Consultants: Citizens crucial in development of Clinton 2035 Plan
by Chris Berendt Staff Writer
A plan plotting the landscape of the Clinton community more than 20 years from now would be nothing without the input from local citizens, a pivotal part of the process, consultants for the Clinton 2035 endeavor said this week.
The Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Plan will provide a road map for long-term growth and development through 2035. The project will establish a solid foundation and serve as the primary policy guide for short and long-range planning, zoning and development-related decision-making within the Clinton planning area.
“Planning staff has been talking about the Comprehensive Plan for some months now, even back into the winter when we were going around to our district meetings,” said Clinton-Sampson Planning director Mary Rose. “Now it is time to put some citizens to work in assisting us with the development of this plan. We want to know what the citizens of Clinton think about where Clinton is now, where we would like to be in 2035 and how we get there.”
This week, Dale Holland, of Holland Consulting Planners, told the City Council and those in attendance at its meeting about the Comprehensive Plan process and the vital role the community would serve in it. Holland said his consulting firm, when embarking on a complex planning process such as the Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Plan, does so with the stipulation that an accompanying Citizen Participation Plan be adopted.
“The reason for that is to lay out in clear terms what the process is that the city is about to embark upon and to identify how the public will have the opportunity to be engaged in the process, keep aware of it as it unfolds, and give input into the process,” said Holland. “We want the public engaged in this process and we want it as open as we can make it.”
The Citizen Participation Plan seeks to establish and coordinate procedures for the city to communicate information to the public, solicit feedback, promote community outreach and provide opportunities for public participation as part of the Clinton 2035 Comprehensive Planning process.
It also addresses the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC), its meetings, rules of conduct, public notification procedures, dissemination of information, public comment and the plan schedule.
On Rose’s recommendation, Council appointed the following members to the CPAC: Wanda Corbett for District 5; Fred Dufour for District 4; Dwight Horne for District 2; Nettie Pernell for District 3; Wanda Robinson, Sampson County Health Director; Oscar Rodriguez, Sampson Community College; Bill Scott, Chamber of Commerce/business representative; Steve Stefanovich, City Council and District 1 representative; Beth Stewart, Planning Board; and Jay Tilley, Clinton police chief.
Rose introduced the members and said the group is representative of the community, with stakeholders from various sectors of the local area.
While Holland Consulting Planners can write land use plans, it cannot write the City of Clinton’s specific plan without plenty of local input. The Citizen Participation Plan, by incorporating the advisory committee, broadens the base of input to ensure the community representation is as complete as possible for a city whose interests are diverse, Holland said.
“It has to be your plan or it will not be implemented,” he remarked. “The only way we are going to achieve having a document that is your plan is if we have open and strong input from the committee, the public at large, those of you holding elected office and the staff.”
Holland said it would be a “fairly lengthy process,” about a year long. It is anticipated there will be at least 10 work sessions by the committee during that time. It will not be a process where a document will be drafted in its entirety and then submitted for a complete review a year from now — the committee, and public, will be involved throughout, he noted.
“As this plan is developed, it will be developed in stages. (Parts of the plan) will be given to the committee and posted to the public for review as the document unfolds,” Holland said. “All of these work sessions will be widely advertised and they will be open to the public. We strongly encourage interested members of the public to attend.”
Midway through the project, sometime next spring, a status report will be given, to include findings by the firm and committee. A multi-day planning session will be held past the midpoint, during which citywide issues and individual topics would be discussed and the public would again be called upon to brainstorm options for future land use.
Once a draft plan is in hand, two open houses will be held to give citizens the chance in an informal setting to meet the consultants and staff and offer feedback on the plan, Holland said. In the fall of 2014, the committee’s recommended plan will first go before the Planning Board, which would give a recommendation to the City Council. The plan would then be presented to the Council with an accompanying public hearing.
An interactive website dedicated to the project is imminent. The site will be its own entity, disseminating all new information about the Clinton 2035 Plan. A link will be available at the City of Clinton’s website.
“Everything that happens in this process will go on that website,” said Holland, noting it would be his consulting firms’s responsibility to see to that. “And everything on that site will be downloadable.”
Comments can be submitted through the site and a survey gauging input on a variety of community subjects is expected to be posted in the future, following initial discussions among the advisory committee. All meetings are open to the public.
“We will mail (and email) notices of all meetings to churches, civic groups and any identified interested parties during this process who want to be notified,” said Holland.
Additionally, a sign-up sheet will be posted at City Hall to gather the names of any others who wants to be directly notified by email prior to meetings. And, even if not attending, the copy of the draft plan can be found at a number of locations as it is under construction.
“The draft plan, as it unfolds, will be available for public review,” Holland said.
Copies of the plan will be available at City Hall, the J.C. Holliday Library, all meetings of the advisory committee and the dedicated website.
Now in the initial stages of the 2035 project, Holland said 25 interviews have been conducted with Clinton residents to get a feel for the community. Through September, more research and analysis will be conducted. From November through next summer, the draft of the plan will be compiled toward holding a public hearing next fall.
“The public will continuously have opportunities for comments and questions in the process,” said Holland. “Time will be set aside at each advisory committee meeting for public comment and we will be available by email, both at the staff level and at the consulting level, through this process.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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