2007-10-04 / Front Page

Islanders offer ideas for downtown at vision session

By Michaela Kennedy

Attendees of the community visioning workshop last week rolled up sleeves and filled work benches with their ideas about the future of Jamestown. Results of the public discussion are already posted on the Jamestown Vision Web site, jamestownvision.org.

The Internet snapshot of the Sept. 27 evening at the recreation center shows a clear picture of categories and concerns of village development. Photographs of the presentation board, with topics of interest from pedestrian mobility to the overall future of Narragansett Avenue, are uploaded on the site.

The planning team provided poster-sized papers and markers, reminiscent of paper tablecloths and crayons common at family restaurants these days Participants talked, wrote, and mingled with other groups as ideas sprung forth.

Before the evening workshop, moderator Robert Leaver of New Commons ranked and tallied responses from the village vision survey to use at the work session. The questionnaire has been available online, and also in hard copy at the planning office. Leaver gleaned 10 topics, all related to the village, and presented them to the audience of about 90 residents.

Leaver noted surprise at the seemingly sudden emergence of artists who spoke up for the first time at the vision workshop. Of 72 completed surveys, not one snapshot of artists was mentioned by any participant. "There's an incredible presence of artists here," Leaver said. "Artists are woven into the fabric of the island."

Leaver also noted satisfaction that Jamestown has begun talking publicly about sustainable energy and how it fits into the island's future. He mentioned that Martha's Vineyard has worked with the idea of becoming sustainable for a while. "It's exciting to hear people on Jamestown beginning to talk about it," Leaver added.

Sandy Sorlien, a form-based zoning code specialist and longtime island resident, advised the audience that the form of the community matters. "The form you choose has a tremendous impact on open space," she said.

Many of the participants were notably older. Some voiced support for zero growth. Others supported increased density in the village to support affordable housing. A question that emerged from the evening was, "What happens to young people?"

Town Planner Lisa Bryer reminded those present that the fi- nal outcome of the public project would be an updated zoning ordinance. "That's why we're here," she said.

Glass-blowing artist Jennifer Clancy thought the evening was great. She mentioned an island map which highlighted places where artists thrive. "The map speaks for itself," she said.

Karen Krider, president of the Conanicut Island Art Association, brought and displayed the map as evidence of a strong artist presence here. She noted 170 artists and artisans that live and work on the island, calling them "an important economic factor."

Clancy commented that very few people, less than 100 in a population of over 5,000, had responded to the survey as of yet. She hoped supporters of the art community would offer input. Clancy also expressed hope that the Conanicut Island Art Association would continue to participate with the town charrette. "If people don't participate, they'll miss out on a big part of it (the town planning)."

Architect Donald Powers emphasized the extensive community outreach his team was conducting. The week of the charrette, Oct. 15 to 19, the consultants will set up a studio downtown for anyone to stop in, see the process, and offer input. Powers called out for special interest groups to speak up, noting people from fire and safety organizations as an example. "We're going to be on display like monkeys in a zoo," he joked in a verbal invitation to the temporary office.

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