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By Charlotte Smith

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Over the past few years, officials from the County of Bladen and the Town of Elizabethtown have collaborated on a strategic plan to propel Bladen County, towards growth and prosperity.

Chuck Heustess, the Bladen County Economic Development Director, outlined the project’s objective of increasing Elizabethtown’s population to 6,000 residents and Bladen County’s to approximately 38,000. The Live, Work, Play Project emerged as the first tangible outcome of the County’s strategic planning efforts, with its initial Phase focusing on job creation through the construction of commercial buildings at the Industrial Park near Greene Lake in Elizabethtown.

This week, Heustess provided an update from Bladen Bloomin Agri-Industrial, Inc., stating, “We have been making progress on the commercial projects.” He highlighted the completion of infrastructure such as roads, water, and sewer, with construction nearing completion on the new Cape Fear Valley Health building and plans underway for a daycare facility.

With healthcare being a focal point of the strategic plan, the construction of a new Cape Fear Valley Healthcare facility is a top priority. The state-of-the-art facility will offer a range of medical services, benefiting both local patients and the Cape Fear Valley Residency Program.

Dane Rideout, Town of Elizabethtown Manager, recently addressed the Elizabethtown Rotary Club, emphasizing the project’s goal of supporting the local workforce, including essential professionals such as teachers, manufacturing workers, and firefighters. The Live, Work, Play Project, slated as a five-year initiative, forms a cornerstone of this strategy.

On the housing front, Rusty Worley, Town Planner with the Town of Elizabethtown, provided updates to BladenOnline, revealing progress on the development’s infrastructure and plans for the construction of the first house scheduled for September 1, 2024. The housing aspect of the project, central to addressing the community’s housing needs, includes the construction of over 200 homes, with initial rental options and eventual sales.

Worley explained, “The first street is roughed in with water and sewer being added in 30 days with curbs and gutters.” Worley added, “The town’s planning board has approved the application for a conditional zoning permit. The town council is expected to vote on approving the permit at its meeting scheduled for June 24, 2024.”

The project’s emphasis on energy efficiency is notable, with plans for cost-effective, energy-saving homes incorporating vertical GEO thermal systems and solar power. The inclusion of sustainable technology aims to reduce energy costs by 40%, leveraging available grant funds and public-private partnerships.

Funding for the project is expected to come from a variety of sources, including the Economic Development Administration, Golden Leaf Foundation, and state and federal grants. The project’s commitment to energy efficiency, including the utilization of a solar farm for energy, positions it to attract additional grant funding.

As Bladen County’s Live, Work, Play Initiative progresses, it marks a significant step towards fostering economic growth, enhancing infrastructure, and addressing housing challenges, ultimately shaping a brighter future for the community.
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