October 30, 2013 Edition

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Dr. Brett Cooper (left) and Milton Smith (center) share ideas from their group for the future of Walnut Ridge. James P. Walden (right) of Urban Planning Associates, Inc. conducted the meeting.
TD Photo ~ John Bland

WR citizens share visions for city

John Bland

Forty-one citizens of Walnut Ridge gathered on the evening of Oct. 22 for a planning meeting to share their visions for the future development of the city. The group included some city and Chamber of Commerce leaders, as well as a cross-section of other interested citizens.

James P. Walden, president, and Matt Moore, planner, both of Urban Planning Associates, Inc. in Little Rock conducted the public meeting. The firm was hired by the city in May to help develop a comprehensive plan, which includes land use regulations, at a cost of $17,750.

Attendees at the planning meeting sat in small groups around five tables with large maps of the city and surrounding area. Members of each group brainstormed and proposed ideas regarding such topics as land use, transportation and community facilities.

After the group sessions, representatives of each group shared their ideas and vision for the city.

In his group report, David Coker noted that approximately 2,340 people visit the ball fields each week during baseball season. His group suggested changing the land use within the 110-acre park to be more conducive to sports and recreation.

L.J. Bryant's group noted the need for another hotel or motel, zoning enforcement, as well as the need to be ready for housing and retail growth with emphasis on improving the quality of life.

Transportation was a focus of Jeff Taylor's group. They discussed the need for bike lanes or sidewalks, more green spaces, as well as stoplights at hazardous intersections.

After the meeting, Walden told The TD what he saw as the major themes of the presentations.

Building on the community's assets, such as Williams Baptist College and Stewart Park, were repeatedly stressed.

Housing, both old and new, was an issue brought up by several groups. The need to renovate or revitalize old neighborhoods and create more quality housing was discussed.

Managing change, such as development along the bypass, was also discussed.

Walden was very pleased with the turnout from the public for the meeting. He said the meeting had among the highest per capita turnout of any meetings his company has conducted.

Walden said the process to complete a comprehensive plan for the city will take nine months to a year.

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