Thursday, September 10, 2009

Do we need additional neighborhood meetings to discuss the Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

I was reviewing the agenda for tonight's Dunwoody Community Council meeting (since it gives me a preview of items which will be coming in front of the City Council in a few months) and one of the items up for discussion made me question if we the City have done everything we needed to do in order to put fourth the best, most vetted, comprehensive land use plan possible?

The City has held four community meetings where we as a group sat at tables and stated what long term development plans we wanted for our new city. There was no seating order for the tables therefore you probably had a random mixture of residents from all over the city sitting at each table; that being said I am not sure specific neighborhood concerns were properly vetted and discussed by the residents who live near the four areas where redevelopment is most likely? As identified in the August 3rd recap of the last comprehensive land use meeting, shown below, those areas are Dunwoody Village, Georgetown / Shallowford, Winters Chapel and Tilly Mill.

Since a majority of these planning meetings took place during the summer months when people are away and with all of the meetings having taken place on weekday evenings which excludes a certain percentage of the residents who have family or other work responsibilities at that time. I have concerns that we haven't reached out enough to all members of the community as well as those most likely to be affected.

That being said, one of the meetings was rescheduled away from a Tuesday evening in order to allow young parents with children on Dunwoody swim teams an opportunity to participate, have seen numerous city public notices and e-mails from involved community members who pleaded with their residents for active and diverse community participation in the process. The City Discussion Board has a section for public internet participation in the process and all of the materials have been made available on the web as well. I also know the Community Steering Committee has been meeting regularly with POND and that they have been very vocal as to their long term vision of the city, so maybe my fears of specific area representation are unfounded?

I guess we will know soon if the meetings captured the community’s visions and goals for the future but I am wondering if at that point it will be too late? The next community meeting, entitled "Community Agenda Draft Components" will take place in two weeks on September 24th, (another Thursday evening) and I take it for granted that POND and Company will be giving us a comprehensive update of where they think we are in the planning process at that time.

Depending on the feedback we get at the September 24th meeting the city may want to hold several specifically targeted meetings in early October addressing the concerns of the residents where redevelopment is most likely.

The Steering Committee is scheduled to have a final meeting with POND on October 15th and the Community Agenda Draft will be presented to the city on November 16th. Looking at the calendar (page 11), I would like to see the report presented to the city a week earlier on November 9th so that the Community Council and Planning Commission can each publicly vet the document prior to the final public hearings on the matter.

I also believe that the December Public Hearings have not been finalized though they are tentatively scheduled for December 8th and 21st? (see page 7) but I would expect at least one of those to be changed to a date and time which would allow more citizens to participate. Due to several religious holidays in that time frame, I am guessing that both the public meetings could be moved up prior to the current schedule if the city were to receive the report a little earlier.

I am looking forward to the September 24th meeting and I hope to see you there and actively participating in the process. Below is the August 3rd meeting recap as well as the presentation given.
Approximately 120 people attended this fourth of five community meetings. POND and Company began the evening with an overview of the comprehensive planning process in general and a presentation on basic design concepts. To view the presentation please click here.

The majority of the evening was devoted to the main workshop and discussion exercise. The room broke into groups with approximately ten people and one facilitator at each table. Each group discussed four major areas, which at previous meetings, had been declared the areas where we should anticipate the greatest pressure to change and redevelop. Those areas are the Dunwoody Village area, the Georgetown area, the Winters Chapel area and the Tilly Mill area. The groups discussed if these are areas where change should be encouraged or resisted. If change is encouraged, how should those changes manifest? What sorts of development types, uses, heights, densities, and open spaces are appropriate for each area? What sort of facilities and connections should be created? The comments made within each table were recorded by the facilitators.

POND and city staff will now take that information and build recommendations of policies and projects for the city to use over the next 20 years. The first drafts of the document and policies will be presented as a part of the next community meeting.

The next community meeting will be Thursday September 24th. I hope you will be able to attend.


themommy said...

Yes. Additional meetings are needed. You need a meeting for each impacted area and Pond doesn't have to be there. (Pond is arguing against more meetings because the funding is spent.)

The City Council members needs to host town hall meetings for each specific area. The members of the Steering Committee can serve as notetaker/secretary.

Tasneem said...

Hi John,
Yes, more meetings are needed, particularly on the weekends. As a working mom with young children, I cannot attend any weeknight meetings.

Also, I live in the Winters Chapel area that you posted on your blog and we definitely need some specific discussions around improvements that can be made in our neck of the woods.

Tasneem Malik