HOFFMAN — State economic-development planners presented Hoffman officials and residents Wednesday with four recommendations they said could maintain the town’s rural “soul” while enriching its coffers.
Bruce Naegelen and Jeff Emory of the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center, a division of the N.C. Department of Commerce, will make more formal recommendations before the Town Commission in March. Those made Wednesday, they said, came after a night of poring over the results of workshop brainstorming and community interviews conducted Tuesday, plus a night of head-scratching.
“Some of these things are doable and achievable without taxing the town too much,” Naegelen said, referring to effort, not assessments. Town officials happily agreed, spontaneously building on the planners’ suggestions themselves to promote the idea of Hoffman’s “blooming again.”
Naegelen and Emory suggested that Hoffman:
• Update its planning process and zoning ordinances, encompassing not only the town itself but areas close by.
• Conduct a community “visioning” forum to determine what community members think Hoffman should be in 15 years.
• Find ways to coordinate growth with Camp Mackall, an nearby Army training facility that already uses Hoffman’s community center for classes.
• Develop proposals that would help the town profit from the burgeoning horse-related enterprises situated nearby.
The planners also suggested uses for the old Hoffman school, which the town now uses as a community center:
• Relocate the tiny Town Hall to the community center.
• Use some of the former classrooms as a “business incubator,” providing space for fledgling businesses.
• Rent space for an accredited day care center, something Hoffman sorely needs.
• Work to increase military use of the center.
Mayor Tommy Hart said the town already had begun to work with the Lumber River Council of Governments on codifying its regulations. “COG,” as it commonly is called, is a regional planning agency set up by the state to aid 36 governmental bodies in Richmond, Bladen, Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties.
Of all the recommendations, bringing people together behind a common vision stirred the most questions:
Should the town seek help from its churches?
How can it heal divisions between blacks and whites in town? Between older and younger generations?
How can it reach the growing Hispanic population?
But the overall reaction to the two-day workshop was excitement.
“It was great to have done this,” Mayor Hart said. “This will help bring a better thought (process) for the blooming of this community.”
To which Town Commissioner Cynthia Northcutt added: “It was very beneficial. It gave me a lot of ideas for things we could do here.”
Naegelen and Emory will return not only March 5 to firm up details of their recommendations. They also will check back with Hoffman officials in a year to see what progress has been made.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]