The River Region's Wave of the Future!
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Last week, the next step in the development of Wetumpka's riverfront took place at the city's civic center as members of the Elmore County Economic Development Authority and various consultants got together to let the public know what's happening with the project.
Rep. Barry Mask headed up the public meeting, along with consultants from Brown-Chambliss Architects, Sasaki Associates and WTL+a, and about 100 residents gathered to hear the presentation and ask questions.
Mayor Jerry Willis stood up and thanked the crowd for coming.
"This is a great occasion so tonight I'm excited to see the presentation with you," he said.
Mask gave some comments directed at residents as well before the official presentation was begun.
"Our riverfront is already being discovered by families and residents," he said. "We should provide more amenities without compromising the natural scenery. We can't embark on a plan without your input."
John Chambliss from Brown Chambliss Architects stood to address the crowd and made it clear that the public's input was not only welcome, but also desperately needed.
"This is the first step in a long process. The success is based on your participation," he said.
The presentation was begun at that point with comments being added by Fred Merrill from Sasaki and Tom Lavash from WTL+a.
According to the consultants, the Guiding Principles behind the riverfront development plan included:
According to Lavash, some of the critical questions that need to be asked as far as a future development plan include whether the market will support such a project and will it attract private investment.
Also Lavash said that the economic benefits and fiscal costs need to be determined as well as the recruitment of funding.
"This is a guide--it's a roadmap," said Merrill to residents. "There's a lot of decision-making that has to happen, by both public and private involvement. You're all developers--it's you. You're the real economic developers here."Mask added that, "there will be no backroom deals here, it'll all be public."
Mask also described five different committees that were being formed and his desire for residents to assist in the work that the committees would be doing.
The committees, which will flesh out the development details are:
After consultants took the group through a series of successes they have had with similar developments, including in Montgomery, the meeting was opened for questions.
A few residents stood to express their support for what the consultants are doing in Wetumpka but one resident asked a question that seemed to be on many people's minds.The unidentified man remarked that riverfront development has been suggested many times in Wetumpka but that nothing has ever come out of the discussions.
"Everybody's at the point where they want to get to work," said Mask in response.
Local pastor Jonathan Yarboro stood up and said that the project should be an investment in the community but also mentioned that the community is in desperate need of jobs.
"Where will the jobs be?" he asked.
Local business owner Betsy Sheldon stood and said that the project would be beneficial but that city has not done enough to repair its infrastructure.
Mask ended the public meeting by having maps of the riverfront area placed on several tables for residents to peruse and ask questions of the project leaders.
Tom Lavash of WTL+a shares the important aspects of developing Wetumpka's riverfront with a group of about 60 residents last week at the Wetumpka Civic Center. / HAMILTON RICHARDSON/PROGRESS
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