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Residents skeptical input will factor in plan process
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Forsyth County News

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For those who missed the meeting, the worksheet can also be filled out online at before Dec. 23.

Participation became the subject of Forsyth County’s second comprehensive plan public workshop Monday night.

Vanessa Bernstein, the county’s senior long-range planner, said she was “pleased” with the attendance at the session, which drew about 30 people including a group of Boy Scouts.

The workshop was the second of seven that will help shape the community agenda of the county’s updated comprehensive plan.
The update will provide a policy guide for Forsyth in the years 2012-32.

Between in-person and online responses from the first session, about 100 residents have offered input.

That figure sounded small to some who came Monday night, including Planning Commissioner Joe Moses.

“When you’ve just got 1,000th of 1 percent of the people here in the county interested, how do you come up with a representative section?” he asked.

Berstein said county staff members try to stir public involvement.

“This is always a struggle of public planning,” she said. “How do you get people to participate?”

Interim Planning Director Tom Brown said the county won’t try to pass off the information as if it is statistically representative, but will use as much public feedback as possible.

“The whole purpose of this process is to incorporate the input of the public whether we get one person or 1,000 people,” Brown said.

Several in attendance Monday also questioned how much their suggestions would matter in shaping the plan.

Like others speaking at the workshop, county resident Terry Smith worried his voice could be seen as insignificant.

“We just get to feeling like y’all are setting the rules,” Smith said. “We’re just smacking our gums and talking and in the end, it’s all going to be just exactly like you wrote it out.”

Bernstein assured attendees that their ideas would be summarized and presented to a steering committee, which she said will consider how to incorporate them.

After the public input process has wrapped up in about a year, the county commission will hold two public hearings on the update before a final vote.

As required by state law, the updated plan must be submitted to the department of community affairs by June 30, 2012.

Former planning commissioner Mary Helen McGruder said the end of the process is what matters most.

“There’s only one place the vote counts,” she said. “And if you’re not happy with what’s happening at any level, it’s up to you to contact your board of commissioners.”

Monday’s workshop focused on the second half of the list of issues and opportunities, including economic development, land use, transportation and intergovernmental coordination.

The next two public workshops, which will explore development of the future land-use map, are set for February and March.