With the recession seemingly in the rear view mirror now, Garner leaders are starting to see growth pick up and they have decided now’s the time to start getting ready for what all those new houses and businesses could mean for the town.
But they don’t plan to figure it out alone. The town is in the early stages of developing a long-range growth plan, typically called a comprehensive plan and before they get too far into their planning, they are asking residents, workers and business owners for their advice on what the town’s growth strategy should look like.
At Thursday’s CONNECT Conference, sponsored by the Garner Chamber of Commerce, town officials were given the floor throughout the afternoon to discuss growth and to solicit feedback. During the breaks, town staff manned big maps in the lobby of the Grand Marquise Ballroom to ask and answer questions.
Consultants with Stantec, the firm hired by the town to put the comprehensive plan together, has already started holding focus group meetings with invited guests from different groups around town.
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And the town is hoping people who may not have access to all those methods of providing feedback will participate in an online survey that guides respondents through a host of planning issues, from transportation and recreation to housing needs and neighborhood character.
Assistant Planning Director Jeff Triezenberg said the survey doesn’t contemplate matters such as cost, in an effort to have respondents answer questions and make choices that are important for reasons other than money.
“We will take what we hear and sythesize it. At some point we would put a cost on it and that could help us shape when we do things,” Triezenberg said.
He said the feedback from the community is important to planners like him because they can’t always be sure what the public’s priorities are.
“We’d like to think we’ve got our fingers on the pulse of the community, but you can never really presume to know what the public wants,” Triezenberg said.
The survey takes 5 to 7 minutes to complete and respondents are asked to choose from a list of answers to each question. In many cases there are opportunities for the respondents to add an answer that’s not on the list.
This isn’t Triezenberg’s first try at creating a comprehensive plan. When he was on the staff with the Town of Knightdale, he went through a similar process. While the process may be the same, he says the final result is likely to be quite different.
“In Knightdale, we had a very young community, but Garner’s a little bit older. We’ve got a thriving active senior community and some of the things that are important to them, probably wouldn’t have shown up in a place like Knightdale,” Triezenberg said.
The survey will be online at the town’s website through at least the end of August. Respondents don’t have to identify themselves. Once the results are complete, Triezenberg said, town staff and Stantec representatives will produce a report that highlights what people said they want most.
That report will be on display Sept. 8 for the first of what Triezenberg said will be several public drop-in sessions to give residents an idea of what the surveys told town officials.
Take the survey
Go to the town’s website at www.garnernc.gov and click on the big GarnerForward link at the top of the page.