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Determining New Richmond's future begins tonight at Champ's

Maybe the most important information to come out of New Richmond's second North Side Listening Session Monday, June 26, was an opportunity for citizens to roll up their sleeves and literally get involved in the revamp of the city's comprehensive plan.

Community Development Director Beth Thompson is asking that anyone interested in learning more about the planning process and more specifically, in volunteering to be a part of the actual planning process, show up at the inaugural engagement meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at Champs Sports Bar & Grill. Thompson, City Administrator Mike Darrow and Mayor Fred Horne all agree public participation in this process is crucial to its success. This is a legitimate opportunity to have your voice heard and your ideas considered in a constructive process that promises to profoundly impact the future of New Richmond for decades to come.

"To update our plan we need public input. The mayor and city council are more focused on getting public input than ever before. I think our opportunity now is on the north side. So the next big business, or the next small business, may want to locate on the north side because that's where all the traffic is going to be coming through. Businesses are looking for the most efficient way to get customers and goods in and out. This is why I think it's a really good time for this opportunity," said Thompson.

Residents attending Thursday night's meeting will have an opportunity to volunteer on a number of committees responsible for reviewing and rewriting specific aspects of the city's comprehensive plan ranging from land use and economic development to safety and transportation.

The majority of Monday night's meeting was dedicated to soliciting ideas and comments pertaining to development of the north side from the handful of residents in attendance.

Horne welcomed residents and encouraged everyone to bring their ideas forward while putting to rest any rumors about mass condemning of properties located in the north side corridor.

"We're here to work with you on whatever your vision is for what you want to see on the north side. I'll dispel some of the myths and rumors; the city is not out condemning buildings. We have no plan to condemn from this street to that street or from this landmark to that landmark. That is not happening, we are not condemning anything. We are here as a partner. We want to know what can we do to assist you with whatever future plans you have for your land or your business. Please feel free to speak up," Horne said.

Five themes emerged during the evening's discussion: the Willow River, business, safety, recreation and history.

Residents suggested a number of issues to be considered including addressing traffic concerns on Knowles Avenue, next step plans for accessing Highway 64, preserving and employing the historic character inherent on the north side, developing the Willow River and Hatfield Lake commercially and recreationally, continued planning for bike and pedestrian trails, finding the right balance between potential commercial development in areas like the airport, residential development to house residents moving in to fill those jobs, sustainable transportation to move them about the city and entertainment to keep them invested.

"One of the things we'd encourage any of you to do is, any time over the course of this process, if you are seeing something interesting, an idea, whether you are here in Wisconsin or Minnesota or Florida, take a photo and send it to us. We can upload it here and add it to the discussion," suggested Darrow.

Darrow concluded the evening by reminding everyone that he and his staff are dedicated to collaborating with businesses, regardless of size, to help them to succeed. He believes that their success will attract more success.

"We're in the problem solution business. We understand that economic development is based on relationships. We're not going to be a successful community if we don't listen to the existing businesses that are here. If existing businesses feel like New Richmond is a good place to do business, then they are going to do the economic development for us," Darrow said.