This message was submitted to Peters Patch to share with the Peters Township residents.
Anyone over the age of 40 can probably recall neighborhoods, commercial corridors, even entire communities that were once thriving examples of economic and social success, but are now tired shells of their former selves. Competing locations may have lured residents or customers to newer, better, shinier opportunities. Infrastructure has been neglected. Turnover and vacancy rates tarnish the luster of the past. Such conditions remind us that future is forever, but prosperity is often relatively short-term.
Downtowns are a good example. Up until the 1960s, downtown was the commercial and social nucleus of virtually every metropolitan region. Retailing thrived; streets were crowded; there was activity everywhere. However, as suburban shopping centers emerged and metro areas grew geographically, downtowns lost their appeal as the activity centers. Rather than trying to compete and regain their lost prominence as retail hubs, many central cities rebranded their downtown as entertainment, employment and residential centers, regaining their prominence through different means.
There is no standing still as all around us evolves. Change is difficult, but inevitable. Lifestyle preferences, economic conditions, competing opportunities and other external influences play a role in the future of any community. Just as successful retailers, industries, institutions and services adjust to market demands, sustainable communities also adapt in order to stay viable.
Rather than ignoring or reacting to the forces of change, successful communities are proactive. That is not to say that a community should attempt to remake itself in the face of every fad or new planning theory that comes along. But anticipating trends, looking at what makes other communities prosper and addressing challenges head-on are keys to success over the long haul.
Peters Township, by most measures, is a highly desirable community, boasting exceptional schools, relatively low taxes, attractive neighborhoods, an educated population and a quality of life that most residents rate as above average. Yet, the Township is not without its challenges—traffic congestion, walkability, shopping opportunities and housing options are among the issues frequently cited. Some of these ills are typical consequences of rapid growth. Since 1990, the Township population has grown by nearly 50 percent. Keeping pace with, much less staying ahead of, such an influx of new residents, homes, cars and children is a daunting task for any municipal government. Water, sewer, streets, parks, schools, police, fire protection, libraries … there is a myriad of public facilities and services required to satisfy the population and retain the township’s position as a sought after place to live.
So far, the township and other agencies have done well. But what does the future hold? That’s the essential question to be addressed by the comprehensive planning effort that is currently underway. Is there such a thing as the perfect community? No, every community is different, in part by choice and in part by circumstance. The purpose of planning is to define the community that is desired in the long-term (the vision); evaluate the optional paths; and commit to a course of action based on the choices made to realize the vision.
On Jan. 29, 30 and 31, the entire community—residents, property owners, business owners, developers and local officials—will have a rare opportunity to come together to plot a course for the future of Peters Township. The workshops will focus on defining the options for how we grow, develop, preserve, change and manage our community in the coming years.
There is no one right answer. There is no perfect community. There are many choices to be made and a range of benefits and consequences connected to those choices. The workshop will give all participants the opportunity to define what they want the community to be based on an understanding of the costs, benefits and trade-offs associated with their decisions. Such factors as tax revenue, cost of services, traffic impacts, retained open space, school enrollment and others will be factored into the evaluation of alternative growth scenarios to help make informed decisions about the future of Peters Township.
Clearly, one option is to continue recent trends. Beyond that, participants will explore other alternatives that they will define in small groups. The outcome of the workshop will be several scenarios, created by the participants and presented to Township officials and the steering committee charged with the task of formulating a long-term vision and action plan for the community.
We know that development generates tax revenue for the community. But it also leads to demands for services. So, what type of development (if any) is best for the township’s fiscal health? What type of development generates the most traffic? Which uses place the greatest demand on public services? Who pays their way and who doesn’t? These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked and answered to really appreciate the optional paths for the future of the community. While it’s not all black and white, making decisions based on a better understanding of facts is far better than the alternative.
It is essential that there be widespread participation in the scenario workshop in order for it to be meaningful. Future decisions that will shape the township depend on it. There is no formula for what makes a great community. Much depends on the desires of residents and public officials. There must be a common vision and a commitment to achieving that vision. The workshop will bring the community together to articulate the vision, based on an understanding of available choices and the consequences of those choices.
Please join us on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Peters Township Municipal Building (Council Chambers) for an informative night of presentations. Then, help determine if, where and how Peters Township should grow on Wednesday, Jan. 30. You may attend one of four, two-hour community planning sessions scheduled that day. The sessions will be held in the Peters Township Library. Finally, come hear the results of the workshop on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.
This is your community. Help decide how it should grow. For more information, visit www.planpeters.com.
What do you want to see developed in Peters Township? Tell us in the comments below.