COLUMBIA — The five boxes of cookies survived the night nearly intact.
They were meant to sate the dessert appetites of Ward 2 residents as they listened to the city present the structure for Columbia Imagined, the city's comprehensive plan, Wednesday night at Parkade Elementary.
But the cookies were mostly untouched.
Only one person who was not directly involved with the plan attended the meeting.
City staff, task force members, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Doug Wheeler and Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill made up the rest of the audience.
“This just continues with what I’ve learned at a larger scale at council," Thornhill said. "For the most part, you only hear from people when they’re not happy. So it’s a little disconcerting when you’re using this opportunity to plan and the only way you’re going to know if you’re not doing a good job planning is when it’s effectively too late."
The comprehensive plan provides the city with a global vision for growth and gives its leaders budget priorities. The plan is divided into seven subcategories that include subjects such as land use and growth management, infrastructure, environmental management and economic development.
The city's community development department prepared a presentation with 19 questions spread throughout the slideshow intended for the audience. The questions went unanswered.
The goal of the evening was to present the city's existing conditions and get feedback from residents.
Pat Zenner, development services manager for the city, gave much of the presentation.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t the most glamorous portion of the planning process," he said. "It doesn’t have controversy associated with it, so we don’t have everyone coming.”
Second Ward residents who missed Wednesday night's meeting have five more chances over the next month. The city will host a meeting in each of the city's six wards. The next one is in Ward 1 at 6 p.m. Monday in Dulany Hall at Columbia College.
“I’d like to see us make a targeted effort, though, to get people from the Second Ward to come to some of the other meetings that we have planned because I really want to hear from the people who live in this area," said Jo Sapp, a task force member.
But perhaps Thornhill hit on the real reason for the sparse attendance.
“I don’t want to call it apathetic," he said of the Second Ward community. "I think it’s just satisfied right now.”
He said that the main issue in the Second Ward over the last few years has been infrastructure improvements. But improvements have been made to Range Line Street and Providence Road.
Steven Hanson, a member of the city's Public Transportation Advisory Committee and a Ward 2 resident, was the only attendee not directly associated with the plan.
Thornhill said the lack of attendance was "disappointing, but it’s not totally a surprise."
He said hearing feedback from residents is the best way for him to know if he's on the right track:
"In my position, you beg for input.”