Ideas flow at pub­lic in­put ses­sion

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT

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.”

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

Gra­ham Smith, far right, talks with a group sit­ting at a ta­ble dur­ing the Aug. 22 pub­lic in­put ses­sion.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

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.

Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista

A ta­ble of peo­ple work to­gether dur­ing the pub­lic in­put meet­ing for the city’s com­pre­hen­sive plan.

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