The Planning and Development Department provides a wide variety of technical assistance to member local governments.

Planning Assistance Overview

Planning Assistance typically consists of development of land-use plans, comprehensive plans, recreation plans, and revisions to local development ordinances. Staff also works on regional plans related to natural resources and infrastructure.

Economic Development Overview

Economic Development efforts focus on grant writing and grant administration. Common funding sources include the Appalachian Regional Commission, the US Economic Development Administration, USDA Rural Development, NC Department of Commerce, GoldenLEAF Foundation, and the NC Rural Economic Development Center. The Planning and Development Department also develops a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region on a five-year cycle.

GIS Services Overview

High Country COG provides a variety of specialized Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) services for internal planning efforts and throughout its seven county region on a contract basis.

Transportation Planning Overview

Transportation Planning is provided through operation of the High Country Rural Transportation Planning Organization (RPO). The High Country RPO provides a forum for local officials to develop plans and projects in conjunction with the NC Department of Transportation.

Community Development Block Grant Overview

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) assistance focuses on grant writing and grant administration for CDBG-Infrastructure projects from NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), and CDBG-Economic Development Projects through the NC Department of Commerce.

Region D Development Corporation Overview

The Region D Development Corporation (RDDC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit operated under contract with the High Country Council of Governments. The purpose of the RDDC is to foster increased employment and expansion of business and industry in the seven High Country Counties. The RDDC is authorized to borrow or raise money, make loans, and buy and sell property to achieve its purpose. The High Country Council of Governments Executive Board serves as the membership of the RDDC.

Program Area Details








Projects Include

Technical assistance is provided to member local governments on planning, ordinance, and other administrative efforts.

  • Land-use plans
  • Comprehensive plans
  • Park and recreation plans
  • Ordinance review and revisions
  • Water and sewer rate analyses

Additionally, High Country COG has worked on various regional planning efforts.  These include:

  • High Country Regional Bike Plan (2014)
  • High Country Regional Trail Plan (2008)
  • High Country Water Resource Plan (2010)
  • High Country Regional Water Quality Initiative- Final Document

Grant Writing and Grant Administration

High Country COG staff work closely with State and Federal funding agencies to assist member local governments with obtaining funding for economic development projects. Grant applications are also prepared for water quality and recreation projects. Staff also has capacity to administer grants.


Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)

The Planning and Development Department also develops a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the region on a five-year cycle.

Below are links to current and past CEDS documents. Comments on the documents should be directed to Phil Trew, Director, Planning and Development (828) 265-5434 ext. 121,


GIS Services Include

The High Country Council of Governments provides specialized Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) services throughout its seven county region. Our GIS division is a central resource of geographic information for the High Country Region. We maintain an extensive repository of local, regional and statewide datasets.

The HCCOG maintains the resources and professional staff to meet GIS/GNSS needs for internal departmental and local government services including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Online Web Mapping Applications
  • Custom Cartographic Design & Production Services (variety of large format printing available)
  • Project Setup & Management; Database Design
  • Data Conversion, Repair, and Editing
  • Maintenance of Existing Data (i.e., fire districts, zoning, town limits, 911, etc.)
  • Geocoding
  • GIS Training and Support
  • GNSS Mapping Services (i.e., Utility, Trail, Sidewalk, Damage Assessment, Tree and Sign Inventory)
  • Demographic, Environmental and Land Use Analysis

HCCOG maintains ESRI and Trimble software.

Our GIS Planner also serves as the North Carolina State Data Center Lead Regional Organization (LRO) Affiliate Contact. Services of the Affiliate Contact include assisting member local governments and other private and public agencies with US Census data and product acquisition, technical assistance to data users, and providing feedback to the Office of State Budget and Management Data Services Unit.

For more information please contact Jessica Welborn, GISP, GIS Planner at

Explore Our GIS Hub Site

High Country COG provides a variety of specialized Geographic Information System (GIS) services for internal planning efforts, member local governments, and other public and private agencies. Explore featured project web applications and map products on our GIS Hub Site.

Visit our GIS Hub Site to view some of our project web applications and map products.


High Country Regional Resilience & Disaster Recovery Web Application

The High Country Council of Governments created this web application to enable users to explore data layers showing critical facilities, transportation infrastructure, hazards, and measures of vulnerability and resiliency across the High Country’s populations.


Rural Planning Organization

RPO RTAC Membership:

RPO RTCC Membership:

The High Country Council of Governments serves as the lead planning agency for the High Country Rural Planning Organization (RPO). The RPO has been providing continuing, cooperative and comprehensive transportation planning for the seven county region since being chartered in February of 2002.  The RPO is responsible for:

  • Creating a Priority Needs List
  • Developing Transportation Plans
  • Providing Transportation Information
  • Providing a Public Forum
Creating a Priority Needs List

The RPO develops a Priority Needs List of projects every two years to submit to the NCDOT for consideration. We develop and prioritize suggestions for transportation related projects for the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP)

Developing Transportation Plans

The RPO works in developing comprehensive local and regional multimodal transportation plans.

  • The RPO assists NCDOT in developing multimodal comprehensive transportation plans at the county level.
  • The RPO develops and updates located coordinated human service transportation plans for the seven transit agencies in the region.
  • The RPO develops bicycle and pedestrian plans for the towns in the region.
Providing Transportation Information

The RPO provides transportation related information to local governments and other interested parties. The RPO staff attends project development meetings on behalf of the RPO members and provides NCDOT with local input.

Providing a Public Forum

The RPO provides a forum for public participation in the rural transportation planning process. A public hearing is held prior to the adoption of the Priority Needs List, facilitates public workshops during the planning process, and solicits public comments in the development of transportation plans through press releases and surveys. All RPO meetings are advertised and open to the public.


HCCOG CDBG Services Include

The State of North Carolina receives Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding each year from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to assist citizens with  low- and moderate-income.  The NC Department of Commerce administers Economic Development and Community Housing Programs, and the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) oversees the Infrastructure Program.

HCCOG planning staff have extensive experience working with CDBG grants.  HCCOG CDBG services include, but are not limited to:

  • Grant Application Preparation
  • Assisting with Required Public Hearings
  • Preparation of Environmental Reviews
  • Grant Administration, including:
    • Creation of Required Program Policies
    • Preparation of Required Fair Housing Assessment / Analysis of Impediments
    • Conducting Fair Housing Activities
    • Labor Standard (Davis-Bacon) Compliance
    • Conducting Necessary Labor Standard Interviews
    • Project Reporting
    • Preparation of Reimbursement Forms
    • Program Closeout