A fresh start for the LRPC
After months of misconceptions, controversies and roadblocks, members of the Long Range Planning Committee finally feels like they have a fresh start after last week's public hearing.
"I think people were appreciative," Chairman Christine Wagner said at the group's meeting on Nov. 29. "Whether or not everyone agrees with the specifics of what is happening, I think there is at least an understanding now. Again, it is a blank piece of paper."
The committee took time at their latest meeting to discuss the ideas brought forth by the public with Frank Fish, one of the consultants at BFJ Planning, and to officially schedule the public workshop for Jan. 19 at the Wagner Room in New Canaan High School.
"There were a lot of interesting ideas that people brought forth," Wagner said.
"We were very pleased with the turnout and thought the feedback was very good as well," Fish added.
One of the suggestions that came out of the hearing, where more than 180 residents attended, was the notion of closing down Maple Street to help the library in renovations. Fish explained that they were generally hesitant to make any recommendations to shut down a street without a public intent but it is something they are investigating.
Other issues discussed included maintaining the New England character of the town, being greener, transportation and the cost factors.
"Can we afford it? We got that question a lot," committee member Neil Budnick said. The group discussed the issue of cost capacity and what New Canaan would be capable of accomplishing. They spoke about possibly getting some rating agency tests done so they could potentially have a number to go along with all these suggestions in the future.
"There was also a lot interest from the town in making New Canaan greener," Fish added. The comments included ideas on saving energy, walkability, developing a small town green closer to downtown and some more bike paths. "The van loop idea for the parks was also a good idea on the table," Fish said. "These are all great ideas that we will be looking into"
A few residents had suggested scheduling another identical public hearing to take place before the actual public workshop.
"I'm not sure there is a lot to gain," committee member Arnold Karp said of the idea. The committee then suggested having some time set aside for formal comments from the public right before the roundtable discussions begin at the workshop to cater to those residents that may want to be heard again.
Fish explained that all these ideas and notions brought forth by the public will be coupled with some of the consultants' suggestions for the roundtable discussions on Jan. 19. He stressed that the format will likely be more informal with certain tables dedicated to specific topics.
"Some people are much more comfortable talking at table," Fish said. He added that this format may even solicit more views and opinions than the crowded public hearing last week citing the fact that people are more likely to speak to a group of 12 people as opposed to 180. "People are [more free] with what they are going to say."
The next LRPC meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17 where they hope to discuss marketing methods and issues for the upcoming workshop.