Decatur Strategic Plan: Session #3 – Communicate!

The final of Decatur’s three Strategic Planning sessions took place from June 1st thru 5th, where residents were asked eight questions on the topic of communication.  In his Session 3 report, summerizer Otis White boiled down the essence of the eight questions to just these two:

How can the city strengthen connections between the city government and citizens and among the citizens themselves; and what roles should citizens, organizations and institutions play in improving Decatur?

From the nearly 70 pages of answers, White determined that the main concern of citizens was both a “desire for more information, delivered in different ways” and a “desire for more and different groups to be involved and effective”.

I scrolled through those 60+ pages of answers and noticed that some of the suggestions were things the city was already doing.  So I thought a quick recap might be useful to old-times and new folks alike:

  • You can watch all Decatur City Commission meetings on Comcast Channel 25 live on Monday nights beginning at 7:30p.  (The production value of this is really quite good!)
  • The City has three official blogs run and written by city staff:  The Decatur Minute (run by the Community & Economic Develeopment Department), Be Active Decatur (formerly 231 Sycamore) and the Decatur Tax Blog.
  • The city also maintains a Facebook page and a variety of Twitter accounts: such as Downtown Decatur, Decatur HR, Decatur Forums, and DecaturNext (specifically created for the Strategic Plan).
  • You can submit service requests – from complaints about barking dogs to requesting maintainable at many city-owned properties – online HERE.
  • Decatur doesn’t just have a Code Red telephone alert system for “emergency situations”, but also one for “Weather Warnings”.  If you’re not getting either of them currently, you can sign up for them both HERE.

That’s by no means a definitive list of every Decatur communication tool available to you – feel free to chime in with others – but hopefully it gets a few more people in the know!

Major Themes From Second Strategic Plan Meeting

The summary from the second strategic planning meeting is now online and can be read in full HERE.  (I hit the high points below, though Mr. White’s summary is quite readable in itself.)

Here’s one of the more interesting lines, “The sentiment appeared to be that citizens didn’t necessarily need city government to do more for them, but they would appreciate the government’s help in doing more for themselves. Providing more information, they suggested, was one way.”  I would say that this might be one of the largest differences between this Strategic Plan and the last round in 1998.

Anyway, onto your ideas and images for Decatur moving forward!

  1. Sustaining and Preserving Decatur
    1. potential loss of diversity
    2. keep citizen involvement levels high
    3. build Decatur’s commercial tax base
  2. Tending to the natural environment
    1. protect and extend Decatur’s tree canopy
    2. information on being better environmental stewards
    3. improve storm water infrastructure
    4. use zoning and building codes to require more green developments
  3. Present and future mobility Continue reading “Major Themes From Second Strategic Plan Meeting”

Major Themes From First Decatur Strategic Plan Meeting Unveiled

Otis White of Civic Strategies has just finished compiling the thoughts of all 741 citizens who participated in the first session of Decatur’s Strategic Planning meetings and has boiled all your hopes and dreams into five “major” themes and three “additional” themes.

5 Major Themes

  • The Diverse Community
  • The Involved Community
  • The Complete Community
  • The Alternative Transportation Community
  • The Responsive and Cooperative Community

3 Additional Themes

  • The Innovative and Distinctive Community
  • The Green Community
  • The Active and Healthy Community

I’ve provided his short summary for each of these after the jump.  For greater elaboration on the eight themes and to read every single thing that was suggested or mentioned at Session 1, check out White’s full report HERE on DecaturNext.

Continue reading “Major Themes From First Decatur Strategic Plan Meeting Unveiled”

315 Proposal Drops 58 Units; Schedules Second Meeting

Scott forwards an email from Otis White announcing a second 315 W. Ponce meeting at City Hall December 3rd from 6:30-8:30p.  The big news in it is the sizable reduction of units.

Dear Decatur citizen:

We are convening a meeting about the 315 W. Ponce project on Wednesday,
Dec. 3 from 6:30 to 8:30 at Decatur City Hall.  The meeting will be in
the City Commission Room.

Background: A group of neighbors has been in direct talks with the 315
W. Ponce developer since our Oct. 15 meeting, and these talks are
continuing.  The developer presented a revised plan to this group in
response to issues identified at the Oct. 15 meeting.  While neighbors
recognized the concessions being made by the developer, they identified
problems with the new proposal.  In response, the developer revised the
original site plan that reduced the number of units from 218 to 160
units and eliminated the need for a parking variance.

The meeting will convene citizens to:
— Learn what has happened since the October meeting.
— Hear the developer’s revised proposal.
— Hear the neighborhood group’s concerns with the revised proposal.
— Learn whether there are other voices that wish to be heard about the
project.

In the weeks ahead, the 315 W. Ponce project will enter the established
city process for reviewing projects (Planning Commission, City
Commission, etc.)  Before it does, we want to give citizens a chance to
learn where the project is and make sure all points of view are heard.

Best regards,

Otis White

What I’ve heard through the grapevine is that the entire building that was supposed to front W. Ponce has been removed.  Anyone want to confirm that for me?

315 Official Meeting Report

Better late than never, right?  (Yeah, that’s not really the case when it comes to blogs, is it? Unless you’re one of those new age “slow bloggers”. )

David mentioned something about the 315 Meeting Report a few days back and I realized I had never seen it (let alone posted it).

But all we needed to do was look.  Its over on the Livable Growth website available for all to view.  And I bet you can guess the main concerns without me even telling you, since we’ve all batted them around for almost a year:  density, shared parking and the quality of the construction.

315 Facilitated Meeting Notes

Scott sends along the meeting notes from last week’s 315 W. Ponce meeting.   The email notes that it has yet to determine whether there will be a follow up meeting yet.

Below is the overview…

There were a number of themes that ran through the discussion and the flip-chart notes. Among them:

• The three greatest concerns were density, shared parking and the quality of construction. Some small groups were concerned about number of units that had been proposed; others were more concerned about the location of the units on the site. Some groups were doubtful that the shared-parking concept (where parking spaces are used by office workers by day and residents by night) would work. Their fear: Residents and workers would park in the neighborhood. There was also concern about the quality of the project – that it would be poorly designed or constructed and, therefore, not reflect well on the city or the neighborhood.

• The other side of the concerns were the aspirations that the groups had for the project. Several said they hoped it would be a landmark project. (One said it wanted a “legacy,” a project that would cause citizens to say, “Look what we did here.” Another group said it was looking for a “historical building.”)

• There was an acknowledgment that a project like this could bring more people to downtown Decatur, and that was a good thing. (“More people walking on street,” one group said.) But another group worried that too many people would “overwhelm (the) neighborhood.”

• Some groups saw this project as an opportunity for the city government to think about similar projects in the future and establish rules for things like shared parking, and setbacks and building placements for projects facing single-family residential streets. “Have this be the model for other developments in the city,” one group urged.

• There were some possible compromises that were raised. One mentioned by several groups was shifting the densest parts of the project to the West Ponce de Leon side of the site and away from Montgomery Street. One group suggested that the developers negotiate with Wachovia Bank for use of its drive-through on Ponce de Leon Place. If a deal with the bank could be worked out, , it might allow developers to “wrap” the densest part of their project around the corner of West Ponce Avenue and Ponce Place.

• There were also compromises suggested on the shared-parking and traffic concerns. One group suggested that a new study of shared parking be done, this time by a consultant that the developer and neighborhood jointly agreed upon. The same group suggested that there be an agreement in advance on what should be done if traffic problems increased after the project was built – in other words, if traffic plans failed.

315 Meeting #1: Open Thread

Scott's Pic - 315 Meeting (Otis White at Right)

UPDATE II: The AJC reports from the meeting here and InDecatur has a nice first-hand report from participant Joe Winter.

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UPDATE: Sounds positive so far! Scott is good enough to write in with a summary of the beginning of the meeting..

“The meeting was set up so that people were arranged in groups of about six or eight people. Otis White made some initial remarks, establishing at the onset that the goal was to ensure that everyone with any desire to contribute could be heard. His point was that, over the past year, many voices have emerged — some loud and some more measured — and that the possibility certainly existed that there were others with a stake in the outcome who have yet to participate in the discourse.”

Then the neighborhood, developer and city were allowed to make opening statements. Though there was some resistance, many in the neighborhood seemed to agree with Mr. White that it would be worth while to get everyone on the same page. Scott continues…

“After remarks from the various parties, the individual groups went to work on their first task: Identify their key concerns about, as well as their aspirations for, the project. Once those had been collectively presented back to the whole room, they were given a second task of taking one of their aspirations and brainstorming on ways the developer could reasonably address them.”

Beyond that point, we’ll need the rest of you to fill in the holes on your views and impressions. Sounds like it had the potential to be a fruitful meeting!

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So, here’s the rub. I can’t attend the 315 meeting this evening. Other commitments demand the Metro’s attention (wow…that name sounds so stupid).

The good news is you won’t have to endure my usual morning-after report, full of rambling tangents and lazy summaries. The bad news is: you gotta fill me in.

How did the meeting go? Was the place packed? How effective was Otis White? Did we make any progress on the issues at hand or did it devolve into an “I hate you! I hate you more!” battle of wits?

Also, even if you don’t generally like to comment because of your fear of blowhards (like myself) asking you 10,000 follow up questions, you can still make yourself heard by taking advantage of this site’s newest feature: polling!

Cool, huh?