Updating the Town of Princeton’s land use plan and zoning ordinances were among the top items discussed by the Town’s Board of Commissioners at Saturday’s annual planning retreat.
“The Goldsboro By-Pass and U.S. 70’s future designation as Interstate 42 didn’t exist when we created our current land use plan,” said Marla Ashworth, town administrator. “Since the state’s Department of Commerce no longer has a Division of Community Assistance, communities are using the Triangle J Council of Government to meet their planning needs.”
Ashworth said the cost of using one of Triangle J’s senior planners, Matt Day, could cost $20,000 to $30,000.
“That’s an enormous increase over the cost we incurred years ago,” said Ashworth. “This scope could range from a basic update to a full-blown redraft or somewhere in between.”
Ashworth said Day wouldn’t be available until January 2018 to work on the project. Day will appear at the board’s April 3 meeting to discuss costs and services that he can provide.
Ashworth cited six goals for the town.
The first goal is for the town to practice strong financial stewardship. She said the town needs to seek a local act from the state legislature to hold and effective manage stock gifts.
Ashworth also said the town needs to plan funding for code enforcement and a downtown business district without raising taxes. She also said the proposed sale of the old fire and rescue building needs to be postponed until 2018.
The second goal, Ashworth said, is to pursue and support new developments, redevelopment and entrepreneurship.
She suggested eliminating the residential incentive plan and organizing a planning meeting of property owners in the U.S. 70 and I-42 corridor to plan for the growth.
Improving the community’s appearance to foster community pride was Ashworth’s third goal.
“We need to develop a plan to encourage downtown property owners to improve building appearances,” said Ashworth. “We need to hire a part-time code enforcement officer, advertise volunteer opportunities and paint the old fire and rescue building.
The fourth goal, Ashworth said, is to recruit staff through competitive salaries, a good work environment and providing education and training. An annual salary review is needed, she said.
Enhancing the quality of Princeton’s infrastructure was Ashworth’s fifth goal.
“We need to plan physical updates for the Community Building and other buildings,” said Ashworth. “Upkeep and maintenance of town properties is important. We need fencing and a walking area in the park, we need to plan ahead for the appearance the North Center Street access to town.”
Ashworth also said a master plan to connect sidewalks in town and lighted entrance signs to town were also needed.
Her final goal is to promote community involvement. She proposed a marquee sign for Town Hall, more social media communication and news releases and to continue to encourage citizens to be part of the town by serving on its committees.
Rosa Andrews, retired director of economic development programs, Johnston Community College, moderated the retreat that was held at the Princeton Town Hall.
Andrews began the retreat by taking Rains, the commissioners and town staff through an analysis of the town’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).
Strengths which participants emphasized were: the Princeton schools, the town’s professional staff, community pride, a willingness elected officials and town staff be innovative, the town’s water and sewer system and its good parks.
The greatest weakness cited a lack of curb appeal and code enforcement issues.
Town Clerk April Williamson, who has assumed code enforcement responsibilities, said she needed direction on legalities and asked if some code enforcement steps could be eliminated.
“It’s a combination of educating the public and streamlining ordinances,” said Ashworth.
Police Chief Tyrone Sutton said getting courts to take code violation cases seriously is a problem.
“But it’s not always whether or not you get a conviction,” Commissioner Walter Martin, Jr. said. “If they have to take off work and go to court, they might think twice about violating an ordinance.”
“When you go to court, you want something to get done,” said Sutton. “If you have people go to court with citations and they just get a slap on the wrist, they’re like to be repeat offenders.”
Other weaknesses included a resistance to change, a lack of volunteerism and rundown commercial and residential properties.
The greatest opportunities for Princeton are the Goldsboro By-Pass and the new Interstate 42. Another opportunity is resource sharing, specifically the proposed Princeton and Pine Level water and sewer partnership.
Threats mentioned by participants included community opposition to multi-housing opportunities and doing nothing