by. Kara Pennella, Greene County Field Officer
The Greene County Planning Commission hosted a workshop on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 to seek public input for the Multi-Modal Corridor Study currently underway in conjunction with the Comprehensive Plan Update. The workshop was coordinated by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and Renaissance Planning Group.
The meeting was called to order by Planning Commission Chair, J. Frydl, and then turned over to TJPDC for a presentation. Following the presentation, citizens were divided into workgroups and given a selection of three growth scenarios. Each group was instructed to reach a consensus regarding which of three growth scenarios each group preferred. During the final session of the meeting each group then made a presentation regarding the group’s choice.
While Free Enterprise Forum applauds members of the Planning Commission for stepping forward to act as group facilitators for the workshop, it was difficult not be disappointed by TJPDC’s persistence in providing value laden guidance that can’t help but lead individual groups the “correct answer.” Some citizens were surprised that the presentations by individual groups were so similar. Free Enterprise Forum was not so astounded. While the intentions of creating a consensus may seem good, the reality is in the rush to agree on a single scenario dissenting opinions were quickly silenced or discouraged altogether. Also missed was the opportunity to improve on the existing scenarios through open debate and the selection of the best parts of each scenario.
Also disheartening was the low public turnout for the meeting. Most of the public present also participated in one or more of the prior public work sessions. When viewed in terms to the number of staff present (including TJPDC Staff, County Staff, Planning Commissioners and Board of Supervisors’ members) in comparison to the number of citizens present the lack of public participation becomes more striking. For every staff member/official in attendance there were approximately 2.5 citizens in attendance. This low turn out was yet another factor limiting the diversity of opinion and ideas within each group.
As the Comprehensive Plan Update moves into public hearings over the next few months, Free Enterprise Forum strongly urges Greene’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors carefully examine the recommendations it receives and to consider the consequences of pursuing the policies so clearly favored by TJPDC’s staff. It is more important than ever that Greene County’s citizens and business owners come forward and provide their valuable input into the process.
And finally, Zion Crossroads did not appear on the maps presented in the meeting. [For readers who would like the full story on how Zion Crossroads temporarily ended up on the map in Greene County click here.]