Strategic Vision Plan

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Scott L
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Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:04 am

This was published in the Belmont Banner Newspaper:

Dear Editor:

I write this open letter to the Mount Holly City Council after the 11/10/14 council meeting. First, I should preface my comments that I believe the Council meeting was well-run and well-intended. The Councilpersons clearly act with the interests of the community when they deliberate the business before them and appropriately consider input from town staff and citizens that speak.

One of the agenda items was a public hearing to discuss rezoning of 143 acres in the River Park Subdivision; and the developer, Walton Development and Management, represented the request. The changes requested were represented to accommodate varying market forces. Council took what I thought was a hardline approach with the developer claiming to have past experience with other developers that cause them to be suspect of any developer’s abilities to deliver what is promised. And as a resident of Mount Holly, I do appreciate that dedication to the town’s best interests.
What the council communicated to the developer is that River Park is strategically important to the town and council wanted to clearly communicate the desire to: (a) provide upscale housing options, (b) provide high-quality construction, and (c) approve architectural diagrams of what the developer proposes. It felt to me like the Council (and staff) desired to negotiate the best quality product and then lock-in that negotiated product to protect the integrity of the proposed development. I like the way they think.

I couldn’t help but to think about what the town can do to facilitate this high-quality mandate. I started to think about the Strategic Vision Plan adopted in 2008 which defined high-quality improvements and development the town would make. And I thought about the Town Manager’s comments this month in the newsletter which describes some lack of progress over the last six years due to the market forces related to the economic crash; and further explained that Council will review the Strategic Vision Plan to determine what parts of it may be “incompatible” in today’s market.

I found it a little ironic that Council will take a hardline position with a developer wanting to improve Mount Holly while the Strategic Vision Plan flounders. (For example, there might not be any budgeted improvements scheduled for next year.) I found it interesting to see that Council will fight hard to insist others make quality improvements with some kind of accountability while pressing the “reset” button on the adopted Strategic Vision Plan. And I wonder how Council thinks developers would want to invest in high-quality properties off North Main Street – a street that is in disrepair, utilitarian, and increasingly loaded with freight traffic to the manufacturing facilities in the north. Perhaps this is a mutual opportunity where Council should honor their adopted and published development commitments while at the same time encouraging others performing new development to follow suit. Today’s opportunistic economy is not the time for a bait-and-switch – from the town or any development within it.

Sincerely,
Scott L
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Fri May 22, 2015 10:29 am

I've got to explain this a little better as I think it is a deeper problem than most people realize.

http://www.mtholly.us/planning_departme ... ion-Plan-2

"The planning process was conducted for the City by a consultant team from UNC Charlotte, with oversight by City staff, and with input from a citizen advisory committee and the public."

The Strategic Vision Plan seems to be derived from a lot of effort to solicit the public for their input as to what the voters want. It's the most detailed document I can find that answers the question "what do voters want of and from their town". As such, councilpersons should ensure this "will of the people" is represented to government for day-to-day execution of this strategic initiative.

As with any plan, things change. How change is managed is always subject to opinion. The Strategic Vision Plan (SVP) documented that "Implementation Plan progress update as a standing agenda item for City Council’s monthly worksessions" -- yet no standing progress update at all.

The deeper problem is that "the will of the people" was documented and supposed to be represented to government by councilpersons. How did councilpersons evolve so that they no longer represent this will to our government? And it could be suggested that in some ways councilpersons are taking actions that DO NOT support the will of the people as documented in the Strategic Vision Plan.

I heard a rumor that the Strategic Vision Plan was to be redone. Though that might be a noble idea at least to update it, how is that plan going to be "redone"? I see no evidence that the public is being solicited in their opinions that may or may not be updated since the SVP was created and adopted and approved. So if no public input is required, then is the only contribution appreciated from the public is to pay for it?

Who will hold our councilpersons accountable for representing the will of the people to our government as documented in the Strategic Vision Plan?
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Thu Jun 11, 2015 7:56 am

THIS IS A DRAFT OF WHAT MIGHT BE READ ALOUD INTO THE PUBLIC RECORD DURING PUBLIC COMMENT AT A COUNCIL MEETING
I THINK I CAN SQUEEZE THIS IN 3 MINUTES.
COMMUNITY INPUT IS APPRECIATED
------------------------

Dear Mayor and Distinguished Councilpersons:

I come before you to ask for your diligent cooperation in properly shaping our community. I’d like the public record to remind any citizen that might consider the context of my public comments that although you elected officials sit opposite the podium of me while I speak, we are together self-governing citizens and taxpayers. Even though we are meeting today in a town government building graciously hosted by government employees, this government we together are to oversee should not influence you in your duties to oversee it.

One reason I feel inspired to remind you and the public record of this perspective is that I’ve heard public statements that the Strategic Vision Plan is not active and should be reconsidered. Right up front in the Strategic Vision Plan is a well-documented statement of identity made by the public which you represent. “Mount Holly is a neighborly place where we seek to preserve and enrich our community’s distinctive small town character”.

Please consider this exactly as it is stated: distinctive small town character. We do not want to grow our tax base or install new high-density developments which would be beyond “small town”. We do not want more or bigger heavy industrial businesses that is not “locally-owned shops”. We do not want bigger highways through our neighborhoods which would clash with “quiet and peaceful” or “walkable”. We the people of Mount Holly declared our intent to remain a “distinctive small town”. I have the authority to say these things to you because they are documented in the published Strategic Vision Plan. More importantly, neither you elected people nor town staff have the authority to declare our Strategic Vision Plan irrelevant, obsolete, or invalid. Until you elected folks have demonstrated that the public was solicited and engaged in a new identity and strategic vision, our strategy stands and I at least expect you to support our vision.

Let me state this important perspective another way – because it’s important enough to hear it in stark terms. Since when is it acceptable for you elected public officials to not support the will of the people as documented in the Strategic Vision Plan?

If you honorable people are sitting there in disbelief that I am interpreting your actions and inactions as not supporting the will of the people, let me ask you three rhetorical questions to consider:

1) How many times have you elected people thought or said “grow the tax base”? Why do you think or say that? Growing the tax base only provides “more and bigger” – that’s not distinctive small town character. Who has influenced you to think growing the tax base is what we people you serve want? There is mention in the Strategic Vision Plan a “Broad Business Base”. Did you confuse that with LARGE business base? The Strategic Vision Plan refers to growth as something that should be planned and managed – not caused or created. Causing and creating growth is directly incompatible with preserving a “small town character” and is certainly not what we citizens want.

2) What kind of motivation did you use or do you use to consider turning Main Street into a large highway? There is mention of “gateway corridors” as “important entrances to the City that reflects its distinctive character” in the Strategic Vision Plan. Do you really think our distinctive character should translate to a 4-lane truck highway called “Main Street”? Who has influenced you to think a large highway full of trucks is what we wanted cutting through our town? It’s not the taxpayers and voters of Mt. Holly.

3) What do you think defines “visionary leadership”? The Strategic Vision Plan defines that as leaders that “inspire trust and can see the big picture”. Which of you thinks it to be acceptable for you to ask our government what public opinion they would agree to receive and what part they would rather not? Or which of you think it’s appropriate for our government to advise or recommend or propose to you how they should be overseen? As an example, why does it take a room full of citizens to pressure town staff to recommend not approving a rezoning request before you will decide that? You elected folks don’t take direction from town staff, you take direction from we the people! A room full of people having to show up at a public hearing to protest an 11th hour action is a clear sign that you're not hearing us - so we want that to change.

How far off base are we from embracing the will of the people as documented in the Strategic Vision Plan? Well, do we have any Strategic Vision Plan budget items this year? Council is supposed to have a standing monthly agenda item. When is the last time you had a Strategic Vision Plan agenda item? Do any of you even remember that there was supposed to be an agenda item? The Strategic Vision Plan calls for a traffic circle on North Main. You know a year ago when I inquired about this, our town planner didn’t have any idea there was supposed to be a traffic circle on North Main the Strategic Vision Plan sat on the shelf for so long. And today, we’re somehow suggesting the NCDOT should dictate to us that a traffic circle ought not to go on North Main. Isn’t that the tail wagging the dog? Whose job is it to represent to government what we want? Or said a different way, when government tries to do something we citizens don’t want, to whom are we supposed to turn to represent our views? I’ll answer that for you: YOU.

Like it or not you elected leaders are the “visionary leadership” referenced in the Strategic Vision Plan. You are our neighbors, our fellow taxpayers, and our chosen ones who asked for the job of representing citizen interests in the setting of strategy, the injection of energy needed to effect change, and the fending off of intrusion of outside interests like a sprawling metropolis pressuring us to become more like them or the NCDOT wanting to bisect our town with a major highway.

You see, I’ve lived in Mount Holly for a little over two years now. I have a neighbor that has lived here for more than twenty years. We both have a common view of our town and that view is found in the Strategic Vision Plan. It’s a plan toward which an entire community contributed and if you ask around, you’ll find that most still support it. Contrary to popular belief, it is not irrelevant, obsolete, and needing to be redone. It feels to us that when we attempt to measure our expectations and your performance to a standard that is defined in the Strategic Vision Plan, we get the run-around. From what I’ll call “visionary leadership” I’ve been insulted, dismissed, discouraged, and certainly by now wished silent. Though not by all.

This brings me to my conclusion. Our at-large system makes it incredibly difficult for me to effectively engage you all. Most of the public hasn’t the time or patience to become constructively involved in public affairs by making their wishes known to their councilpersons. It is burdensome for me to attempt to constructively engage with 6 or 7 of you as our at-large system requires. As hard as that is for me, I recognize that it’s many times more difficult for you. How do you reach out to the entire 14,000 people of Mount Holly to solicit, receive, analyze, and represent our views when you oversee our government? I’m going to tell you that none of you have asked for my views and therefore did not receive my views which would make it difficult for you to analyze my views and then ultimately I can assure you that you are not representing my views in the government you are to oversee. How many likeminded, concerned, and constructive fellow taxpayers and voters do you think I can find that are in the same boat as I am?

My parting statement is the same as I began: I come before you to ask for your diligent cooperation in properly shaping our community. That cooperation begins with a better dialog. As disgruntled as I might sound with this difficult message, I am hopeful that my comments inspire you to consider (at least conceptually) how you can perform your duties from here in the pews together with we taxpayers and voters.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with all of you tonight.
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Tue Jun 30, 2015 9:45 pm

So the feedback I've received so far is to dial this message back a little because if council hears a message this strongly, they might become defensive and/or adversarial. That's good advice. The goal of the message should be to encourage council to perform their duty well -- not clobber them with criticism. I'm going to have to re-think how this should be delivered more tactfully.

As well, on August 10th there appears to be a growing public representation to ask council to manage N. Main freight traffic better. More than 50 people have indicated they will attend the meeting in support of council taking action. (6 weeks yet so it's still growing) We don't need public pressure to be negative and disgruntled. We need public pressure to be positive and encouraging and supportive of council to take action that citizens want. So this "strategic vision" message might need to be made after the 8/10 council meeting. It might be confusing to deliver two public interest messages in the same meeting. (Respect the Strategic Vision Plan + route freight traffic off N. Main) Just some evolving thoughts to throw out there.
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:28 pm

Our Strategic Vision Plan represented in this diagram:

Vision: Well-documented in Phase 1 of the SVP
Skills: Described in Phase 5 of the SVP ("Staff adequately: Hire a Zoning Officer and establish an Economic Development Office.")
Incentives: (?)
Resources: Prioritization of Annual Budget Items
Action Plan: Phase 5 of the SVP is the Implementation Plan

Seemingly I am unable to describe the "Incentives" component in this diagram. Anyone want to help me out as to what the incentives could be to complete the SVP?
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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Mon Aug 17, 2015 1:40 pm

In the last council meeting, there was a Strategic Vision Plan update made by Greg Beal. This was forecasted by our City Manager in November of last year. In our 2014 newsletter and posted on the Town's website:
http://www.mtholly.us/news_article.php? ... ember-2014


A Message From the Manager - November 2014

Hello good citizens,

In 2006 the City of Mount Holly embarked upon an endeavor called The Mount Holly Community Planning Project. This process involved the establishment of our community's values and goals. Those values and goals formed what is now called the Strategic Vision Plan for Mount Holly.

The Strategic Vision Plan set forth the vision for Mount Holly's future. The values, goals and vision are based upon the strategic visioning process that took place back in 2003. Since the mentioned Community Planning Project was a public process, in addition to staff involvement and that of a Planning Consultant, some of you might have been involved with the project in 2003. The Strategic Vision Plan was also a part of the five part Planning Project in 2006. The five parts of the project were (1) Strategic Vision Plan, (2) Market Study & Annexation Strategy, (3) Gateways & Downtown Plans, (4) Design Guidelines and (5) Implementation Plan.

The 2006 process for the Planning Project ended with City Council adoption of the overall Plan in 2008. This Plan as mentioned earlier, set forth the City's vision for the future. There was one fairly major problem however. If you all will recall, 2008 was the year of the economic crash in the United States. That alone made some parts of the Plan incompatible, more specifically the Market Study & Annexation Strategy section. The North Carolina annexation laws, which were amended also made the Plan incompatible.

In case you were wondering, the reason that I am relaying this information to you all is that the Vision Plan calls for periodic reviews by the City of Mount Holly, namely to address any incompatibility issues. Therefore, the time has come for the City of Mount Holly to review the current Vision Plan and consider making any necessary changes accordingly.

The process will again be initiated by the City of Mount Holly, which was voted on and approved by the City Council in more recent times. The process also will involve a public participation section. You all as citizens will be given an opportunity to submit your ideas of how you think Mount Holly should look in the future. Your part as citizens, as it has been, is very important because in the final analysis it's your future and those to follow that we are considering.

In the months to come you can expect to hear more about the new visioning process. There are steps that the City of Mount Holly has to take before we get to the heart of the matter. I sincerely hope and strongly encourage you all to consider participating in the planning process. Stay tuned for more information.

As always, thank you for the opportunity to inform you all about what we do and what goes on at the City of Mount Holly. Here's hoping you all are enjoying the Fall Season. See you all next month.

- Danny Jackson, City Manager
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Fri Aug 21, 2015 9:34 am

Here is an interesting thing to consider. The Strategic Vision Plan calls for a traffic circle at N. Main and Highland. This was to be implemented in 2013. (viewtopic.php?f=9&t=27)

According to Byron Engle (Division 12 NCDOT), the intersection's right-of-way would accommodate a traffic circle. When looking into installing a traffic circle there the NCDOT looks to the MPO for that kind of project. Mount Holly was represented on the MPO by Councilman Toomey and Councilman Gowen. Our town staff is well-involved as well.

The NCDOT says they have never had a traffic circle proposed through the MPO. So 7 years after the city council adopted a Strategic Vision Plan it can be said that nobody has represented what the town wants in the prescribed traffic circle. Instead, Mount Holly asked the MPO to replace our 2-lane N. Main Street with a 4-lane highway. What strategy is our town and council pursuing if it's not what we as a town agreed?

What good is a Strategic Vision Plan if we don't hold ourselves accountable to it? Again, what seems to be lacking from implementing this idea is "incentive".

9/4/2015 Update: Councilman Toomey is no longer the primary MPO representative. Mr. Toomey is the alternate MPO for Mt. Holly. David Moore is now the MPO representative.
Last edited by Scott L on Fri Sep 04, 2015 10:50 am, edited 2 times in total.
  

rgwiazdzinski
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby rgwiazdzinski » Sat Aug 22, 2015 8:38 pm

could it be that the city council doesn't know what they have "to do" once elected? does someone from the city guide them to do these things or are they just left to figure it out? have you ever considered running for city council, you would certainly have my vote, you seem to be up to date with a lot of the issues our town faces?
  

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Scott L
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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:21 pm

Well thank you... I am flattered. I served in local government as an appointed commissioner before and it really took me 2 years before I truly understood my role.

It is so easy for an elected official to fall into the trap of being managed by the very government they are to oversee. The fact that some representatives literally will not discuss things with me says they in fact do not understand their role. I will call these folk out here as we get closer to elections so that we citizens can hold our representatives accountable.

If/when my job changes to allow me to make Monday meetings twice per month, I'll consider running for some elected office. Soonest that could be is 2017. I can say there is at least one councilman running this year who has a good understanding of the role of councilman.
  

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Re: Strategic Vision Plan

Postby Scott L » Sat Feb 27, 2016 11:46 am

Me (July 2014): I just walked home from Church and I think a traffic circle at Highland and Main would be a nice improvement from that odd traffic island with no pedestrian crossing. If I could find support for that idea in the NCDOT would you be interested?

City: Yes. Let us know what you learn.

Me: I spoke with the NCDOT and they said one could be put there if it were funded. They can’t fund it now because there are no significant accidents at that intersection. For them to fund it, it should be submitted to the MPO.

City: Thanks.

(1 week later) Neighbor: The voters already decided a traffic circle would go there. They documented it in the Strategic Vision Plan 6 years ago.

Me: Hey City, I just learned that someone already came up with the traffic circle idea and it’s in the Strategic Vision Plan.

City: No they didn’t.

Me: Yes, they did. It’s right here on Page 6. And it says for the last 6 years it should have been “in the works”. Was this submitted to the MPO?

City: Oh. Well, that plan is out of date. Nobody has taken any action on the traffic circle since it was approved in 2008 – but we did hire the city staff that was to help implement the stuff we wanted in that plan. And we don’t want a traffic circle there because we’re proposing a 4-lane through there.

Me: Who decided that? And who un-decided what the voters agreed to? Who thinks it’s a good idea to build a 4-lane highway through town? If we’re not following our documented strategy, then what strategy ARE we following?

(Nov 2014) City: We’ll update the Strategic Vision Plan to reflect the changes.

(May 2015) Me: What? Hey, council, are you representing us voters to the city? Or are you selling the City’s desires to us voters?

Council: Vote for me!

(NOW) Me: Hey voters, are we paying attention to what’s going on here and how? The City just kicked off a Strategic Vision Plan update last week!
  


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