Planning consultants have offered dozens of suggestions for how Clayton should grow in the years ahead.
LandDesign, a Charlotte planning and design firm, submitted the first draft of the town’s Comprehensive Plan 2040 in late July.
Laying out goals and strategies, the plan is supposed to work like a stylebook, one town leaders and staff can rely on when handling land uses, utilities, housing and other development matters.
To create the plan, LandDesign worked with town staff for eight months to understand where the town is and where it should be in the future. Consultants gave ideas for how to get there in the 144-page report, unveiled July 27 to the Clayton Planning Board.
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LandDesign will present the plan to the Town Council in September. Councilmen are scheduled to act on the document in October, according to the town’s website.
A main component of the plan is an updated land-use map, which suggests how the 46 square miles in Clayton’s planning district will best fit into 10 broad categories. Ranging from recreation areas to employment centers, the categories align with zoning districts that more specifically govern what is and isn’t allowed on parcels of land.
Town planners and the Town Council use the map when judging whether a proposed development is consistent with how the town wants to grow.
Compared to the town’s current land-use map, created in 2008, LandDesign’s proposal reinforces downtown as the core. It also lays out a broader range of housing densities and highlights opportunities for mixed-use growth, said Jake Petrosky, a planner with the firm.
“That provides flexibility for private development but also gives people what they want,” Petrosky said of mixed-use areas. “They want a range of retail and other services within walking distance of housing options.”
For instance, a new category on the land-use map is “neighborhood center,” or an area near subdivisions that’s suitable for grocery stores, retail establishments and restaurants.
On the proposed map, neighborhood centers are near existing subdivisions like Glen Laurel and Riverwood Athletic Club. The plan also denotes neighborhood centers near areas poised for residential growth. Among those areas are the proposed Steeplechase subdivision and land at the corner of Shotwell and Covered Bridge roads.
More commercial offerings was the No. 1 thing Clayton residents said they wanted around town, according to a LandDesign survey of nearly 1,000 locals. In addition, those surveyed said they supported steering tax dollars to the “development of more places to shop and dine out downtown.”
Councilman Michael Grannis said he’s not surprised those surveyed want more places to eat and shop. Residents have been asking him about that for 11 years, he said.
“I don’t think we’ve done an excellent job of getting more retail in, but I think we’ve done a decent job or maybe a good job,” Grannis said.
Downtown Clayton has added gift shops, restaurants and a brewery in recent years. But while several restaurants have also moved in along the highway corridor, businesses in the Walmart shopping center have come and gone.
“The more retail we can get in here, the more desirable Clayton is going to be as far as a place to live,” Grannis said. “I would love to see a retail center similar to White Oak (in Garner).”
Aside from the survey and the land-use map, the remaining bulk of the comprehensive plan is made up of goals, objectives and strategies for the 10 areas that shape Clayton’s identity as a town.
Some of the recommendations are things the town is already doing or plans to do. Others would be new initiatives for Clayton.
Goal: Promote re-use and infill development projects while preserving Clayton’s historic character and small-town charm.
Objectives and strategies: Allow increased densities for new development and re-use; continue the Facade Grant Program; and develop more incentives for downtown redevelopment and residential projects.
Goal: Improve aesthetics in the downtown core.
Objectives and strategies: Prepare a streetscape plan for Main Street; implement a unified plan for Dumpster placement and screening; improve wayfinding signage to downtown; and work with the N.C. Railroad to improve aesthetics along the rail corridor.
Goal: Reinforce downtown as the social, civil and cultural center of town.
Objectives and strategies: Catalog and enhance public spaces downtown; complete a greenway from the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse to downtown; make sidewalk projects that connect neighborhoods and parks to downtown a priority; and enhance safety crossings over railroad tracks.
Goal: Increase opportunities to land companies.
Objectives and strategies: Set up regular meetings with Johnston County Economic Development, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership; catalog and market available buildings in town.
Goal: Develop Clayton’s brand.
Objectives and strategies: Create a branding plan that includes standardizing town documents, marketing materials, signage and events.
Goal: Monitor and promote Clayton’s economic position in the region.
Objectives and strategies: Develop a public dashboard of recent economic data compared to other towns.
Recreation, open space
Goal: Increase public access to the Neuse River.
Objectives and strategies: Develop canoe, kayak and fishing access points and create an online map showing where those places are.
Goal: Support the development of Clayton as a regional destination for trail-based tourism.
Objectives and strategies: Keep building greenways; create destination-based facilities that people will want to bike, run or walk to; and launch a marketing campaign to highlight Clayton’s trails.
Goal: Encourage a range of housing types and lot sizes.
Objectives and strategies: Require high-density housing types in areas closest to services, amenities and infrastructure; encourage different housing types within planned developments.
Goal: Provide safe and well-maintained housing.
Objectives and strategies: Rehabilitate or demolish dilapidated houses; create code-enforcement campaigns aimed at reducing blighted areas of town.
Goal: Develop a multi-modal transportation system.
Objectives and strategies: Partner with area agencies to identify transit opportunities, including commuter rail, park-and-ride lots and express-bus stops; update the town’s 2006 comprehensive bicycle plan; and promote the development of “Complete Streets,” or those that include bike lanes, sidewalks and crossings.
Goal: Plan for adequate water and sewer needs.
Objectives and strategies: Work with Johnston County and the City of Raleigh to ensure the town’s needs are met; implement and update the Five-Year Local Water Supply Plan as required by the state; and study capacity of water and sewer infrastructure as an update for the Downtown Master Plan.
Goal: Coordinate with local, regional, state and federal agencies.
Objectives and strategies: Work with Johnston County Schools on picking school sites; expand coordination with the school district by tracking approved subdivisions; assist Johnston County with updates to the Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan; and operate the Emergency Operation Center during major storm events and other natural disasters.
Goal: Protect and enhance Clayton’s natural resources.
Objectives and strategies: Discourage development in conservation areas; ask developers to use secondary conservation areas in their designs; develop a local tree ordinance or a Street Tree Planting Master Plan; and consider requiring an Existing Resources Map for all projects over 50 acres.
Goal: Protect water quality and quantity.
Objectives and strategies: Offer density bonuses for developers who preserve and restore natural forests.
Arts and Culture
Goal: Support Clayton as a regional destination for cultural and arts tourism.
Objectives and strategies: Provide opportunities to install public art at “key town gateways,” such as allowing local artists to paint sewer manholes and other town-owned infrastructure.
About 1,000 residents responded to a survey conducted by LandDesign as part of the Comprehensive Plan 2040. While nearly all of the respondents said they lived in Clayton, some lived outside the town limits.
The average demographic for a respondent was a 37-year-old female who had lived in town for eight years. Here are some survey results:
Number of adults in household: one (7 percent); two (76 percent); three (12 percent); four (4 percent); five-plus (1 percent).
Number of children in household: zero (37 percent); one (22 percent); two (29 percent); three (8 percent); four (3 percent); five-plus (2 percent).
Years living in Clayton: fewer than five (34 percent); 5-9 (23 percent); 10-24 (27 percent); 25-plus (12 percent); not applicable (3 percent).
Top three reasons respondents chose Clayton: Schools, housing affordability and small-town lifestyle.
Top things “Clayton should actively work to promote”: More retail shopping and restaurants; the preservation of existing tree canopy and natural areas; more parks, recreation facilities and programs; and more local employment options.
Top things respondents agreed to “dedicate more taxes and public fees for”: Road/intersection improvements; sidewalks; greenways; tree preservation in natural areas; and supporting the development of more places to shop and dine out downtown.
Source: Proposed Comprehensive Plan 2040