Walters explains city plan process

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What are some of the issues you address with city planning?

We are going to start with the visioning process, where we set out the long-term goals with respect to land, transportation, housing, public parks, fire stations and other public buildings.

You have quite a bit of experience in this field, what are some of the things you have worked on in the past?

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I have worked on quite a few comprehensive plans, probably a couple dozen different ones in Alabama over a long period of time. I have also worked with regional planning in Birmingham, city and transportation planning. I have been involved in Alabama Community Excellence program, which is kind of a model development program.

What would you like to take away from the first community meeting on the comprehensive plan for the city of Demopolis on April 2?

Mainly, what we first want to do is find out what the long-term goals in the community are, not just for the city but for the businesses and business people who live there as well as the government. As we start the planning process it is very important we get as clear as we can about what those goals are and that is what we are hoping to get out of Monday. We will use that as a basis for when we come back and talk about policy for long-term development, recommendations for some actions that will help with policy. It will all be shaped around what kind of goals we get out of this meeting.

Once this first process is over and goals set, how are you going to ensure they remain in place?

There are a couple of things and I didn’t mention that in addition to this initial meeting I am working with the University of West Alabama through a grant project. In addition to getting information from the community, we are looking at information, which is harder data, like what the community has been doing, what is there, what populations are effected, what jobs are there, what the education levels are there and what housing is there. We are, simultaneous to getting this information, collecting information about the data. So we will know what the facts are to go along with the goals and expectations from the meeting. We will combine that to make a policy recommendation key to the comprehensive plan. It will involve things like land use for development, preserving historic areas, are there places for parks or school or facilities. So those policies will be the next step after the goals are talked about. Then there will be a series of small incremental steps based on those policies, which will last around five years. Then as the city implements the plan it will be important for the city to update the plan periodically, no later than about every five years or so. It needs to be a document used every day in terms of city policy and action. We will recommend some capital improvements in the program, things that need to be done in term of public improvements. Those steps will lead the city to its long-term goals and broader policy.

How have similar plans you have been involved in affected other cities?

I think a lot of communities, depending on their strategies, have used the plans for revitalization, for example downtown. Some have gone from comprehensive planning to downtown revitalization when setting their goals. In the case of Demopolis, I think they are also looking at neighborhood development. Demopolis has a historic commission and district so they could use the process for some preservation. Some towns have done comprehensive plans looking at waterfront and river front development. It isn’t just a plan it involves development, which is why community involvement is so important. No one entity can do all of the things imagined.