2010-04-28 / News

Commission mulls switch to online survey

By Iain Wilson

Planning Commission members have begun fine-tuning questions on the survey designed to help gauge public opinion on important issues that will assist in creating what will become the “blueprint” for the town’s future development – the updated Comprehensive Plan.

One important question facing the commission: Should the survey be done on paper or online?

A preliminary copy of the town’s 2010 comprehensive plan survey was presented during last Wednesday’s meeting of the Planning Commission. Town Planner Lisa Bryer prepared paper copies for the commissioners, who spent the entirety of the meeting dissecting and rewording potential survey questions.

Terms were deleted and changed in the 65-question survey, which may soon be available for online completion. Bryer noted that there have been discussions on switching to an online format, but details on that have yet to be ironed out.

Thirty-one percent of island residents returned the last survey, taken by paper in 1999.

Questions in the survey include those on topics such as land conservation, housing and economic development.

On several occasions, the commission has mentioned the importance of resident participation in shaping future projects on the island. When the commission first sat down to prepare for the survey, Commission Chair Michael Swistak said, “The comprehensive plan is the blueprint for how the town is going to be put together.”

An introductory note on the first page of the survey says, “The results of the Community Survey will assist the Town Council and Planning Commission in setting future policies and goals for Jamestown that will guide the future development of the town.”

Bryer has noted that the subject matter of the questions has not changed drastically from 1999, but there are some items that will garner more attention than others and “critical issues” have shifted somewhat in the last decade, she said.

Missing from the survey was something commissioner Michael Smith believes is, “Going to be the thing that most affects the future of Jamestown.”

He was speaking about the proposed liquefied natural gas tankers that may be headed for Narragansett Bay, and likened the issue to the decision in the 1960s to build a bridge to Newport.

Hot topic questions include the use and amount of water resources, the protection of scenic vistas on the island and the inclusion of multi-family houses on the island.

Going through and analyzing each item is important, said Swistak, because, “If this is our method of setting policy, we can’t ignore the results at all.”

Each voter should fill out only one survey, according to the survey’s introduction.

Categories of the survey also cover historical and cultural resources, agricultural resources, recreation, transportation, and public services and facilities.

In the past, the town has sent a paper copy of the survey to every name on the town’s registered voter list, but it may look to shift to an online format, which would allow residents to log onto the survey through the town’s Web site.

South Kingstown recently switched its community survey to an online format, Bryer said.

“It would certainly be easier for tabulation purposes,” she said.

The Planning Commission will continue its discussion of the survey at its next meeting on Wednesday, May 5, at 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

Return to top