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Village Vision News

Residents: Let your voice be heard now in planning for Forsyth’s future

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Forsyth residents may be letting a good opportunity slip away. At press time, an online community survey and a mapping tool that allows residents to actively participate in planning for Forsyth’s future had garnered only 87 responses out of 1,300 households.

Mike Hoffman of Teska Associates Inc., a consulting group hired to compile a new comprehensive plan for the Village and to unify the zoning ordinance and subdivision ordinance, said the success of the project will be measured by community participation. The goal is to double the current 7 percent response rate, and to encourage more people to attend offered workshops. The survey can be accessed at www.teskaassociates. com, or by going to the Village’s homepage at www.forsythvillage.us.

Hoffman will facilitate a second vision workshop on Thursday, March 22, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in Village Hall. An earlier workshop in late February drew only six residents who joined members of the Planning & Zoning Commission, several trustees and Mayor Hap Gilbert in an hour-long session devoted to “visioning exercises.” In one of these exercises, Hoffman asked each of the participants to visualize what types of hypothetical future news headlines they would like to read about Forsyth.

The answers came in common themes with duplicate suggestions to recruit speciality retail establishments such as those found on Merchant Street in Decatur. A perennial wish was for a grocery store and drug store. Amtrak high speed train service, an equestrian center on the east side of the Village and a major development by Caterpillar Inc. were among the more diverse suggestions, while others came in the form of a business incubator, increase in staff with the hiring of a full-time economic development coordinator and the development of four or five new residential subdivisions.

Hoffman will review the suggestions prior to the March workshop and will expand upon Forsyth’s vision statement before writing proposed goals and objectives. Participants at the March workshop will have the opportunity to review and comment upon the statement.

Hoffman’s idea of active participation from the community was best witnessed during a half-hour period at the February session when everyone in attendance gathered around two maps and placed markers on the areas where they visualized new Forsyth neighborhoods, commercial businesses, greenspace and the like. The “mapping exercise” was meant to communicate preferences for land uses, urban design and physical improvement ideas. At the end of the session, team leaders headed by commission members Dennis Downey and Colleen Brinkoetter, provided a synopsis of the mappings.

Village Administrator Heather Kimmons said she was encouraged that evening to see the number of participants who were not elected officials and urged future participation.

Still ahead: Ordinances issues involving signs and other frequently challenged regulations will be addressed in future workshops. Additionally, subdivision regulations will be studied to make sure that they work together with the Village’s new comprehensive plan. An overall goal is to “…simplify the language and put things in tables [in the document],” according to Hoffman.

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