Following a series of ward-by-ward meetings, where people defined what they liked best and least about their neighborhoods, planners are looking for 1,000, if not more, residents to complete a survey that will assist in the development of a comprehensive plan for the city.
A draft of the survey will be distributed in hard copy (and made available online at several websites) and was distributed at a recent meeting of the advisory committee working with Goody Clancy Associates, the firm retained with help from a Statewide Planning grant.
Not surprisingly, with 39 miles of coastline, the city’s proximity to the water is cited as “the best thing about Warwick,” but the bay also carried concerns and water quality and the restoration of shellfishing joined with hurricanes and flooding among the worries.
Much more emerged from the ward sessions that generally lasted about 90 minutes and involved from five to 25 residents sitting around tables and with the assistance of facilitators identifying the assets and drawbacks within different aspects of the community; from housing and neighborhoods to commercial areas, transportation, open space and parks. Collectively, 125 people participated in the ward meetings.
Now that issues have been identified, planners are looking for a larger sampling to identify what they like best and least about Warwick. The goal is a plan for the future.
"Where are we, where have we been and where do we want to be?" City Planner William DePasquale said.
The outreach seeks input from different age groups as well as homeowners and renters. Those who work in the city but don’t live here will also be welcome to the survey. Responses will be confidential and respondents are not asked to identify themselves beyond questions relating to their age, whether they own or rent, how long they have lived in Warwick, their neighborhood by closest intersection, annual income, employment and race. The survey process is expected to start within the week and be completed in January.
The list of questions is extensive, but Goody Clancy’s director of community planning, Larissa Brown, said the survey is designed to be done quickly. The advisory committee considered posting the survey on the city, Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce and Warwick Beacon websites, as well as promoting it on Facebook and Twitter. Planners have already linked with Vets senior Shannon Flynn who, for her graduation by proficiency project, will poll her fellow students. Similar efforts from Pilgrim and Toll Gate students will be made.
DePasquale is excited about student input as it serves to stimulate young people to think about the future of the city and give them a stake in planning it. He said few communities have sought the opinions of young people for comprehensive plans and, to his knowledge, none have involved high school students or the social media. Overall, he envisions a "much more interactive process" than has been used for most comprehensive plans.
Among the issues people will be asked to rate from “very important” to “not important” are transportation in the city; preservation of historic buildings and neighborhoods; job growth; taxes; arts and cultural opportunities; “Main Street” village development; improved neighborhood life; improved parks and so forth. Respondents will also be asked to rate the city from “excellent” to “poor” as a place to live, raise children, retire, work and overall quality of life.
Planners will seek reasons for staying or living in the city. People are asked to rate the quality and variety of housing and neighborhoods; level of taxes; employment opportunities; city appearance; proximity to family and friends; quality of health care; quality of schools; government services; and availability of shopping.
The survey seeks to learn what people would like to see the city develop. Respondents will be asked to rate from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” with a series of statements, including whether the city should have more attractive commercial corridors and more industrial development to more activities for different age groups, improved services, more jobs, more sidewalks and bike paths and more and better transportation.
Respondents will also be able to weigh in on feelings about the development of the intermodal facility that includes the airport and commuter rail and how and where development will occur.