The City of Lenoir has hired Hannah Williams as the new Planning Director. Williams has been working in the City Planning Department for more than five years, and has served as Interim Planning Director since January this year.
City Manager Scott Hildebran said Director Williams is very familiar with the city’s planning efforts and current projects and has the skill, ability, and connections to be a successful department director.
“Hannah has worked with the County and the City for more than five years, and she’s very knowledgeable in the fields of planning, zoning, and development,” City Manager Hildebran said. “She served as an intern with us, worked for Caldwell County, and then joined the Planning Department full-time when she had the opportunity. Hannah is customer service driven and has chaired the City of Lenoir Customer Service Team for a number of years. She’s done great work for us as a Planner and I believe she’ll continue that commitment as our new Planning Director.”
Williams grew up in Greensboro and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development and a Master of Arts degree in Geography and Planning from Appalachian State University. She received her Certified Zoning Official designation in 2019 from the North Carolina Association of Zoning Officials and certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) in 2022. AICP is the only nationwide, independent verification of planners’ qualifications.
Williams started her career with Lenoir as an intern during the summer of 2016 while completing her degrees at App State. As an intern, she completed a feasibility study on implementing a stormwater maintenance fee. She finished her Master's degree that fall, and started working in the Caldwell County I.T. Department as the GIS Director and Address Coordinator.
"I finished grad school on a Friday and started working a full-time job on Monday. I probably should have taken a vacation," she said laughing.
GIS, or geographic information systems, are computer-based tools used to store, visualize, analyze, and interpret geographic data. GIS systems are public record in North Carolina. Caldwell County's GIS system is online at gis.caldwellcountync.org/maps. Anyone can access the GIS system, which provides property information including property owners, zoning, tax information, and more.
The GIS position was a good opportunity, but Director Williams was more interested in land use and how planning and development can benefit and improve communities. About a year after taking the GIS position with Caldwell County, a full-time position with Lenoir's Planning Department opened. Williams applied, and she got the job.
The City Planning Department is responsible for managing new development, mapping, minimum housing standards, planning, and zoning. Staff reviews residential, commercial, and industrial development, and works to ensure new development is consistent with Lenoir's Comprehensive Plan. Planning staff works with businesses and industries who want to build in Lenoir, and staff ensures that new development meets the City's codes and design standards once complete.
Williams said the Planning Department's goal is to know the city code, state and federal law, and regulations, so that staff can help developers find a path forward for their development or new business.
"For me, the development process is a relationship and partnership," Director Williams said. "Sometimes development can be really complicated due to codes, state laws, federal regulations, and so on. We want to be a guide through development rather than a hindrance. We want people to be successful in Lenoir."
Zoning in Lenoir is divided into three main sections - residential, business, and industrial. There are various subdivisions in those categories that address low- and high-density development, design standards, code requirements, and more. The zoning map is also accessible via the Caldwell County GIS website linked above.
As Planning Director, Williams said she is looking forward to updating the City's Comprehensive Development Plan with a focus on the City's historic neighborhoods. A comprehensive plan creates policies and goals for the next 10 to 20 years for land use (zoning), business and residential development, and public amenities and infrastructure.
"A comprehensive plan is a vision for future growth that's supported by City Council and provides a road map for the Planning Department and City staff," Williams said. "The plan will improve on how land use concepts like historic preservation, residential development, or design standards get implemented. But at heart, a Comprehensive Plan is the City and community's goals for future development."
Director Williams said she is looking forward to continuing her work in Lenoir and building on the progress and successful developments made in the past several years.
"I think the work we do in the Planning Department really makes an impact on the community. Since I've been with Lenoir, I can see that our corridors are changing. Our work helps create better sidewalks for our city, better streetscapes for our corridors, better amenities for the community," she said. "It’s great to be promoted here in Lenoir, because I already have good relationships with the staff and many people in the community. I’m very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to working with our department heads and all city staff.”
Director Williams and her husband Garrett live in Lenoir. In their free time, the couple enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and using the Lenoir Greenway.
"I also love to cook," Williams said. "I'm going to plant an herb garden this summer."
Her official first day as Planning Director is today, Monday, March 20, 2023.
Click the following link to learn more about the Planning Department, Planning. Current plans and projects are online at Plans & Projects.
Director Hannah Williams, then Planner, poses with the City of Lenoir Neighborhood Map located in the Planning Department on the third floor of City Hall.