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SHALLOTTE—Local developer Buddy Milliken remembers riding his bike along Main Street as a kid and running a sno-cone stand where Hardee’s now is.
He says he’s excited about what he’s seen so far of the new vision plan for Shallotte, particularly the plans to create a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere near the river.
“I think it’s a really good initiative for the town,” Milliken said recently. “I think there’s a lot of benefit for everybody to revive the riverfront and the center of downtown.”
Allison Platt and Associates of Goldsboro will present a draft of the town’s 10-year vision plan at a meeting set for May 15 at Shallotte Middle School. The event is tentatively set for 7 p.m.
“The town originated as a result of the river being here, and it’s a good gesture to return to that as a focal point,” Milliken said.
He says he doesn’t own any property in the downtown area, but he would be happy to see it return to its roots.
Milliken is one of many likely to attend the meeting, and organizers say they welcome the feedback.
“This is an important step in the process,” said Downtown Shallotte chairman and town Alderman Walt Eccard. “People will see a much more detailed picture. It will be much easier for people to visualize what changes we want to do.”
The process began at a January meeting to kick off a three-day “charrette” or design activity, where about 150 people talked about what changes they wanted to see in Shallotte.
Most said they wanted to see a quaint, old-fashioned community with a town square downtown but also with modern amenities and pedestrian-friendly shopping.
Two days later, Platt presented conceptual drawings based on the public input that included sketches of a bustling, pedestrian-friendly riverfront community, complete with a public riverwalk along the Shallotte River and mixed-use development.
Platt said she’s looking forward to presenting the nearly finished plan and hearing the public’s reaction.
“We’d like to get [the community’s] feedback on it,” Platt said. “We had a terrific turnout at the first charrette—the best I’ve ever seen. It really laid a solid foundation for the plan and allowed me not to spring anything on anybody.”
During the January charrette meetings, most participants said they wanted more public open spaces, she recalled, “So the way I developed the streets, we put more public open space on the streets and more views down to the water from Main Street.”
Platt said the high level of public involvement in the planning process means the plans will most likely not be left on the shelf.
“They can make a huge difference in the way Shallotte looks and is thought about in the community,” she said. “It’s already an important regional center, and it can look a lot more in keeping with its importance.”
After the May 15 meeting, town aldermen will meet with Platt to put together all the additional input from the meeting and give final input.
According to town administrator Paul Sabiston, it will take a few more weeks for the town to receive the final written report, which aldermen will make final adjustments to before approving some time in mid- to late June.
Once the plan is in place, the town can implement several things beginning in the next fiscal year, Platt said.
The board can budget some ongoing funds for some of the smaller projects, and if everyone agrees the plan should go forward, the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) Land Use Plan will need to be modified to align with the town’s new vision.
“The other thing that can help is the possibility of doing design guidelines,” Platt explained, to help developers understand “what level of quality the town is looking for.” “There’s a lot of strip commercial development along Main Street. If you want to change it, some requirements will have to change,” Platt said.
According to the original request for proposals, the cost to create the vision plan was not to exceed $50,000, some of which has been donated by local organizations.
sarah shew wilson is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.