2010-02-11 / News

Planning Commission readies for comprehensive plan survey

By Iain Wilson

The Jamestown Planning Commission last week came closer to finalizing the questions to be included on the upcoming comprehensive plan survey.

The survey will be distributed this spring to all island residents, and will include questions on topics like economic development and freshwater resources.

During its meeting last Wednesday, the commission reviewed potential questions that were developed at an earlier meeting. After each category of questions was discussed, Town Planner Lisa Bryer had all members select up to four in each section to be included on the final survey.

After members made their selections, Bryer announced which questions will be used.

She stressed that the wording of the questions will probably change, but the general idea of each will remain intact.

The commission hopes to keep the survey similar in length to the last survey, which included just under 60 questions.

The questions presented in the survey ultimately lead to the town’s comprehensive plan, according to Bryer.

“It’s the bible for the town,” she said. “It’s the guiding force.”

The commission’s votes gave a good indication of which topics it considers especially important looking forward. Top votegetters included questions on the quantity and quality of Jamestown’s fresh water. A question on using public funds to protect scenic vistas also received a top number of votes.

Questions on multi-family housing in certain neighborhoods and the value of local agriculture also garnered attention. Residents can also expect questions on the services offered on the island, and traffic issues on oftencrowded Narragansett Avenue.

Bryer encouraged island residents to take the time to complete and return the survey.

“If there’s an overwhelming response to a certain question, I think we need to take it seriously,” she said.

Commission Chair Michael Swistak echoed the sentiment, adding, “If this is our method of setting policy, we can’t ignore the results at all.”

Jamestown conducted its last survey in 1999, and Bryer said she hopes the response rate will be in line with the response to that survey.

“We had a 31% return rate. That’s huge for a mail-in survey,” she said.

Other categories that will be included are recreational activities, wildlife, vegetation, and historical and cultural preservation. Swistak said the comprehensive plan that stems from the survey is critical to the success of the town’s committees.

“As you go through the planning process or the zoning process or things that happen on the council level, time and time again people will reference the comprehensive plan,” he said.

Swistak also said that although water and housing are two of the hotter topics, a question about the future of Ft. Wetherill could draw attention.

“The public has never been polled to this extent about what to do with Ft. Wetherill,” he said. The town currently owns the property, but serious discussion has taken place on whether the town should continue to own it or sell it.

In other business, the commission also elected a new vice chair, a position left vacant after the departure of Gary Girard. The vice chair will serve until June, when a new set of officers will be selected.

Commission member Barry Holland nominated Duncan Pendlebury, who accepted the nomination and was approved unanimously.

The commission also appointed liaisons to the town’s harbor and tree committees.

The group’s newest member, Richard Lynn, previously held a position on the tree committee. He will serve as the commission’s liaison, but to do so, he must step down from his position on the tree committee.

The planning commission’s other new member, Susan Little, is on the harbor commission. Pending her approval and her eligibility, Little will serve as the harbor commission liaison.

The Planning Commission will meet next on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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