The concept of conducting small area plans for Catawba County was one of sixteen growth strategies resulting from the County's long-range Strategic Growth Plan (1999). The Growth Plan stated that the Small Area Plans "would explore general development patterns and trends and evaluate public service/facility deficiencies needing attention." The document further stated that the plans should also "include conceptual sketch plans based upon appropriate land use and zoning concepts and be used for consideration for future zoning changes and subdivision standards."
The process for developing the small area plans was a grassroots effort which began with the appointment of Small Area Planning Committees by the Board of Commissioners. A total of seven committees were appointed between 2000 and 2004. Committee members were interested citizens who live or have land in the small area planning region and volunteered their time to develop a small area plan for their community. The Committee also included a Planning Board member who served as liaison to the Board. The County Planning staff and a consultant educated and assisted committees in the development of individual plans. Committees, during the process of developing plans, solicited input from citizens in the planning area about how they saw their community developing in the future, using a 10-20 year planning period.
Through the development of the small area plan, committees assessed their area's current quality of life and sustainability on issues such as traffic congestion, residential development patterns, water quality, library service levels, utility capacities and school facilities. Upon reviewing these issues, committees recommended
measures for improvement. Specifically, Small Area Planning Committees discussed and developed goals and action statements for the following issues: 1) economic development; 2) natural resources; 3) cultural resources; 4) public services and community facilities; 5) housing; 6) land use and development; and 7) transportation. Plans include information on how the goals and action statements would be implemented, whether it be through ordinance or policy amendments, modified capital improvement plans, or coordination with other agencies to complete specific tasks.
After finalizing their recommendations, each Small Area Plan Committee presented a final draft plan to the Planning Board and Board of Commissioners for review and consideration for adoption. Presentation to these boards included a public hearing process, where the public was invited to express its comments on the proposed plans. The Balls Creek Small Area Plan was accepted by the Catawba County Board of Commissioners on June 16, 2003.