As coordinator of a group that helped area leaders deal with urban development, Deb Ryan has long seen the downside to holding public meetings for certain projects.
“The people that show up, for some reason or another, tend to be the folks that don't support things,” said Ryan, a UNC Charlotte associate professor of architecture and urban design who headed the Urban Open Space Leadership Institute. “(Area leaders) often felt like the people who came to the public meetings were perhaps not a good representation of the constituency.”
To give people a more convenient way to get their opinions to public officials, Ryan and husband Mike Panveno created wikiplanning.org. The site, which has started with the light-rail extension through NoDa, allows people to post messages, chat with officials, view maps and take surveys on the project from wherever they have Internet access.
On the message boards, people ask about and comment on topics ranging from NoDa sidewalks to specific plans for the light-rail extension.
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The extension, planned to go from uptown to University City, is expected to cost at least $800 million. Initial plans called for a station on the north side of 36th Street in NoDa, but historical buildings may push the station to the south side, which could bring a pedestrian bridge into the plans. The city should know by spring if the extension is viable.
Meanwhile, the Wikiplanning site, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, could provide city officials with valuable opinions from people who like the convenience and sometimes anonymity that the site provides.
To participate, go to wikiplanning.org and click the “Get Started Now” tab. Type in a valid e-mail address and type NODA when asked for a password. The project finishes in less than a month.