Guilford County has quite a few small towns, but it looks now like it’s going to get something else – its very own village.
The Town of Oak Ridge in northwest Guilford County is undertaking a multipronged effort to transform the core of the town’s center into a “village” with a quaint, historic atmosphere and an emphasis on pedestrian traffic as well as a nod to greenery over automobile traffic and concrete.
Over the next several months, the Oak Ridge Town Council and other town leaders plan to make a number of moves that will take the center of that 20-year-old small town and transform it into a place with the copacetic feel of a bygone era.
Several initiatives in early 2019 will be part of the “village core strategy” approved by the Town Council in December. That plan calls for everything from redoing the streetscape, adding green space in central Oak Ridge, burying power lines and implementing zoning changes that will guide future downtown development in the direction the leaders want.
Some items on the wish list could prove to be cost-prohibitive so the exact nature of the coming changes won’t be entirely clear until later in 2019.
The plan the Oak Ridge Town Council adopted states the intention to promote policies that “create an active and healthy ‘village feel’ in the Town Core that prioritizes a unique, walkable, and inviting environment with smaller buildings in close proximity to each other and the street, and it incorporates a mix of commercial, residential, and institutional uses, as well as pockets of green space that help create community-oriented gathering places.”
In an effort to obtain this new look and feel, in the coming months, town staff will be conducting a comprehensive review of allowable uses in commercial districts as well as recommending ordinance changes that encourage “village uses” in the center of the town.
The Town Council is also planning to update zoning requirements to ensure implementation of a village feel and encourage more diverse design in the town’s core. Amendments to be considered include revisions to existing zoning regulations in certain districts as well as overlay zones that are likely to include a “scenic corridor” through the downtown.
In February, the town intends to review current planning and zoning ordinances for the central part of town and also reach out to Oak Ridge citizens to get input on the best way to implement the new vision.
In March, town leaders will take that information and potentially update zoning requirements to bring about the historic feel in the town’s core area. Also in March, the town plans to work with the NC Department of Transportation to incorporate a streetscape plan and pedestrian walkway into the major roadway projects NCDOT has planned.
The village effort may mean a reduction of speed limits for some Oak Ridge roads.
In summer 2019, the town will work with Duke Energy to explore the feasibility of – and the cost of – burying electrical lines in the town’s core to add to the village feel.