Planning for Green Growth: A Case Study of Gates County, North Carolina

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In the United States, most discussion surrounding sustainable development has focused on urban areas, but the implementation of sustainable design principles in rural regions is equally important. Gates County, a rural jurisdiction in northeastern North Carolina, is a community proud of its history, agricultural way of life, and unique environmental attributes that include ecologically valuable wetlands, forests, and waterways. With a low median household income and a high poverty rate, however, the region is also in need of economic growth. County residents have been largely united in their opposition to a U.S. Navy proposal to build an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in the area, and citizens have responded by considering alternative development that would be less environmentally and socially damaging. Citizens and decision makers are therefore faced with the challenge of planning ways in which they can develop sustainably, balancing the needs for economic growth, environmental protection, and cultural preservation.

This study identifies residents’ views and opinions of sustainable development, the current strengths and weaknesses of Gates County, and the areas in which growth would be most valuable. Citizens have identified tourism and the establishment of local businesses as vital to green growth and have expressed a strong desire for citizen participation throughout the planning process. When analyzed in light of sustainable development principles and case studies of other rural communities that have overcome similar challenges, these opinions provide insight into how county planners, officials, and residents can satisfy their need for sustained economic improvement while simultaneously ensuring that their environmental and societal resources will persist through future generations. Recommendations are provided as to how Gates County can combine business development, renewable energy, stormwater management, and land use regulations with citizen participation and education to create a comprehensive plan for a sustainable future. While these suggestions are tailored specifically to Gates County, they are designed to serve as a model that can be implemented in other rural areas as well.





Cohen, Brian (2011). Planning for Green Growth: A Case Study of Gates County, North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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