Like Wilson’s Mills, Johnston County’s other relatively new town, Archer Lodge incorporated partly to prevent annexation by a neighbor, in its case, Clayton or Wendell, whichever happened to be the more aggressive. But, just as important, town leaders also wanted to maintain the community’s rural character amid the onslaught of growth that appeared inevitable before the housing boom went bust.
Now the housing industry is recovering, and Archer Lodge leaders are moving to create the town’s first comprehensive land-use plan. It’s a wise move, and town leaders are wiser still to invite Archer Lodge residents to help shape the plan.
At a workshop on Aug. 13, the town will ask its residents to weigh in on a number of planning issues – quality of life, land use and development, housing and neighborhoods, economic development, public services and facilities, and environmental protection. The big question town leaders want residents to help answer is this: How should the town grow and develop?
For help in writing the plan, the town’s all-volunteer Land Use Plan Steering Committee has called on the state’s Division of Community Assistance. That’s a wise move too because the state agency has been down this road before and has plenty of expertise in land-use planning.
We don’t know that Archer Lodge will forever remain the small, rural town that its residents enjoy today. Twenty-five years ago, before Interstate 40 opened from Raleigh to Wilmington, Clayton was all of 5,000 people. Today, it’s population is at least triple that number, and while Clayton remains a small town, it is no longer rural. And the signs of change are obvious – among them, sprawling shopping centers and heavily traveled roads, to name just two signs that make critics of growth cringe.
It won’t happen next year or maybe even in the next decade, but it’s not hard to imagine growth from Clayton and Wendell spiraling outward to Archer Lodge. Those towns are growing today because growth spiraled out from Raleigh.
The good news is that with help from the state and town residents, Archer Lodge will have a consensus plan to help guide growth, no matter how much comes knocking at the door.