The town of Wendell, stung by criticism last fall from residents who didn’t like a proposed transportation plan, backed up and decided to start over.
That process began Tuesday night with a meeting of a committee appointed to piece together plans for a handful of public workshops. Those workshops will be held in April – nearly three months from now – which will give all those naysayers plenty of time to clear their schedules and make plans to attend one or more of the workshops. The town is also bending over backward to let people know about the workshops. They will send letters to about 2000 people who live outside the town’s limits, but within the town’s planning territory. They will send notices in utility bills to people who live in the town’s corporate limits and get their water from the city of Raleigh – which includes everyone in the town.
Then they will have the workshops – three of them – tentatively scheduled for April 5, 7 and 12. They will be held in a variety of places and at different times of the day so no one can realitistically say they couldn’t make at least one of them.
The workshops will be just the first of several opportunities the public will have to weigh in on the transportation plan – a document that projects the area’s road needs over the next 20 or 30 years. Some, according to Planning Director David Bergmark, will tell town officials that Wendell doesn’t need any more roads. But that’s a short-sighted argument that doesn’t take into account the growth that will come to the area in the next two or three decades.
And roads, if no one has noticed, don’t get built overnight. Planning for them now and getting in line for funding now is the only way the town of Wendell will see any significant new roads constructed to serve its growing population.
Still, what we expect, and fear, is that people won’t engage in the civic discourse early in the process. Instead, they will wait until a plan is nearly ready for approval before they howl like stuck pigs that the plan is highly unfair to them.
But at that point, we would suggest that town commissioners can approve a plan they like despite the howls of protest because the people who come late to the party don’t hold the credibility that those who participated in the planning process will enjoy. The town of Wendell has heard the complaints from residents. It has formulated a better communication plan. Now is the time people should step up and be heard.