2010-05-13 / News

Commission ready to go with Comprehensive Plan survey

By Iain Wilson

The Planning Commission released an updated version of its Comprehensive Plan survey during last week’s meeting, after weeks of sifting through questions and tinkering with terminology.

The commission also agreed that distribution will be the critical factor in generating a large response that mirrors the more than 30% response rate it received during the survey’s last round.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said a flyer will soon be distributed to all island residents – including those who generally spend winters elsewhere – urging them to go online and fill out the questionnaire.

“Going online is the preferred method at this point, but other provisions must be made as well for those without access to computers,” Bryer said.

Commissioner Barry Holland was skeptical that such instruction will generate an immediate response.

“I think you’re going to find significantly less return,” he said, speculating that many residents will simply read the flyer and dismiss it as a suggestion.

But Bryer supported an online platform, adding, “You will have basically real-time data.”

The town is currently deciding between two online survey providers: Survey Monkey and Zoomerang. The town would pay a fee of several hundred dollars for one year of service, but Bryer said that most importantly, these sites would also tally responses, saving the town substantial amounts of time.

Other benefits, she said, include “easy tabulation, cross tabulation, charting and statistical analysis potential. We can post a link to the town website and have real-time results posted.”

As for the contents of the survey, discussion included the wording of a question regarding protected views on the island, and whether the term “historic” should be included with “scenic.”

Eventually, it was decided that “historic” should be included, mostly because it is difficult to determine what is or is not a “scenic” view.

“If we asked it, what would we do there?” said Michael Swistak, commission chair, after the commission decided not to ask a question on stricter standards of review for development in the Jamestown Village Special Development District.

A lengthy roundtable talk swirled over a question measuring support for a pay-to-throw system of trash pick-up, which charges residents on a per-bag basis. Though there are no immediate plans to implement such a system, a vendor presented at Town Hall last Wednesday, saying charges could range from $1.50 to $4.50 per bag.

Concerns abounded, as Swistak asked, “Everything that doesn’t fit in the bag, how does that get disposed [of]?”

Commissioner Susan Little also voiced her concern over a lack of proposed options on the topic.

“There’s got to be a certain amount of convenience in what we’re offering the public,” said commissioner Michael Smith.

Questions included methods of implementation, whether private vendors will pick up trash without bags and the potential effects on Island Rubbish.

After much discussion, the question was deleted from the survey.

It was agreed that the cost of pay-to-throw would be too immense, and could directly contradict efforts to encourage affordable housing on the island.

“The fact that you’ve just doubled the cost of trash pick up, everything has doubled,” Bryer said.

Prior to Comprehensive Plan survey talks, Michael Evans spoke to the commission about a permit reinstatement, which had been approved and granted, but had expired more than a year ago.

“I’m fine with reinstatement of the application,” Bryer said, and the commission voted unanimously to approve.

Evans had been working at a property on Southwest Avenue, but at the time, did not have the $9,000 fee required by the town.

The Planning Commission next meets on Wednesday, May 19, at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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