Thursday, September 15, 2011
Focus group lays out vision
By SUE WATSON
A second focus group gathered at Holly Springs City Hall recently to provide citizen input into the formation of the new 20-year plan for the city.
Consultant Bob Barber, who drafted the 1997 comprehensive plan for the city, said citizens did not have much input into that plan. Some suggestions gleaned from the focus groups will be folded in-to the new plan after a third focus group is held, he said.
The nuts and bolts of the plan, which include a large amount of data on the demographics and topography of the city as well as any working documents, are being loaded on the planner’s website (www.hollyspringsplan.wordpress.com) where anyone can go and review what has been done so far.
In informal remarks, Barber said even in hard times, such as the current recession, the future of the city will be better over time if citizens prepare for it.
Currently the plan is in the design phase where citizens are answering questions on what types of developments should go in which areas. The final phase before implementation will be the determination step where policies and regulations and written initiatives are developed - likely this fall.
A mission statement of the City of Holly Springs is in the draft stage. Barber said the statement provides a sense of purpose or direction but is adjustable now and even 10 years from now, if citizens see a need to update the plan.
“The mission statement must be something the citizens can embrace,” he said.
Rebecca Bourgeois with the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Association, asked Barber what “a balanced approach to the future” meant in the statement.
“The city has historic assets and some of the arts are less well known,” said Barber. “It’s not all about historic preservation. It needs to be balanced out.”
Clencie Cotton, with Rust College, suggested the statement include promoting the educational or intellectual resources.
Land use suggestions
Areas needing redevelopment (repair or tearing down) included the following suggestions by the group:
• Areas around the Homeless Shelter
• Areas in the west side of town
• The powerhouse building
• Mississippi Industrial College buildings
Residential areas that could use some patching up included:
• The Meadows area
• Park Avenue between Memphis Street and West Boundary
• Areas around Rust College and north and south of Valley Avenue
• The corridor along the new bypass at Eddie Lee Smith Drive all the way to Highway 4 should be zoned for large three- to five-acre lots
• The areas on both sides near the 178 West bypass should be commercial/retail or large lot residential
More effort should be put into rerouting truck traffic off the square to the bypass, the focus groups said. Something should be done to alleviate traffic jams on Craft Street from Big Star to Walmart, they said. The worst jams are at the intersections at Big Star and at Van Dorn. The red light at Chulahoma actually holds up traffic that could otherwise flow more smoothly.
Sidewalks are needed or they need repairing in the area of downtown. Signage would help out-of-town guests to find things in town. The Depot area needs either walkways or some sort of public transportation to make the area more attractive and accessible to visitors.
Cycling is becoming a new way to get around rather than in a car. Bike trails would facilitate transportation as well as allow visitors or hometown folk to enjoy the view as they ride. Bike trails should be matched with greenways or green space so bikers have a quick way to get out of the way if in danger.
Bike racks would have to be installed to encourage cycling to shopping areas.
Parks and Recreation
There should be a plan for two large-size parks, Barber said. Focus groups suggested a bikeway and greenway be built from Boundary and Valley south to new development areas. Bikeways would be good in the Van Dorn and College Street areas.
A greenway and park could be located at the old wood yard on South Center Street at J.M. Ash Drive to the four-lane. There is 12 acres behind the police station that could be used as a park.
The closed park at Valley Street should be rebuilt and reopened. A water park could be added at Spring Hollow Park.
Focus groups wanted to see new apartments for students in the Rust College area, condominiums on the east side of town at the Depot and at Martin Luther King Drive, and more single-family housing. Townhouses were also attractive to the focus group.
Single-family housing was suggested in the area of the Depot and at West Boundary near the park. High-end large homes and retirement communities would be built on the south end of town in the area of the commons and Williams Clinic. Areas at the north bypass would be built for commuters who work out of town.
Taxes were thought to be too high and a hindrance to entrepreneurship and new business that would bring more jobs. Real retail was thought to be needed in downtown – businesses like appliance stores, coffee shops, baby apparel and clothing stores, and souvenir shops including those with college-style items.
There should be training for local entrepreneurs including how to build a website for a business. There should be information available suggesting to entrepreneurs what type of business would draw customers. Warehousing jobs were thought to be needed.
Signage would help people who pass by to notice there is something in Holly Springs to stop for and to do, said tourism director Stephanie McKinney.
“It looks like everyday America out there and they don’t know there is anything past McDonald’s,” she said of travelers.
Signage and way finding would help people find their way around the town.
Edwin Callicutt said one out-of-towner asked, “Why have you let this town get in such a deplorable condition?”
Barber said the question is how to formalize plans to remedy that situation.
He asked what has been overlooked in the way of art and cultural organizations.
Bourgeois said there is no place for artists to display their works or a place to perform and no city places for plays.
“There is no theatre at all except at Rust,” she said.
“There is no venue to display art,” he said. “We have African Art - stuff in boxes.”
Leona Harris, director of the Ida B. Wells Museum, said a sculpture garden would be a nice way to depict famous persons who lived here.
Cotton said a unified theme should be positioned in critical spots in the city.
“A unifying element and economic benefits to arts and the community,” Barber added.
“We’ve got space,” said Bourgeois. “We just need the organizations. Why don’t we have entertainment?”
Planning commissioner Kelly Jordan suggested the need for a way to provide tax incentives or breaks for people who would invest in a business.
Tracy Jeffries said there needs to be an east exit to Interstate 78.
Cotton added that there is a perception that the educational system is broken.
“That affects peoples’ choices to live or locate a business here,” he said.
Barber said the outcome of this second focus group will be added to the plan on the website within weeks. September, October and November will be months of developing regulations and policies with the final plan to be brought before the board of aldermen and the Planning Commission late this year.
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