MONROE — Bjorn Hansen, Union County Transportation Planner, provided Union County commissioners an update of the county’s 2050 comprehensive plan during a public hearing plan.

The vision for the plan is to provide current and future residents with better transportation, education, water and to find solutions to public safety issues as well as multi-jurisdictional issues. In addition, the vision includes increased accessibility between retail, residential and employment spaces. Preserved rural character, recognition and support of agriculture as a major, local industry and promotion of arts, agri-tourism and park and recreation, per Hansen’s presentation.

To see the vision come to fruition, an advancement scenario is being implemented, Hansen said. A revised land use map, upgraded regulations and new programs will be implemented.

The revised land use map will focus on higher-density areas while making sure rural character remains intact. Upgraded regulations are in relation to new development. These regulations would cover higher stormwater standards, increased open space for rural areas, “flexibility to cluster lots in rural areas with utilities,” and conditions for new school campuses.

New programs, such as increasing transportation investment to up to $5 million from $100,000 through a quarter-cent sales tax increase; mandatory checks on safeness of drinking water in new homes for potential homebuyers; address areas where there may be unsafe drinking water in rural areas, address litter issues and finding resources to expand broadband internet access are part of the advancement scenario.

A “significantly” less dense land use map is a recommendation in the 2050 comprehensive plan as well as a consistent development patterns for multiple municipalities.

Citizens provided commissioners with commentary on the comprehensive plan during a public hearing about it.

One Union County native and current resident said there was a “seriously critical omission” in the plan — rezoning rural areas for urban development. They would like the plan to explain either future plans for the county to become “completely urbanized like Mecklenburg,” or include strategies to preserve rural land.

Mayor Wyatt Dunn commented on the Comprehensive Plan, specifically, the quarter-cent tax rate increase. On behalf of Stallings Town Council, Dunn said they support the increase, because the Light Rail is proposed to travel to Union County through Stallings. Linda Paxton, Mayor Pro-Tem for Stallings, spoke about the quarter-cent sales tax.

According to Paxton, poor road conditions and traffic congestion are the most common complaints council members hear from town residents. Sharing information from a report, she said 34% of the county’s rural roads are in either mediocre or poor condition. She added that poor roads are a factor in 30% of fatal accidents.

“Adding a tax on our residents is never an easy decision,” Paxton said, “but the pay off over the long haul is monumental.”

Paxton asked commissioners to consider putting the tax increase on a referendum so county residents could vote on it this fall.

Self appointed “Litter Queen” Loretta Melancon gave her support for the Litter Task Force that would be created under the Comprehensive plan. She founded Litter Busters less than 10 years ago, shortly after moving to the county. She said when people started taking walks during COVID last year, they noticed a lot of litter along the roads and it became an issue for them.

The Board of Union County Commissioners will vote on the plan later this year.