COLUMBIA — The Comprehensive Plan Task Force continued its series of presentations in each of the city's six wards by talking to residents in the First Ward on Monday night.
The comprehensive plan would provide the city with a vision for growth and analyze various components of the city as it is now.
Many of the neighborhood associations from the central part of the city sent representatives to hear the plan and to organize further involvement. This was an improvement over the one person who attended last week's meeting in the Second Ward.
Pat Zenner, development services manager, reiterated that point. "Our eyes and ears as professionals are only as good as those that sometimes remind us of what we're not seeing," he said. "And that's where the public comes in to provide us an opportunity to be able to see things that we may be so close to that we just aren't aware of it."
After a longer-than-normal, 40-minute presentation of the plan's framework, residents spoke with planning staff and task force members in small groups. One thing that was focused on at the meeting was the idea that the plan was too complex to be digested by anyone other than the most dedicated residents.
Pat Fowler, North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association president, said she's been here for 12 years and that even she's struggling with the process.
In response, Community Development Director Tim Teddy suggested possibly paring down the 19 questions in the presentation to one simpler question: "How's the city look to you?"
Teddy then asked that question to Stephanie Huisey, newly elected secretary of the Downtown Residents Association. She paused to take in the question: "It needs some help. We need some help. I shouldn't say it. We need some help."
After further discussion, Fowler said, "I have been here for 12 years. And while I see what people say about Columbia being a great place to live — it's a great place to live if you make enough money. If you don't, it's a really hard place to live."
Fowler, Mike Pryor, president of the Downtown Residents Association, and Tyree Byndom, president of the Douglass Park Neighborhood Association, want to meet as a group to talk about the plan themselves. The group talked about possibly meeting at the J.W. "Blind" Boone Community Center on a Saturday as one possibility.
Byndom, host of KORE Issues on KOPN 89.5, said First Ward residents have a lot to contribute to the plan, but that the discussion shouldn't get lost in jargon.
"I think everyone has intelligence," he said. "Everyone has a heart. Everyone has a mind, an intellect, so everyone can contribute but it has to match their language."
The next meeting will be Nov. 30 at Blue Ridge Elementary in the Third Ward.