November 23, 2014
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Sound off on future of Warwick tonight

City planners are looking for your two cents.

No, this is not a tax increase, although two cents wouldn’t be that difficult to part with.

Rather, planners are looking for your input and the process needs to be no more taxing than applying stickers to a board. And if that doesn’t sound easy enough, it can all be done in 20 minutes or less.

The results, as Warwick senior planner Dan Geagan points out, will help set the course for Warwick’s future.

So, how do you have a say in how the city should develop, the good things we should preserve and what needs improvement?

That comes this evening at the Warwick Comprehensive Plan Open House at the Buttonwoods Community Center. The open house begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 8.

Unlike many civic meetings, where there are opening statements followed by questions and answers, this open house won’t be all that different from a school open house. But, instead of going from classroom to classroom to chat with teachers and view student work, there will be four stations representing different aspects of the community, such as parks and open space, economic development, transportation infrastructure and housing and neighborhoods. Planners will be present to explain the process but also answer questions on a one-to-one basis.

And the stickers?

Well, they are sort of like green and yellow votes. All those attending will be given eight green and eight yellow dots. The green dots signify what you believe should be a high priority for the city. For example, keeping a handle on taxes or generate more commercial space to bring companies and jobs to the city. The yellow dots will be used to identify what you feel is important. For example, improved minimum housing enforcement in your neighborhood or more parks and recreational facilities.

“The idea is, ‘What do I think is really important to the city and to me?’ said Larissa Brown, Director of Community Planning and Senior Associate at Goody Clancy Associates. Goody Clancy of Boston has been retained as consultants for the project. Brown says choices needn’t be mutually exclusive. In fact, if you feel especially adamant about a particular issue, you could put all your dots on that one item.

Comments aren’t limited to dots, either. The open house welcomes verbal feedback as well as written comment. Post It notes will be available.

“This is kind of like taking the temperature [of the community],” said Brown.

“It’s an opportunity for the community, the business community, too, to provide feedback,” said City Planner William DePasquale. He called on all stakeholders to attend.

“The best ideas I’ve received are from the public,” he said.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Brown expects community resilience and preparing for extreme climate events will be a topic. Brown doesn’t expect immediate recommendations to deal with a projected rise in sea level.

“With 39 miles of shoreline, it is something to start thinking about,” she said.

While there won’t be a formal presentation tonight, there will be a Power Point presentation that will give an overview of the comprehensive plan and what has been accomplished to date. The presentation will be on a loop to ensure everyone has a chance to see it regardless of when they arrive.

People will also be able to comment on an overall vision plan that was still being worked on yesterday morning.

Brown called the open house an opportunity for people to review and discuss some major goals and strategies in preparation of a draft plan. She expects a draft will be ready by January, at which point it will be posted on the city’s website. A public meeting will follow before it goes to the Planning Board and a City Council hearing. The plan also requires the approval of Statewide Planning.


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