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Poll of residents used to help Montevallo plan for growth

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

News staff writer

Montevallo's series of community planning sessions has resulted in a list of strengths and weaknesses, plus a set of recommendations to meet the challenge of growth.

At the start of the process early in the spring, city planning consultant Bob House and the Shelby County planning staff solicited Montevallo residents' opinions of the city in four areas - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The strengths include few surprises: the University of Montevallo, the American Village, parks, downtown, a new library, diversity, historic buildings, a strong fire department and a municipal golf course.

Naming weaknesses, residents took leaders to task in some instances: enforcement of development regulations, financial planning for growth, property maintenance, too many apartments, downtown truck traffic, lack of architectural review and community vision.

Opportunities included the character of the Montevallo area, outdoor recreation events, neighborhood and downtown revitalization, cooperation between the university and the city, and expansion of the park system and trails.

Threats to the community listed by residents included unplanned growth, deterioration of the tax base, inadequate public facilities, an apathetic public, truck traffic, residential sprawl, degradation of the environment, crowding schools and job loss.

To avoid succumbing to the threats and to shore up the areas of weakness, the planners came up with some suggested policies.

They said the city needs to strengthen its central business district, embrace the University of Montevallo, complement the American Village and the proposed national veterans cemetery, protect the environment, maintain the small-town setting, improve the community's appearance, enhance park and recreation opportunities, enforce development regulations, encourage housing diversity, revitalize central neighborhoods, provide for economic growth, adopt a plan for sustainable growth, protect historic structures and sites, support cultural programs and the arts, improve the quality of public services and schools and promote tourism.

In the summary of the "Montevallo Plan, Policies to Guide Future Growth," each of those goals is followed by a half-dozen or so strategies for achieving it.

House said development around the American Village and the proposed cemetery must complement the character of those institutions and should be regulated to make sure the development is compatible.

The issue of downtown truck traffic led to discussion of a bypass.

House noted that the idea is a two-edged sword. When you take the truck traffic off downtown streets, he said, you also remove other traffic that could benefit the downtown business district. However, he said he would continue to explore the issue.

Many of the strategies, such as the bypass and school improvement, require the acquiescence and investment of outside agencies, namely the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Shelby County Board of Education.

Others will require city ordinances, oversight, enforcement and regulation. Examples of those are a land disturbance ordinance, zoning law enforcement, greenways at the entrances to the city and an architectural review board.