Celebrating the work of residents
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – Mayor Pro-Tem Lynette Rinker ran on a platform in 2009 that included the creation of a citizen-driven comprehensive master town plan to better use public resources and build for future growth.
Now Rinker and the dozens of residents who worked on the plan will celebrate its completion on Monday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the community room of town hall.
“This is to literally celebrate the citizens and everything they did, all the hours they put in to making this plan come to life,” Rinker said.
Rinker served on the plan’s steering committee, which included residents Jim Bensman, Tracey Stehle, Robert McIntosh, Tony Williams and Sharon Simpson. Dozens of other residents participated in the planning and research along the way.
Rinker said the plan’s cover will be presented during the ceremony on a frame mat that can be signed by the folks who worked on the project. It will then be hung in town hall, “as a testament that this is the citizens’ master plan.”
Rinker said what sets the town’s master plan apart from others is that residents have had a say in it since the beginning.
Usually, she said, a town hires consultants to come in and do the work, asking for citizen input only at the end.
“I said no, we’re going to do it the other way around and have the citizens lead it, then the consultants will come in and put it all together in a cohesive fashion,” Rinker said. “We turned the traditional process on its ear and the outcomes are reflective of what the citizens have told us they want their town to look like in the next 10 years.”
Rinker said one of the biggest things citizens stressed in the plan was the need for new land development to better plan for growth.
“Gone are the days where you build, build, build and figure out roads and schools later,” Rinker said. “They’re not saying they don’t want growth, they’re just saying they want the growth and infrastructure going forward to be in lock step with each other.”
Rinker said the study also focuses on quality of life by having a pedestrian and bicycle master plan that includes work on greenways and sidewalks.
Commissioner Jeff Hare, a major proponent of the master plan, said he was surprised and impressed with the residents’ attention to quality of life changes, but said the biggest challenge now that the plan is complete will be to figure out how to pay for and prioritize the various projects, especially transportation projects involving the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“If you add all of the items up, the cost is tens of millions of dollars, so it will take time and we have to prioritize,” he said.
But even with some challenging items on the list, Hare said he sees the plan as a positive step for the town.
“I think what we’re doing will make it a great place to live with a high quality of life and this will provide a direction to town staff and the town board on how to prioritize to make that happen,” Hare said.
And Rinker said with the plan now in place, the real work can begin on implementing the projects included.
“This is not a stopping place,” Rinker said. “On Monday, July 23, we’ll celebrate, have a good time, and Tuesday we’ll get right back at it, making it happen.”