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Community visioning 2009— Share your vision of the village

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The future of Yellow Springs. Imagine it, come together on what it should be, then build the community that villagers agree they would like to be a part of. It may sound daunting, but Village Council, three Miami Township Trustees, 35 local volunteer leaders, and a professional consultant group with 20 years of experience are literally banking on a visioning process to carry Yellow Springs and Miami Township into the next successful phase. They believe this process can work, and they want to hear your version of a vision for the community.

Four public meetings at the end of October will kick off the public input phase of the visioning plan known as Share Your Dreams, Build a Vision, Shape Our Future. The visioning project is scheduled to unfold in three phases over the next six months, led by Village Council and Miami Township Trustees and coordinated by a 35-member Yellow Springs-Miami Township Community Visioning Committee and Columbus-based consulting firm ACP Visioning+Planning. Designed to solicit ideas from the public, come to consensus over a doable number of realistic community goals and then carry out those tasks, the visioning process aims to achieve results, according to Visioning Committee co-chairperson Linda Rudawski.

“This vision isn’t going to sit on a shelf — decisions aren’t going to be made and then tucked away,” she said. “We mean to shape our future with this vision.”

The process may sound simplistic, but visioning is a way to unify decision making in the community and proactively create a future for the town, Visioning Committee co-chairperson Fred Bartenstein said Monday.

“Communities that are about the business of clearly knowing what they are and what they want to be, have a lot better chance in the rough and tumble challenge of a global economy,” Bartenstein said. “I have no faith that the modern world will bring us the kind of community we want. In our hearts, most of us know that we’re going to have to do some work to promote, defend and become what we aspire to be.”

According to Bartenstein, each visioning meeting will break participants down into small groups of eight or less with one of 33 trained volunteer facilitators to solicit from each group their values, needs and goals for the community. ACP consultants will then collate the data, tease out commonly desired attributes, and research communities with similar attributes, looking for what did and did not work elsewhere, he said.

Phase 2 begins with a second set of workshops in January, when ACP project leader Jamie Greene presents the community’s stated vision back to participants, who will have a chance to react and mold the vision in a way that is truly representative of the community.

A small firm, ACP is acknowledged as a leader in the visioning field, according to members of the Visioning Task force that recommended the firm to Council. In 2003 ACP received the American Vision Award from the American Planning Association, based on the firm’s work redeveloping the area around the World Trade Center in New York City after 9/11.

In the third phase of visioning in February and March, community members will use the vision that was built by consensus to identify a short list of specific, attainable goals to achieve within the next five-year period.

“Then comes the implementation phase — five years with our nose to the grindstone getting stuff done while situations change and shift and we get excited about other stuff while we try to stick to our knitting,” Bartenstein said.

According to Rudawski, a visioning advocacy group will maintain a presence to educate and help leaders to use the goals that were made in the visioning process to guide their decisions.

The last time the community engaged in a visioning process was 1990, which resulted in several goals that have since been accomplished or at least initiated, such as the commerce park, increased senior housing, creating income tax revenue for the schools and holding periodic forums on growth, according to the 1990 visioning report.

Villagers and township residents don’t often have a chance to dialogue together, and the visioning process brings them all to the same table to talk about issues both care about, such as the Jacoby greenbelt and development at village borders, Visioning Committee member John Struewing said Monday. As a member of the Township Zoning Commission and the Village Planning Commission, Struewing feels it is important that township residents speak their minds on issues of growth, development and conservation so that community leaders know how to represent them.

“We really need those attitudes reflected so that when government officials make these decisions, the township gets represented,” he said. “Otherwise it’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”

For Steering Committee member Gerry Simms, who has been a village resident since 1960, the current visioning project promises to be one of the most inclusive projects he has experienced. He sees it as an opportunity for every villager to tell their community leaders what they would like the village to be.

“It’s an opportunity for the whole community to get involved in setting goals for the future,” he said. “It’s the way it should be, and I’m excited about it.”

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