Navigate Cornelius, a comprehensive master plan that will help shape the future development of the town and government services, has entered its dream phase.
The 16-month plan has seven phases and is scheduled to end in June. The kickoff and learn phases are over and the third phase will end next week. The purpose of the third phase is to provide people an opportunity to evaluate various development scenarios. Future phases will include a plan, implement and approve phase before moving to the action phase, or actual development.
In a series of visioning workshops this week throughout Cornelius, participants can play a development game to show their version of the most livable city and one that accommodates expected population and employment growth.
"Basically, now we can start to create a vision for our community," said Jason Abernethy, senior planner for Cornelius. "We're looking at overall development and all the services the town provides. We're looking at everything from police and fire services to things we don't provide but have an influence over like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
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"Right now we're trying to get the word out about our vision workshops. Eventually we'll put all the information together and start to figure out ways to implement it."
Workshop participants will place chips that represent rural areas, suburban neighborhoods, retail centers, employment centers or mixed-use development and draw proposed conservation areas and/or infrastructure improvements on a map. They also will develop brief policy statements that address issues such as economic development or transportation.
"It lets participants manipulate key policy components, deal with trade-offs as they would in the real world, and achieve results that are the beginnings of a common vision for growth and development in the town," said Abernethy.
After the workshops, development game maps will be digitized and evaluated using CommunityViz software, which measures trade-offs of competing planning themes or initiatives. Each group's map will be given a grade, or ranking, based on multiple categories, including impact on schools, roads and town services.
The game also will help illustrate to residents the difficulty behind the planning process.
"There is a real-life give-and-take when you develop," said Abernethy. "There are all sorts of trade-offs on development and how development plays out. You have to look at the positives and negatives of each development scenario. We're really hoping these visioning groups demonstrate that, but also we hope to get an idea of what the community wants.
"We want the highest and best possible grades according to residents' priorities. It's really about creating the vision before we move on the plan phase. It puts it in the perspective of how bad you really want something and how it plays into the growth of the community."
Overall growth is a big topic in the recent focus groups.
"Do we grow just because we can and our land capacity can support it, or do we wait to have the infrastructure to support our population?" he asked. "How big we want to be is one of the big questions because it plays into the impact on our schools, retail success, mobility around town and town services. We want to make sure we're doing the right thing in regards to growth in our community."
Information from the focus groups will be used by a consultant team when preparing the general development map for Navigate Cornelius.