Thursday, June 7, 2012
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs Comprehensive Plan is close to ready for approval by the board of aldermen – likely sometime in June or July, according to Bob Barber, consultant for the city.
He recently met with a handful of interested public at the Multi-Purpose Building to go over the plan as it stands now and ask for comment. Barber was consultant on the last comprehensive plan of the city drawn up in 1997.
He said communities that plan and execute that plan well, over the long haul, can expect to fare better than those that do not.
Parts of the plan, such as goals and objectives and the data gathering, are about 95 percent completed while the ordinance and regulation portion needed to implement the plan is about 80 percent complete, Barber said.
He praised the community focus group members, who helped define some goals and objectives and the mission statement, for their involvement in drafting a plan they see is needed. The 1997 plan was developed without much public participation, he said.
Some changes the city has incurred since the 1997 plan was drawn include:
• A new bypass off Highway 78 and Highway 178.
• Walmart’s move to the south side of town.
• Highway 78 is being upgraded to interstate level (I-22).
• Rust College’s involvement in community development, including the North Memphis Street area development.
• A new Main Street program has been launched in the city.
• Some industries have closed.
• There was no formal historic preservation district or commission in 1997. Now there is.
• The population demographics have changed with fewer whites and more blacks and a slight increase in overall population.
• Methods of communication have changed with widespread access to information over the Internet and with new cellular telephones that provide a wide variety of uses. There is an explosion of communication over the Internet and technology evolves faster.
“The community has to take advantage of it,” Barber said.
• The economics have changed, especially in recent years with the recession and loss of jobs nationally and worldwide.
“We can take a lesson from that,” Barber said. “Understand future negatives will occur and the idea is to prepare for them.”
Some assets have been redefined or expanded. Now factors such as quality of life, recreational opportunities, amenities and landscaping are more important to the community. Government seeks to create partnerships rather than go it alone.
Economic development includes partnerships in the fields of medicine and education. Homes are being downsized while the population of older Americans increases. Housing in Holly Springs needs to be balanced. Currently, 30 percent of housing is rental. There is a need for more housing choices.
Transportation is looked at in a different light. More emphasis is being placed on walking to work and shops and on exercise and bicycle trails, and on healthy eating and lifestyles.
The plan includes three stages – study of the existing community and data gathering; design of the community to incorporate a mission statement, objectives and goals; and execution of the plan by regulation, statute and through initiatives or projects.
Focus groups met to rank the strengths, weaknesses, and threats to the city; determine where the community needs to expand; and set goals and objectives for the 20-year plan.
The study shows that the true resident population in the city is about 6,400 after the prison population and college student population is subtracted. There could be some population growth but also loss and there can be a population demographics flux. Retirees may increase, young people may continue to leave.
The city has a lot of agricultural land and a number of Brownsfield sites have been indicated.
“The population will stay close to the same unless we induce people to come and get people to stay,” Barber said.
There is a lot of redevelopment that could take place – the west side neighborhoods just underwent renewal but there are many vacant buildings in the old Walmart shopping mall. The Waterworks building has been identified as a key resource for redevelopment and a splash park is in the planning stages behind the building. Mississippi Industrial College is in great need for redevelopment on the north end, opposite Rust College. The depot district is ripe for redevelopment for a variety of uses.
The old Walmart corridor could be redeveloped to serve the shopping needs of Rust College students who could walk to shop.
Commercial, residential and industrial redevelopment is wide open for new energy and investments.
In transportation, the plan sees a need for vehicle, pedestrian and cycling opportunities. Sidewalks and streets need improvements. Heavy trucks need to be rerouted to the bypass and away from downtown if they are passing through only.
New housing initiatives could include the MI college site, the old Walmart corridor, the depot, West Boundary Street and Park Avenue neighborhoods, and the Holly Springs Commons area.
The housing mix could include expanded student housing at the MI College site, condominiums or townhouses in the old Walmart corridor, single family in the W. Boundary/Park Avenue areas, work force housing, retirement homes near the health clinic, and estate lots and homes along the bypass.
Public parks could be improved and expanded.
Economic development could be expanded or re-birthed by both the public and private sector. New uses and ideas can be developed with existing programs such as Main Street, Chamber of Commerce, Marshall County Industrial Development Authority, and the Tourism departments. The city could promote new businesses – men’s clothing, new appliances, antiques, coffee houses, new cars, souvenirs and college apparel.
The city will develop new design standards including regulations for signage, way finding, cleanup of dilapidated structures, code enforcement and reactivation of Tree City USA.
Arts and culture will provide maximum opportunities for the city to define itself as uniquely Holly Springs.
Public input at the meeting included the following:
• “I think we ought to take care of the parks we have now instead of adding more.” — Mary Walker Gatewood
• “People who live here need home gardens. We need acreage set aside for a community garden. Fresh vegetables mean healthy kids/healthy community.” — Harvey Payne.
• “Chalmers Institute could be cleaned up – a good spot for gardens behind it. It could add respect for the property and it is centrally located.” — Laurie Gwin.
• “Main Street and the downtown square need customers and people in empty buildings. Downtown is the heart of Holly Springs and vital to Main Street.” — Bob Barber.
• “A lot of people are visual thinkers and get landscapes and images better than print. They would understand how the city could look better if they see what could be subtracted or added.” — Laurie Gwin.
• “Visuals are exciting, but when it’s all said and done, you’ve got to hunker down and get it done.” — Bob Barber
• “What is happening in the medical facility and hospital?” — Mary Walker Gatewood
• “We had Peebles but it was not successful. We are a big ‘dollar store’ town.” —Marie McClatchy
• “The more people who shop local, the better improvements we can make.” — Mayor Andre’ DeBerry
• “You’re talking to the choir.” — Mary Walker Gatewood
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