Wayne Herron is the Town of Cornelius’ new planning director as of Jan. 1.
He brings 24 years of local government experience to the job including town planning and city managing roles at the Western Piedmont Council of Government, the Town of Boone and the City of Monroe.
We sat down with Herron on his job so far as planning director and where the town of Cornelius is headed.
The answers have been edited for space and clarity.
What is the role of the planning director?
We serve and educate the Board of Commissioners.
When they ask for information, it's our responsibly to do the research, advise and educate them so they can make the most informed decision that they can on behalf of the citizens.
We also serve the citizens. We are here to answer questions, process applications, facilitate community meetings, provide information and educate.
As professionals in planning, what we learned in school are all the techniques, tools and processes it takes to make a community a positive place to live.
We are taking direction from the board of commissioners and the citizens.
That third role is to take all that and put it together to come up with the best plans with good tools.
What is the biggest project in Cornelius for the planning department?
There’s two types of projects that we do: There are normal planning projects and there’s the development projects.
From a planning stand point, we are working with the Board of Commissioners and the appointed boards on a potential update to our land use plan and our development code.
The land use plan, which the plan is the long-range vision, has not been updated since 1999.
The town has prepared numerous small area plans, but we want to try to do is take all those small area plans and bring those together and make sure we have one unified vision for the town.
The land development code, that’s the rules and regulations, has not been updated since 1996.
There have been minor amendments over the years, but it needs a major overhaul.
We are trying to improve the process so it works better not only for us, but for the applicants.
We want to make sure that it’s easily understandable by our citizens.
How does the planning department tie into economic development?
We have to communicate very closely and make sure that our plans and our codes are such that (Cornelius’ new economic development consultant Don Harrow) can be successful.
Harrow is recruiting and he’s in a competitive situation.
When he goes after a potential client, there might be three or four other communities that they are considering or that might be recruiting them.
He needs as streamlined a process as possible.
We also make sure that we have identified sites that are zoned and have utilities.
So when his client says, I need interstate access or I need something that is close to a certain type of industry or service, we need to make sure Don knows where to provide that.
When it comes to industrial development, if we were to say everything has to get a conditional use permit, but in Mooresville they were to do it by-right, Mooresville is going to win every time.
So we need to make sure that we allow things appropriately in the right districts so that Harrow can be competitive and he can win some of those recruitment battles for us.
Is Cornelius business friendly?
Everybody interprets business friendly in a different manner.
I can guarantee you that whether it’s an automotive dealership, a resident in antiquity, or a board commissioner, staff or even appointed boards, we all have a different idea of what business friendly means.
From a staff standpoint, I have to develop an interpretation and take my lead from the board of commissioners.
What I am trying to do is follow their lead.
What I am hearing is, we want Cornelius to have a quality appearance, we want the best looking town it can possibly be and we aren’t going to settle for anything less than best when it comes to appearance.
Whether its architecture, site design or taking care of the environment, there are ways that we can lay that out in the book.
If people know that up front, that saves them money and they can make decisions before they start spending money on engineers and architects.
I can streamline that process and make sure it goes as quickly as possible. One thing you hear from a development community, is that time is money.
If you can get through that process and get start making money, that helps.