Residents who fought to keep a Sheetz gas station out of their neighborhood are urging city planners to keep them involved as they develop new plans for the area.
A September workshop about development at the intersection of New Hope and Buffaloe roads drew 50 people eager to share their ideas about how the city’s rules could better accommodate their vision for the neighborhood.
But when city planners returned to present their draft plan to the Northeast Citizens Advisory Council on Nov. 13, only a handful of workshop participants were in the audience.
Michele McIntosh, a resident who helped organize the initial workshop, said she was dismayed when she realized the presentation would be the only one and that many residents hadn’t been informed of it.
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“We’re kind of in defense mode and fearful that things will fall through the cracks,” she said a few days after the meeting.
When McIntosh shared her concerns with the city, the planners quickly asked to return for a second presentation in January.
“We want to make sure everyone has a chance to hear from us,” said Vivian Ekstrom, a city planner who is working on the study.
Many residents didn’t know about the presentation because the workshop participants’ emails hadn’t yet been added to the Citizens Advisory Council’s list, Ekstrom said. That process now is complete.
The city expects to release the draft plan in early December. It will be available online until Jan. 23, and the city council will consider it in February or March.
McIntosh also urged city planners to find a way to communicate with residents who don’t have access to email, such as postcards or phone calls.
City planners said they would send a targeted email message about the future meeting to all workshop participants, as well as a mailed letter to those who didn’t provide an email address.
“The participation and community interest in this planning effort has been outstanding, and we want to do everything we can to facilitate this high level of engagement,” Bynum Walter, a senior planner for the city, said in an email.
McIntosh said she is pleased with the direction the plan is headed based on the planners’ initial report.
Residents in the area first rallied around a new direction for development in the area when they opposed a plan that would have put a 24-hour Sheetz gas station at the intersection.
Months of public hearings and petition drives ended with the city council voting down the rezoning.
After that, residents asked the city to study the area. In general, they want development that preserves the quiet, peaceful character of their neighborhood and allows for safe streets and sidewalks for drivers, bikers and pedestrians. Some residents are amenable to small-scale commercial development.
The city plan will look at possible policy changes that meet their vision.