Yes, it was. Our planning team felt it would be better understood if we used an action term to convey the concepts of growing together as a region; growing our choices in Housing, Transportation, Energy, Land Use, Health and Natural Resources…all coming together to achieving Economic Growth and Prosperity for the region.
3. What is the purpose of GroWNC?
GroWNC is an effort to generate interest within our community in collectively working together to create our future. GroWNC seeks to identify action steps and ideas towards creating more jobs, lowering housing and transportation costs, and using our natural and cultural resources so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy them.
4. Isn't this just another plan? A regional vision?
There are many valid, viable, thoughtful efforts and plans that exist throughout the five county study area, but they are not connected or integrated. To date, no one group has pulled them together in order to synthesize the information and ideas into identifiable action items from which to act and grow. This effort will pull together plans from across the region, primarily those that speak to economic development, housing, land use, transportation, energy, and health.
5. Who is facilitating this effort?
Land-of-Sky Regional Council was asked by area local governments to serve as the grant administrator and coordinating agency for GroWNC, also known as the WNC Livable Communities Initiative.
Land-of-Sky Regional Council contracted with LandDesign, a planning and design firm with an office in Asheville, NC. LandDesign assembled an interdisciplinary team of economic, housing, transportation and communication experts to gather data, facilitate communication, synthesize and present the information back to the region.
UNC Asheville’s National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) is working with Land-of-Sky and LandDesign to facilitate community outreach and mapping of results.
6. What is Land-of-Sky?
Land-of-Sky Regional Council (LOSRC) is a multi-county, local government planning and development organization in North Carolina. It is one of 17 such organizations in the state and serves Region B, which includes the counties of Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania.
Land-of-Sky Regional Council is made up of elected officials - mayors and county commission chairpersons and alternates - from member governments, one private representative of economic development interests in each county and two at-large members. Members meet monthly to plan programs and set policies and goals to benefit the entire region.
LOSRC aids and assists local governments in various ways including: administration, planning, fiscal management, community and economic development, grant writing, and serving as a convener for regional issue management. LOSRC also analyzes trends and advises on program changes and the availability of funding and programs that are important to their local governments and the region.
LOSRC administers state and federal funds for community and economic development, serve as area agencies on aging and are affiliates of the NC State Data Center.
7. How is GroWNC funded?
Our federal tax dollars are funding this effort, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This money is coming back to our communities to be used in a meaningful way. Our region is one of 45 initial award from across the nation; 29 additional regions were awarded funds in November 2011.
8. What if communities disagree? Will results be used at a local level?
All of us will work together to determine a regional direction, with the understanding that what works for one county may not work for another. The unique diversity of each community and county will influence the identification of common goals and action items to share with the region. Communities can select which action items to address together in order to accomplish those goals.
GroWNC acknowledges and respects the positions of individual communities differing on specific topics. It is expected that not all communities and local governments in our region will agree on every issue or recommendation.
9. Do local governments have to adopt the GroWNC recommendations?
No, but with the effort that all will have invested to ensure a successful process, the result will be an end product that can be utilized locally for many years to come.
10. Does this have anything to do with UN Agenda 21?
GroWNC has nothing to do with a concept called Agenda 21.
According to the United Nations, Agenda 21 is “a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.” It was adopted by 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, 3 to 14 June 1992. http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/
Unlike the focus of Agenda 21, GroWNC will work with the residents in the five counties of this study area to develop strategies to preserve and strengthen local economies, which ultimately strengthens the regional economy. These strategies can be adopted by the local governing bodies, or modified to suit their unique situations and goals. None of the strategies identified in this process will be forced on any community or individual.
11. How can I participate?
There are many different ways to participate in GroWNC:
- Consortium participation. The GroWNC Consortium is made up of a mix of representatives from the governing bodies from each county, nonprofits, community groups, public and private housing groups, planning, transportation, economic development, research, educational and philanthropic organizations, and other groups interested in the future of our region. An ongoing member list will be updated and posted on the GroWNC website throughout the process. Interested groups can request to become a Consortium member, submit a signed agreement, and participate on that level. If you are not a Consortium member, but have ideas for the future of our region, please share your thoughts with these active participants.
- Workgroup participation. Workgroups will be formed around key topic areas. We are seeking interdisciplinary participation for this process, and particularly want to hear from members of our communities not typically represented or in attendance at planning processes, but perhaps are most affected by their outcomes. Consortium members must commit to have representation on a workgroup. Workgroup meetings will always be open to the public. Interested residents can attend these meetings or share their thoughts and ideas with the workgroups.
- Community group participation. There are many planning processes and efforts in our region; we have an active community! Continue to support those groups and share your feedback and planning ideas as you produce them.
- Tell Us! Drop us a line. Email us. Text us. Let us know your thoughts and ideas. GroWNC@landofsky.org
- Reality Check participation. We will have two major meetings with our communities – one in the Spring and one in the Fall of 2012. The first Reality Check will share the initial findings from the information gathering, research, and synthesis phase. You’ll have an opportunity at that point to tell us how close or far off we are from your long range vision for the region. We’ll take that input and begin working on the overall plan for the final Reality Check. You can then double check our work and our listening skills and again offer new ideas and input.
12. How can my group or organization participate in the Consortium?
In general, the Consortium members are representatives from local governments and organizations in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania Counties. There are already several members and we encourage local governments, businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and others to join.
To be actively involved in a workgroup or steering committee, you or your organization must be part of the Consortium. An agreement can be found on our website, under the Get Involved and the Consortium tabs. Complete this agreement and send it to GroWNC@landofsky.org. A complete list of Consortium members can also be found on the website.
13. How can I participate in a Workgroup?
We are pleased to have so many people and organizations across the five counties interested in participating in GroWNC. We are currently building our database (complete a form online, via our consortium members or steering committee members) of people who would like to be involved. While the meetings will be open to anyone who is interested in attending, we will be seeking commitments from a core group who will attend a minimum of five meetings.
The goal for each workgroup will be to have a cross-section of the range of stakeholders, including:
- representatives of the five counties,
- representatives of local/regional/state organizations,
- representatives of organizations who can provide technical input as they are working directly with the data and have intimate knowledge of the issues to be addressed,
- representatives of various segments of the population in terms of age, socio-economic background, employment, and geographic location,
- representatives of a range of interest groups (environmental orgs, business community, real estate/development groups, etc.), and
- those that are typically underrepresented or served in these processes, but are often most impacted.
Please complete a project involvement form (found on the Website, under Engage and the Workgroups tab). This will, at a minimum, keep you on our list of people to notify about upcoming meetings.
14. How can I participate in a Steering Committee?
To become a Steering Committee member make sure your county officials and Workgroup members know of your interest.
Each county makes an appointment to the Steering Committee. This is not necessarily a seat for an elected official or staff; it could be anyone representing any entity.
Workgroups will also nominate members. The Land-of-Sky Regional Council Board will review and select representation.
The Land-of-Sky Regional Council Board has been charged with ensuring that representation maintains:
- Geographic distribution across the five counties
- Representation by under-represented communities
- Diversity of members (including local government, non-profits, and private businesses)
15. How will you know about all of the planning processes and groups that exist?
For forty-five years, Land-of-Sky and local governments have been working together and have demonstrated experience working in the community.
While this is the most comprehensive effort, we will strive to make sure participation in the Consortium, representation on the workgroups and Steering Committee are all reflective of the planning processes to date and the topic areas of economic development, transportation, housing, energy, cultural and natural resources, land use and health.
The GroWNC website (www.gro-wnc.org) is also a great resource for us all. Check the Get Involved page, the News page, and any of the workgroups to make sure we’re up to date. You can also send us a link or latest work product from your group via our email and contact form on the website.
16. What's in it for me? Why participate?
Through this effort, we work together to create our future. Your participation can help shape the outcomes, providing us all with identifiable action steps that will benefit our communities.
We all know there are limited resources; this process will enable us to better understand the capacity we have to effectively use those resources in order to create positive outcomes that benefit our community.
17. How can I find out more? How are you communicating with the public?
We plan to keep you updated via our website: www.gro-wnc.org and through social networking platforms. We’ll also have a blog and email newsletter to keep you up to date on progress and to provide opportunities for input. Our team will:
- Provide routine updates via press releases to the local and regional media, including non-English speaking outlets.
- Network with key community groups by copying them on our press releases and updates.
- Work with Literacy Councils and non-English speaking service organizations to ensure all levels of comprehension are met.
- Offer presentations via speakers’ bureaus or ambassadors to present to community groups, civic clubs, business groups, industry leaders, and elected officials.
- Utilize county and city websites and newsletters, and public access channels.
- Work with utility companies to send information and important announcements via water and power bills.
- Provide opportunities to meet in our more rural communities, accessing residents via meetings at fire stations, libraries, churches, gas stations, and local community centers.