Ideas flow at public input session
An estimated 60 residents gathered in Riordan Hall for a public input meeting regarding the city’s in-progress comprehensive plan.
Mayor Peter Christie addressed the crowd, which gathered Aug. 22, and explained that people would work in groups and present the ideas they produced. This format, he said, was used when the city was discussing building trails and has proven very effective.
The information, he said, will be considered in the production of the city’s comprehensive plan, a document intended to guide the city until 2040.
“It’s time to bring the community together and let you have an opportunity to tell us where you think we should be going as a city,” he said. “This is very, very important that you contribute this evening … You’re only going to get what you put in. So please, please, do participate.”
Graham Smith, associate vice president with Gould Evans, the firm that is developing the plan, said this was the firm’s first chance to address the public.
“We want you to help us kind of look at the data that we’ve amassed … Start to project forward your ideas,” he said.
He asked everyone to move into groups, then explained they would be doing a couple of exercises to come up with ideas. To start, he said, residents should
address some challenges in the community.
Chuck Woods sat at his table and talked with five others about the city.
A common topic was the lack of shopping opportunities in Bella Vista, often leaving residents to do their shopping elsewhere. Woods said that, while Bella Vista can draw people, it doesn’t have much to offer them once they arrive.
“People come to Bella Vista for the trails,” he said. “We just don’t have anything to sell them.”
Confusion over who handles what was another common discussion among this group.
Mike Abb, sitting next to Woods, said that it’s hard to know who is getting paid for what in the city, or how much they are paid.
“Even in our simple infographics presented here, you’d be hardpressed to decipher it,” Abb said, motioning to documents provided to event attendees.
Abb added that he was very happy to see the event’s turnout, but he’s concerned that municipalities in the area — including Bella Vista — suffer from low voter turnout. He’d like more people’s thoughts to reach polling stations, he said.
A lack of entertainment options and traffic were also discussed at this table.
Groups presented their thoughts, which included desires as ambitious as completion of the Bella Vista Bypass, a great deal of interest in new shopping, restaurants and entertainment, economic growth, environmental issues, traffic, public transportation, lodging and a town square, to name a few.
The second and final exercise saw residents generating headlines they hoped to read in the paper in two decades. (See related story on this page).
Marcie Kronblad and Randall Kronblad, who have lived in Bella Vista for two years, said they enjoyed the event.
“It’s an interesting process and it generates a lot of good results,” Randall Kronblad said.
The couple agreed that economic development seemed to be the strongest thread connecting all the different discussion points, and said they intended to be at future meetings like this.
Randall Kronblad said he is concerned that development could go too far, but he doesn’t think it is unavoidable.
“I don’t want to see Bella Vista turn into a Rogers or Bentonville,” he said. “I think you can have your cake and eat it too, if it’s done correctly.”
Smith with Gould Evans said he appreciated the turnout, which was fairly high for the size of the city, and was glad to see this level of interest in the project.
What he learned was not surprising, he said, aside from a few new topics his firm hasn’t heard about, but the consistency of these responses helps to reinforce what has already been observed.
Chris Suneson, director of the Community Development Services Department, said he was pleased with the event.
“I think I heard a lot of great ideas that are going to help,” he said. “This is a step in the process and it’s an important one … We can have all the great ideas in the world, but if the public doesn’t buy into them they’re all for naught.”
Graham Smith, far right, talks with a group sitting at a table during the Aug. 22 public input session.
Graham Smith, associate vice president for Gould Evans, writes down ideas selected by groups during an exercise at last Tuesday night’s public input meeting, during which locals’ thoughts were taken for the city’s in-progress comprehensive plan.
A table of people work together during the public input meeting for the city’s comprehensive plan.