Thursday, October 23, 2014
Small town project = Big time decisions and price tag
For months, our town has been buzzing with pros and cons about the proposed Cottage Grove Main St. Refinement Plan. Tonight, the planning commission will convene a public meeting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall to consider the latest revision of the plan, including the controversial tree removal segment.
Are you coming to the meeting? Or have you seen the plan? If not, check it out at http://www.cottagegrovemainstreet.com/. Visually, I find the proposed changes to our Main St. landscape very sterile. Thirty years from now visitors will know exactly when the renovations took place. On the other hand, it addresses practical aspects that should have been done years ago.
Those positive changes include removing the crown that has built up in the middle of Main St., better drainage, upgrading sidewalks and crosswalks to ADA standards and more. Personally, I don’t agree with some of the proposals like redoing All America Square but I’m sure looking forward to no longer scraping our car doors on the sidewalks.
This is a small town project fraught with emotion and a big price tag. Naturally, the rumor mill has been working overtime.
So let’s put one rumor to rest. I have repeatedly heard this statement: “This plan is a done deal. These public meetings are just a formality. ‘They’ don’t care what we want. There is no reason to attend.” I heard this so many times that in true reporter fashion I took my questions to City Planner Amanda Ferguson.
I asked her if the revamped Main St. meeting was just a formality or if there was still a place for public input. I asked if the plan could still be altered to reflect both the city’s needs and the public wants or if it was a “package deal” that we had to accept or reject. After all, if there were no flexibility (as rumors suggest), there would not be reason for any of us to show up. Amanda immediately set me straight.
She said, “Certainly we want public input. (This is a work in progress.) It’s just a plan. It’s not code. It’s not regulation. It’s not finalized. It’s not been legislated. It’s just a recommendation. Plans are never final until they are final. Plans are subject to change and I fully expect that there will be changes to this one and it will be referred back and forth to (other) committees.”
Amanda also reminded me that this is government that we’re dealing with and it could be years before all of this comes to fruition. There will be more meetings, more changes and of course, searches for funding. The actual project is expected to cost millions of dollars and could take years to pursue the funds one block at a time. So there you have it. It’s just a plan and it’s complicated.
“Adopt a plan and stick to it.” I found that statement buried in one of the Main St. documents. It is a number one goal of the project. That’s good advice for all of us. This Main St. remodel is going to define us for decades. Come to this meeting prepared to articulate your idea for the plan. To do that you will have to distill your idea to its essence. Be succinct and direct. Or, as my neighbor Sally used to say, “Eat the meat and throw out the bones.”
Frankly, I don’t want to be on the losing end of another battle. Many of us backed the carousel project and we still watched it go down the drain. We tried to save the Dr. Pierce Barn and failed. Well, now I want to keep Tree City USA green on Main St. I want us to look like our name not some inner city redevelopment. I’ll be at the meeting.
Charm is the operative word for Cottage Grove. People like looking at the past. Most find us to be charming and hospitable. We are not a sleek lines and modern architecture town. That’s why so many groups advocate a historic district that reflects the warmth and history of the early 20th century. I agree.
But refinement is not bad. In fact, bringing things up to code and cleaning up the roads and sidewalks is a plus to add to the attraction of our murals, museums and covered bridges. Just don’t change our personality.
So what do you think? Our town needs your input. It’s human nature to mumble and grumble when we disagree about things that are either near and dear to our hearts or going to cost us money. But it’s not enough to just complain to yourself or your friends. You have to make your opinions known in a larger forum and work with your allies.
Are you coming to the meeting? Well, if you want your voice to be heard by something other than the four walls of your house then get up out of your easy chair, turn off the television and come to City Hall. Say hello to your neighbors, make new friends, mend some fences and work together to fashion the Main Street Refinement Plan in such a way as to make us all proud of downtown for years to come.
P.S. Remember: “It’s just a plan.” Get involved. Be patient. Be nice.
Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail — email@example.com