Canton residents bring ideas to Comprehensive Plan workshop
Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 10:11 pm

Those who attended the Canton Comprehensive Plan workshop Thursday night post their ideas to the various themed station boards. Ideas ranged widely, covering economic development to quality of life issues.

By ADAM ATKINSON

CANTON – Dozens of neon colored Post-it notes, each containing an idea or concept, covered the boards of the various stations set up at the Canton Comprehensive Plan workshop and public meeting tonight held at the BOCES offices on Main Street.

The suggestions scribed in pen, pencil and sometimes crayon, varied widely as the crowd of more than 50 in attendance kept adding to the boards throughout the evening.

“Make Canton like Mini-Burlington,” “Convert the Old Jubilee into a downtown commercial community anchor,” “Incentives for young entrepreneurs,” “Bring college activities into town,” “Tennis courts for public use,” “Concert venue,” “Allow backflips off the dock at Taylor Park,” “Robust street tree program,” were just a few of the ideas lending a community voice to the workshop.

Development of the plan, expected to take nigh on a year, will involve engaging the community and various “stake-holder” organizations to help form concepts and strategies for the greater Canton area for the next 10 years. M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying, based in Clifton Park, is the firm contracted to spearhead the work and assist the Comprehensive Plan Committee, a group formed of elected representatives and residents of the town and villages of Rensselaer Falls and Canton, on the project.

The workshop held this evening allowed a free mingle and conversation among the people who attended. Residents and interested parties sat at tables and filled out Post-it notes with their thoughts and then stuck them to themed boards. Boards were dedicated to specific ideas, concept and vision, concerns and challenges, and Taylor Park enhancement. There was even a “kids corner” where youngsters attending with parents could get their point across.

The format of the event allowed residents to voice ideas anonymously, which Monica Ryan, with Riverstreet Planning and Development, an agency assisting with community outreach on the project, said was important. “It allows more honesty,” she said. Ryan said the workshop setup was fairly typical for the public engagement portion of a comprehensive plan process.

“This a joint comprehensive plan, which is a pretty exciting project to undertake,” said Jaclyn S. Hakes, project director with M.J., during a short presentation at the workshop. Hakes emphasized that the plan will be “all inclusive of each of the municipalities.”

“It has been some time that you as a community has undergone this process. I daresay it predates me,” said Hakes. The last plan was initially completed in 1968 and then revised later in 1976. Other planning documents have been done since, but dealing with more specific issues like waterfront development or agriculture.

“A comprehensive plan is really important to identify the future for your community. What do you want your community to be in 5, 10, 20 years? How do you want it to function? What do you want it to look like? What do you want in your community? Then it (the comprehensive plan) really sets forth a blueprint for how you get there. It’s really important to understand where you want to go and then identify the steps of how you are going to get there,” said Hakes.

Hakes said the new comprehensive plan will be community-wide, addressing a broad range of topics, from open space issues to recreation, transportation, agriculture and economic development. “We really want to make sure that we are taking a close look at that broad range of issues and understand what is important to you as a community.”

Hakes said the plan will then list action steps to take to address those issues.

Community involvement is critical in developing a comprehensive plan, Hakes said. “This (the workshop meeting) is the kick-off, if you will, of that engagement process.”

She said other similar public forum style meetings will be held as the committee and M.J. progress with the plan over the coming year, with the next possibly happening around February.

One challenge oft raised by those in attendance, was how to keep Canton’s youth in the area by presenting more opportunities.

Jason Pfotenhauer, who has lived in the village of Canton for 20 years, and has two children in high school, said this was a concern of his. Pfotenhauer said he attempted to interest his children in attending the meeting tonight and told his daughter it was an opportunity for her to voice ideas for what she wants the community to look like in the future. “Her response was ‘I don’t know, I’m not going to be here then,’” Pfotenhauer said.

“I think comprehensive planning is a great tool and it's a great turnout tonight,” he said, but added that the real challenge is how to implement the ideas. “That’s the key. How do you get them from paper to actually happening.”

He said he was not in favor of development at any cost, which may include the outward expansion of the business district, preferring to see the downtown revitalized. “My favorite thing is the walkability (of Canton),” he said, adding that he would like to see development that would allow that aspect of the community to continue.

The planning committee is continually accepting public input about the project.

More information about the comprehensive plan can be found at https://cantonnycomprehensiveplan.com/, and residents can leave comments and ideas through the website portal or by emailing [email protected].