Searching for a ‘unified vision’

Published 3:46 pm Sunday, December 14, 2008

By Staff
Process ‘heated’ at times, sayschairman of revitalization panel
Contributing Editor
Public input and community involvement are keys to making sure a unified vision for Washington’s downtown/waterfront area comes to fruition, according to the chairman of the group charged by the city to develop that vision.
During his remarks to the City Council last week, Chris Furlough, chairman of Citizens for Revitalization, said the committee is using a “comprehensive visioning approach” to formulate that new outlook as it takes elements from previous studies regarding how the downtown/waterfront area should be used. Furlough said the committee is paying close attention to the W.K. Dickson Plan and the Renaissance Plan.
The committee is looking at taking several elements from each of the studies that complement one another and combining them for inclusion in the new strategy for how best to use the downtown/waterfront area, he said. The Renaissance Plan was adopted by the city in the mid-1990s, while the Dickson strategy was accepted by the city in 2005. Some elements of the Dickson and Renaissance plans have been implemented.
Furlough told the council the committee conducted three meetings earlier this month to inform the public about what it is doing and why it is doing it. Furlough said it is important for the community to take ownership of the plan.
Coming up with a “unified vision” is not going to be easy because people have been presenting differing views on how the downtown/waterfront area should be used.
It is a challenge for the committee to mold extreme views into a consensus acceptable to as many people as possible, he said.
Councilman Archie Jennings said he understands developing the new plan has not and will not be an easy task, in part because of “a lack of trust between factions.”
The city must modify the previous plans to meet the needs of a city that has evolved since those plans were completed and approved by the city, Furlough said.
A “unified vision” will provide the city a set of projects that could be funded in part or in whole by the city, Furlough said. The committee’s plan will not commit the city to spending any money. Once that plan is completed, the committee will bring its proposal to the council for it to consider approving and implementing the plan.
The committee has more than 25 members representing organizations such as the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, the Turnage Theaters Foundation, the Committee of 100, the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association, downtown property owners and private residents.