Being blessed is not enough

Published 9:09 am Sunday, July 26, 2009

The City of Washington has been blessed in many ways. It has advantages in natural resources, history, urban form, transportation, access to markets and its people.
Many good decisions have been made that build on those advantages:  waterfront improvements, historic preservation, the Beaufort County Arts Council, the Turnage Theater and many others.
However, some people are concerned about some human factors that are affecting continuing progress. They are: 
• Local government at the city and county and between those entities is not as collegial, cooperative, visionary and inclusive as it should be.
• Legitimate issues that should be discussed and resolved for the good of all become ugly, confused and win/lose competitions between groups. 
• There are those who are influential in the community, don’t necessarily live in the city, who don’t trust the public and who attempt to manipulate every issue and every election.
These tendencies can be recognized and reversed (this could be a theme for election campaigns).
Here are some suggestions:
• Make the LandDesign effort for downtown an open, honest effort that the whole community can embrace.    
• Complete the wayfinding effort before the bypass decimates businesses on Bridge Street.       
• Complete the harbor plan.
• Have an honest discussion about open space, without all the manipulation.
• When planning for the waterfront and open space, include the entire waterfront from downtown to Havens Gardens, Runyon Creek and Jack’s Creek to Bonner Street.  
• Begin an open discussion about what to do with the Builders First Source site.
• Consider existing hotels and motels first. A downtown or waterfront hotel will come when attractions and events fill the existing beds.
• Historic preservation, height limits, development and adequate parking can co-exist downtown. Stop the win/lose debates.
• Get commitments from all levels of government to keep facilities downtown.
• Get rid of one-way streets.
• Make building inspection a partner for development, not an obstacle.
• Place electrical service boxes, dumpsters and other utility fixtures in ways that are less intrusive and ugly.
• Coordinate among the Committee of 100, DWOW, Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and other groups with an interest in the waterfront and downtown areas.
With everyone’s honest efforts and everyone’s collective agreement, the blessings can continue to flow.