While last week’s reconstituted Global Plan Advisory Board meeting began with a challenge to its leadership, harmony and optimism reigned as the hour-plus session ended.
Ten members who served on the advisory board before it disbanded last spring were re-invited by task force members – councilors BJ Ianfolla and Meg Larsen, and planning board member and building inspector Reed Karen.
Gone – at least for now – are professional consultants who have received their fair share of criticism. Advisory board members said they didn’t much appreciate the advice the Massachusetts-based consultants brought to the process because it didn’t reflect the views of islanders and dissolved into politics, member Lily said. Hoffmann.
She had started the meeting wondering about the lack of in-depth planning experience of the working group members. But at the end of the meeting, Ms Hoffman thanked the members of the task force, congratulating them “for moving us forward.”
Wendy Turgeon, a member of the advisory board, said she could not recall the previous advisory board having “been wowed” by the consultants and that she thought their advice had “hit a wall” when it came to to produce a vision statement for the future of the city.
Mr Karen remained silent during the discussion, but Ms Ianfolla said she had spoken to the city’s grants writer, Jennifer Mesiano Higham, to find out if money could be found to pay consultants if the group decided there was a need.
She promised that the matter of hiring a consultant would be assessed by April, in time to apply for a grant if the group felt it would improve the process.
Sean Clark, member of the advisory board, pointed to the fact that the town continues to rely on a lot of volunteers and speculated that there are likely residents with planning expertise who could offer to help “to make us cross the finish line”.
Resident Bob Kohn, who is not an advisory board member, repeated the old adage that a consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is.
Michael Shatken, who has just resigned from the planning board and is also not a member of the advisory board, said a professional consultant can bring some expertise to the process, particularly in land use.
Discussing the process, the two city council members said they didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Instead, they secured agreement to use the 1994 Global Plan as a basis, taking what still works today and building on ideas developed over the past year and new information. which must be collected now.
The information that was missing when the previous Advisory Council was working on a new plan was current census data. This information has just become available, Ms. Larsen said, noting that it shows that some past projections are incomplete.
“Our estimates of the number of people on the island for the year 2020 with the pandemic were quite accurate,” she said. The estimate was 2,745 and the census showed 2,731. But data on race and ethnicity was missing from these estimates.
More information on the census data will appear in a future article.
One thing task force leaders and advisory board members know is that the COVID pandemic has resulted in a booming real estate market and brought many more wealthy people to the island.
Advisory board member John Kerr is concerned about a controversial survey over the past year that many believe did not accurately reflect the attitudes of many people on the island. He appeared to conclude that there was little need for affordable housing, but monitoring efforts by advisory board members showed that more people saw the need for housing for those returning to the island after college, as well as for volunteer firefighters and paramedics vital to the island. .
Information from the survey cannot be eliminated, but more efforts to gather additional information from Islanders must be made, Ms. Larsen said.
There are also concerns about how the information is displayed on the City’s website page for the Master Plan.
Freedom of information laws require information to be made public, Larsen said.
Anything posted will be marked as a draft until it becomes a solid decision that the group agrees to be so marked.
Advisory board members will know when something is released, even if it’s a draft, task force members promised.
They asked Advisory Council members to review the 1994 plan to identify what needs to be updated.
The next meeting will be on Monday, January 24 at 7 p.m., available to everyone via the Zoom link that appears on the City’s website.