Assessment team completes first round of input sessions, more planned


For Community Master Plan

By David Meade

A two day strategic assessment being conducted in Williamston this week began a process of creating a community master plan for the town.

As part of “Envision Williamston”, a project team consisting of Randy Wilson, Community Design Solutions; Blake Sanders, Alta Planning & Design; Allison Brant representing Williamston native Andy Sherard) of Site Design and Project Manager Tee Coker of Arnett Muldrow & Associates, conducted 12 sessions resulting in input from approximately 120 people.

The sessions are the first steps of a process that encourages intensive public interaction combined with indepth market research and assessments over the next few months. Input from the current and future sessions will be used to develop a master plan for the community.

Project Manager Tee Coker said a community plan is built on a foundation of community input (from residents, business owners, community advocates, pastors, parents, children, seniors, etc.) to create a shared, implementable vision for the future of the community.

During the process, “Williamston can come together and create a shared vision for the future.”

Randy Wilson, whose firm Community Design Solutions in Columbia has developed a national reputaion for downtown revitalization, said the community master plan includes lots of visuals. “We will be showing people a picture of what the future can be, both short and long term.”

“We are looking at buildings, streets, and redevelopment plans to get a picture of Williamston,” Wilson said. “We are also looking at the existing retail market and the opportunities that are there.”

According to Wilson, the master plan will include an action plan for the community.

Coker, who moderated most of the input sessions, said “We are here to facilitate the process of discovering what your vision could be.”

The first round of interview sessions focused on assessing community stakeholders’ perspectives on the local economy, successes, desires for future development, improvement and how the town is currently marketed and perceived.

Business and building owners, leaders of community groups, economic development and county representatives and others offered input during roundtable sessions held over the two day period.

Three community town hall meetings were held for input from residents; one at Calvary Baptist Church, one at the Caroline Center and one in the Municipal Center. Approximately 50 people attended those sessions.

(Pictured above ) Randy Wilson of Community Design Solutions (2nd from left on front) and Sonya Crandall Williamston’s new Main Street Program Executive Director (2nd rom right front), joined residents who participated in an community master plan input session held at the Caroline Community Center Monday at part of “Envision Williamston”. (Courtesy photo WPD)

Approximately 15 people attended the first Master Plan town hall meeting that wrapped up the strategic assessment on Tuesday evening.

During that “listening session”, Coker led a discussion on the likes and dislikes, what residents would like to see if they had a blank check to pay for it and coming up with a description of Williamston and surrounding towns.

Assessment Team members said that feedback from the sessions clearly identified Mineral Spring Park as one of the biggest favorites while lack of a grocery store was a least favorite for many.

One of the main likes that came out of the two day sessions, according to Coker, is that residents like the “small town” atmosphere of Williamston and the quality of life it offers.

One of the main dislikes is buildings being run down and in disrepair.

To get additional input about shopping habits in Williamston, Coker said the assessment team will be conducting a zip code survey of customers through local businesses, an online survey to rate current retail offerings in Williamston and preferences for new businesses, and possibly door to door survey.

The next session which will be an informal drop-in beginning at 6:30 p.m. on June 15 at the Municipal Center.

Interested persons can offer input on design questions, specific business types they would like to see and ideas for clubs and organizations.

A planning “Charette” will be held in August.