By ADAM ATKINSON
CANTON -- Looking to see a downtown summer concert series started in Willow Island Park?
How about marketing ideas to draw tech startup companies to the area to enhance local employment opportunities?
Looking to establish a small business incubator program above the historic downtown storefronts?
Want more public transit options? Bicycle share service?
The public will have an opportunity to voice ideas and proposals like these, general comments and even gripes at an upcoming workshop on Thursday, Nov. 16.
Planners from MJ Engineering and Land Surveying P.C., and the Comprehensive Planning Committee comprising community members and local elected officials, will be on hand at the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES offices, 40 W. Main St., from 6:30-8 p.m. manning activity stations to hear ideas. A 30-minute presentation and question and answer session will he held also.
The workshop and open house event will kick off a year-long process to develop a comprehensive plan for the community.
That plan will provide a guide for development and growth in the community.
Anyone interested in the future of the town, villages of Canton and Rensselear Falls and hamlets of Pyrites and Morley are encouraged to attend.
“This is a great opportunity for all Canton residents to have their voices heard as we create a roadmap for Canton’s future progress and growth,” says Canton Village Trustee Carol Pynchon, co-chair of the Comprehensive Plan Committee. “The committee hopes to hear from everyone at this initial event and during the year-long process.”
“We will be looking at everything from economic development, tourism, and waterfront revitalization to land use, zoning, transportation, and infrastructure,” explains committee co-chair and Town Councilman Jim Smith. “This planning process is long overdue – Canton’s last comprehensive plan was developed in the mid-seventies. This time around it’s great to have the town and both villages working together to develop the plan.”
“We want to know what people think are great things about Canton and what they don’t like too,” said Smith.
“The real goal is public participation,” said Village Trustee Carol Pynchon. “I’m excited about the format.”
Themed stations will help direct public comment, with spots set up to share demographic information about the community, hear the public’s vision for Canton over 5, 10 and 20 years, share challenges and concerns, deliver ideas about specific topics and talk about improvements to Taylor Park. There will also be a dedicated kid’s corner to hear ideas from the community’s youth.
Pynchon said that the town and villages have had studies and plans developed in recent years but that they mainly focused on individual concepts like economic development, land use, recreation or infrastructure improvement. The comprehensive plan that MJ Engineering has been hired to craft will incorporate those aspects as well as everything else that will contribute to the direction the community will take in terms of growth, development and function over the next ten years.
Smith said that having a comprehensive plan in place for the community is often something that grant funding agencies look at before presenting awards for municipal projects.
“It makes it so much easier to get funded,” said Smith.
Pynchon pointed out that this study is involving the town and the villages, which is somewhat atypical with comprehensive plans of this nature. “It does make it more complicated,” Pynchon said, but she and Smith both stressed that the planners are seeking input from the entire greater community of the town of Canton, which incorporates the villages of Canton and Rensselear Falls, and the communities of Pyrites and Morley.
Pynchon said the planners and the committee need to answer the question “What is it that people want?”
“And, we maybe learn some things that we have failed to think of,” Smith said.
Pynchon added that the meeting on Nov. 16, and others like it planned for the future, is also an opportunity for the people of the community to “grumble” and voice things they have problems with too. “We need to hear that,” she said.
Public participation will be encouraged throughout the Comprehensive Plan process over the course of the coming year. Multiple public workshops and formal hearings are planned for the future.
The planning process will be guided by the Comprehensive Plan Committee, which includes representatives from each community.
Besides Pynchon and Smith, committee members include Karin Blackburn, Village of Rensselaer Falls; Dakota Casserly, Town of Canton; Carol Gable, Village of Canton; Michael Hammond, Rensselaer Falls mayor; Sean O’Brien, Canton village trustee, Charles Rouse, Canton village planning board; Conrad Stuntz, Canton village zoning board of appeals; Don Tracy, Canton town planning board; Bob Washo, Canton town councilman; Leigh Rodriguez, Canton economic development director; and Ginger Thomas, recording secretary.
This project is supported by funding provided by the New York State Department of State, Local Waterfront Revitalization Program under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. M.J. Engineering and Land Surveying, P.C., with the support of River Street Planning & Development, is facilitating the process.
For additional information and to keep up to date on the planning process, visit www.cantonnycomprehensiveplan.com.