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SHOW US A WAY FORWARD


Citizens of Gloucester City,

There is no shortage of citizens with good ideas about how to improve our city.  LettersToTheEditor1 There is no shortage of citizens who are looking for a way forward, looking for a path to change.  But there is a shortage of leaders that are offering a way forward that is based on the long-term interests of the city.  The lack of a path forward is wasting those good ideas and risks imperiling Gloucester City.

 

The Combined Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board is currently writing a new Gloucester City Master Plan.  A Master Plan is supposed to reflect the community’s vision and long-term interests.  A Master Plan outlines problems and proposes solutions for healthy, viable, and desired growth.  Such an endeavor should keep citizens informed about the process and involve them in the solutions; after all, it is our city.  Master Plans and zoning laws were invented to protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods, to protect our property values, and to make sure we have a voice.  Right now, even though they have the best intentions, the P&Z Board is preparing a document that will have a lasting impact for Gloucester City.  The P&Z Board intends to inform the citizens about the outcome when those discussions are over.  That is unfortunate, as the best reform efforts have citizens at the table.  Ignoring citizens wastes valuable problem solving resources.

 

The good folks on the GC P&Z Board do not have all the answers.  The GC P&Z Board needs to demonstrate leadership and show us a way forward with a process that engages GC citizens.  We need to ask the P&Z Board to please show us a way forward. 

 

To jump start, ‘a way forward’, I suggest the following to the P&Z Board:

  •  Inform GC residents of the purpose of the Master Plan and its importance to Gloucester City’s economic and social development.
  • Inform GC residents on each of the elements of the Master Plan.  What is the purpose of each element?  How might changes to the element impact me as a resident or business owner?  What city challenges might each element help to address?
  • Inform GC residents of the assumptions, policies, and objectives of the Master Plan.
  • Publish a plan that specifies when each element of the Master Plan will be considered.    A timetable will enable the P&Z to stay on track and establish accountability to the citizens of GC.
  • Identify the stakeholders (residents, businesses, UEZ members, landlords, Historic Commission, city departments, etc.) for each element of the Master Plan that would be impacted by any change to that element.
  • Invite stakeholders to participate in public forums or on committees for elements of the Master Plan they believe will affect them, elements they are passionate about and want to contribute on.
  • Communicate!   Simply adhering to the minimum requirements for legal public notices is not sufficient and not defensible if citizen input is truly valued and desired.  Keep us informed via the city website, Gloucester City News, and bulletin boards at the municipal building, city hall, library, etc.

 

Mayor and Council,

After the Master Plan is adopted, the P&Z Board will submit to you recommended changes to zoning and development ordinances to align them with the Master Plan.  Zoning is a political act.  You need good citizen involvement to get anything passed by a Mayor and Council, especially if it is new and innovative.  Good elected officials will ask, ‘Do my neighborhoods support this solution?’   Denying public involvement in the Master Plan should give you all serious concerns when it comes to approving changes to zoning and development ordinances.

 

Please direct P&Z to adopt a plan, a way forward, to a new Master Plan that invites citizens to engage, that values citizen input, and reflects all of GC.  Direct P&Z to abandon the current practice that discounts community input.

Mike Stanton, Gloucester City

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