As it begins to shape its vision for, well, shaping its vision, the Town Council turned today to leaders in two other growing communities for insight.
Council specifically sought information about the reasons that the communities sought input from their citizens. They also wanted to know how town leaders in Columbus, Ohio and Franklin, Tenn., accomplished that task, the costs associated with the process and the ways in which the results helped redefine those towns.
Dan Klatt, an alderman in Franklin, and Vince Papsidero, planning administrator in Columbus, spoke to council today even as Cary tries to decide how to shape its own vision for the future.
Last year, town officials sought proposals from contractors interested in helping Cary through its visioning process. The town received 26 proposals, from which it hopes to choose one by the end of March. Work on the vision project could begin by April 15, according to Jeff Ulma, Cary's planning director.
Perhaps most notable in the presentations by Klatt and Papsidero were the reasons they gave for their own towns' efforts to define a vision. Klatt said Franklin spent more than $150,000 and received almost matching funds from the community for its project, which he said was partly a response to development in the growing town.
(According to Klatt, Franklin's population exploded in the 1990s. The town's current population of 60,000 is expected to reach 90,000 residents by the year 2020, he said.)
"Early in 2000, our community leaders felt that the grade and type of development could degrade our quality of life," Klatt said. "We wanted to create a vision for the future rather than just letting things happen and then reacting."
Papsidero said his hometown took on the task of defining a vision at the behest of Mayor Michael Coleman, who Papsidero said hoped to see the project completed before the city's bicentennial celebration in 2012. He said Columbus spent more than $350,000 on a massive outreach effort to the community. About 6,000 residents participated in the process.
"We put it out there to people and said 'This is your chance to speak out on the future of your community," Papsidero said.
WhetherCary will expend those kinds of resources remains to be seen. In their own discussions today, council members seemed to struggle at times to explain the need for third-party involvement in the process and define the scope of the project. Ultimately, no clear decisions were made, but the council seemed pleased with the discussion of the project.
"Leadership is supposed to be challenging and make you feel on the edge," said Council member Gayle Adcock, speaking on the topic of seeking public and private input. "It's a gutsy thing to do to ask people what their opinions are. But then it's also going to take some guts on the back end to say, 'Yes, we will' or 'No, we won't' to certain things."
A few other quotes of the day:
"I think there's a demand to live in Cary. We're going to have increases in our population, and now we're reaching our boundaries. And our core is getting older. Those are the three things in my mind as to why we need to think about how we're growing."
--Mayor Harold Weinbrecht
"I think there's consensus on what we don't want. We don't want something where we frame it so much that we know what they're [citizens] going to tell us or so broad that it doesn't provide any definition."
--Council member Erv Portman, on the idea of surveying citizens about a vision for Cary's future