New Richmond City Administrator Mike Darrow welcomed a sparse audience to the Civic Center for the third north side listening session Monday night, July 24.
"We acknowledge that the key to success (in this planning process) is people. Our responsibility as a city is to go out and communicate with those who live and work on the north side and that's what we've been doing over the last couple weeks. We realize that Monday, July 24th, on a really beautiful night, might not be convenient for everyone. So, know that this type of discussion has been happening on a one-to-one basis over the last couple months and will continue over the next couple weeks as well. Over the next 45 days, my commitment is to personally go out and meet with every business on the north side," said Darrow.
Darrow briefly recapped what had been covered in the previous two sessions and summarized the central themes that were identified during those discussions; the Willow River, the unique history of the north side, business attraction and retention, safety, recreational opportunities and creating a unique sense of place.
Monday night's goal was to generally discuss land use and zoning and the role of maps in the conceptual planning process.
Community Development Director Beth Thompson took the stage next. She used a series of color-coded maps to explain how the City's comprehensive plan has evolved since 2005.
"(In 2005) They did a lot of residential, some commercial on the south end, which we have, a little bit of commercial up on the corridor area, some industrial up there as well and, in green, parks and recreation, that kind of thing," explained Thompson.
The 2013 map reflected the initial impact of knowing the new bridge was coming. Essentially they made the city more inviting, easier for people and a variety of businesses to come into town. They converted areas that were zoned industrial into mixed use industrial and areas that were zoned commercial into mixed use commercial.
Darrow explained that over the next month and a half, the ideas and themes generated from these discussions would be put into a geographic information system (GIS) to map realistic conceptual ideas for review by September. From there, how to start specific development ideas can be explored utilizing public private partnerships, grants including community development block grants, even historic preservation funding.
The evening's discussion covered a variety of topics ranging from potential configurations of the Highway 64 and Wall Street and Highway 65 intersections, the difference between the DOT's vision of Highway 64's future and the city's vision, floodplain issues (sense was that it has not been reviewed since 1967), the character of new businesses moving to the corridor and the city's future capacity.
Darrow assured the audience that the city's focus would remain keeping existing businesses here and giving them what they need to succeed.
"We want to make sure that before we're looking at the next big thing, we can't lose sight of the things that matter most, and that is economic gardening, making sure that the people and businesses that are here, stay here. Regardless of what the population is going to be, our focus has been on, and will continue to be on, making sure the people who are here can thrive," said Darrow.
Darrow concluded the meeting by reminding everyone that a variety of opportunities to impact this process remain open to volunteers including the comprehensive planning committees. He encouraged people to bring their ideas forward to himself or council members including ideas that folks might see in their travels, interesting projects and solutions other communities are implementing. He also encouraged the audience to spread the word about these meetings amongst neighbors. The city is looking for as many people as possible to participate in this process.
Darrow can be reached at 715-246-4268, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thompson can be reached at 715-246-4268, or by email at email@example.com.