Fayette Visioning in real time — Some questions

Virginia Gibbs's picture

As the Fayette Visioning Initiative process continues to unfold, it has been a fascinating opportunity for me to watch and learn from multiple perspectives: as a steering committee member, a survey participant as well as an observer of the process.

Here’s what’s really interesting to me about this stage of the visioning process: currently, the consultants and the steering committee volunteers are hard at work to transfer the themes which emerged from the extensive data and input collection into a Vision Plan for the future.

But as you would expect, Fayette County is clearly not at a standstill awaiting those results. Local planning departments and commissions continue to do their work; elected bodies still are making decisions on the community’s behalf; private and public investments continue to be made in our community; and citizens are still going about their daily lives.

Yet as I read the compelling and urgent messages that our visioning consultant’s work tells us about where we are and where we are going without a few changes in our course, I wonder if there is a way to make this visioning process interface with the real time decisions being made right now?

How can the visioning process inform and shape decisions not only made on the public policy level but also on the private investment/private business level in meaningful ways?

Here’s a real time example. The data in the visioning initiative’s competitive assessment is clear and compelling when it says our community’s population growth has slowed to the point that we are stagnating.

Our population is rapidly aging, and healthy numbers of younger professionals and young families are NOT choosing to locate here for specific reasons which include lack of appropriate housing choices and more attractive amenities in neighboring communities.

Communities without healthy growth will die, and the conclusions seem to be clear — we need to bring more options to our community which will draw more residents under age 45, and we need to do it soon. For a tangible indicator of what’s happening, just look at the dropping enrollments at our county schools.

Yet consider the level of private investments right now awaiting public bodies’ go-ahead to build significant numbers of 55+ homes and assisted living projects in our community.

The projects have been on the books since just before the recession, and public input at that time was clear that “senior living” was the direction our community wanted to go. It’s still very likely that senior housing will sell well, and the private investment will be a “successful” effort related to sales and occupancy.

But here’s my question: as a community, is there something can we do to make the compelling data and critical issues identified in the visioning report intersect with real time developments and decisions being made in the public and private sectors?

Can the community sprint ahead to nudge the process to a positive outcome for our future sustainability?

And will quality developers, who have patiently waited to move forward with their projects, pause long enough to hear an urgent community voice and consider additional ways to move forward to meet the community’s needs for the long term or will the push to “move forward” inhibit a willingness to consider new data?

There are many other real-time examples particularly related to education and our community’s interest related to investments in digital media training, higher education institutions, internships and ways to bring real world experience and opportunities to students in our community.

The visioning process is only one third of the way completed, and there is much more work to be done to complete the vision plan. I believe our community has greatly needed a listening process which was separate from an imminent decision by one of our local elected bodies.

I am gratified when a member of one of the focus groups says, “They listened to me and my input is part of this report.”

But all of the input will be for naught if each of us doesn’t ask our public and private leadership to heed what the Visioning Initiative is telling us.

If you’d like to read the full Fayette Visioning Initiative “Competitive Assessment” report, visit www.FayetteVision.org and click on the “Documents” tab where you’ll find a link to the report.

[Virginia Gibbs is president and CEO of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Fayette Visioning Initiative Steering Committee.]

mudcat's picture
Joined: 10/26/2005
Come on Ginger, you are mixing apples, oranges and sushi

First of all, we noticed in 1998 that our county was getting older. Pretty simple really, just an observation about kids in school and things like that. then the 2000 census put some real numbers on it and in 2010 - once again confirmation.

Preaching mostly to the choir many of us have trumpeted the need for business growth in the county and certainly PTC - before, during and after the Great Bush/Obama/Frank/Dodd Real Estate Meltdown. Also there was strong sentiment about PTC becoming more business friendly in their ham-handed regulatory process if we were seriously thinking of attracting more business. I don't recall the Chamber marching in that parade along side us.

Instead developers and their evil twins - the banks, have noticed that Fayette County has an aging population and has inundated us with senior living, assisted living, independent living - all single-purpose buildings and now another has come along in the Lexington disaster area. The banks and the developers can't help themselves - they are like your favorite dog - living in the moment without a bit of concern for the future, Get it financed, get it built, get someone else's name on the note and move on. At least the latest bunch - Wieland/Scarborough might leave us with a bridge and an exit from the west village.

City and county planners and the elected overseers just nod their heads and say "Well, we are getting older and no young people are moving in, so let's outsource and diminish recreation and build senior housing and card rooms" and basically give up.

Good to have a "Vision" but all you have done so far is to begin to identify a problem that is almost 20 years old. Since Jim Pace is now the tail that is wagging the Chamber's dog, it is clear that growth of some kind is at the top of the not so hidden agenda and that is fine, but some coordination would be nice. In fact a simple vision statement would be nice. Do we want to become Atlanta's largest retirement community with the highest taxes or do we want to actually do something to attract business and jobs? Pick one please.

I am not clear on what your goals are but unless they have strong support of the citizens they will be useless as the wimpy politicians will simply go with the flow. My goodness, for a planned community we do mighty little long-range planning.

moelarrycurly's picture
Joined: 10/17/2010
Oh good


Husband and Fat...
Husband and Father of 2's picture
Joined: 07/23/2012
Be nice MLC

We might see the Chamber CEO chain herself to a tree to protest the developer on those homes targeting the 55 and older crowd. Or maybe picket the retailer that caters to seniors and not the 20 something who wants things handed to them. There will be no more Wed senior discounts without a cooresponding discount given to the younger crowd.

Perhaps the chamber should ask the cities and county to impose a moritorium until the Vision People tell us what we want.

Are there any chamber members that want to be told how they should be running their business?

moelarrycurly's picture
Joined: 10/17/2010

Yes, I think it would be nice if a certain someone could hop on a charter to a Caribbean nation and find a hardbody with big....pecs, about 20-25 years old to spend some quality time with there. Preferably have some nice mind altering substances and beverages along for the trip, helping them enjoy their time together. I think it would be nice if that someone could bring along a photographer, a really good photographer, to enjoy some downtime, too, and nicely document it all. Then, I think it would be nice if they came back stateside, and did a What I Did On My Vacation Report to the FCBOC and every mayor and city council in the county, to every volunteer govt. board, comm. and authority. Then they would very nicely go to every corporation housed in this county, every small business, every medium business, and finally to the good folks at oh, say, Somerby, Arbor Terrace, Southland, Kindred, Heritage, Dogwood Forest, Ashley Glen, and Hope and very nicely share the details of their nice little getaway and then go back home, go look in that bathroom mirror and say to themselves, Man, did I have a Vision or WHAT? Finally, they could then crawl under the covers and scream at the top of their lungs, I feel better now. How nice.

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