Texarkana, Texas, residents took advantage of their last chance to offer suggestions for the city's new Comprehensive Plan at a meeting Thursday.
The third and final public engagement meeting on the plan focused on setting priorities in three areas: parks, trails and linkages; neighborhoods; and downtown. Participants were organized into small groups to discuss each with facilitators from consultant Halff Associates Inc.
"It's an excellent process. I think there's been some very good input and direction on moving forward, so I just appreciate all the citizens who came this evening," Mayor Bob Bruggeman said.
The Comprehensive Plan provides clear, long-term direction for the city's land use, transportation, parks and recreation, downtown and urban design. It will replace the city's previous plan, adopted in 2001, with the goal of balancing commercial development with the preservation of Texarkana's character and quality of life.
The city has partnered with Halff Associates and Texas A&M University-Texarkana to develop the new plan under direction of a 17-member steering committee comprising residents, City Council members and city staff. Over the past nine months, the committee met monthly, more than 1,600 public comments were received and more than 200 residents attended the previous two Comprehensive Plan meetings.
Jo Ann Duman, who attended all three public meetings, said she appreciated the opportunity to contribute, especially regarding pedestrian access and safety.
"At least they've allowed for citizen input. And they've gotten a good acquaintance with Texarkana, so they've kind of made some adjustments and figured things out accordingly," she said.
That kind of response to participants' comments is just what the city wanted to happen, said David Orr, director of planning and community development.
"We've had excellent civic engagement so far, so we're excited about the level of participation and public feedback we've received. We've received a number of comments, and then with those comments, the consultant team's gone back and made changes," he said, citing as one example focus on more neighborhoods citywide.
The steering committee is scheduled to meet again May 16, and a final draft of the Comprehensive Plan should be completed by summer, when it will come before the City Council for approval.
Duman said it remains to be seen how well the plan translates into real improvement for the city, but one thing is certain.
"It wouldn't get better if we weren't thinking about it," she said.