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If you had a chance to impact how your community will look and what it will have 20 years from now, would you let your voice be heard?
City and county planners and leaders are hoping Sumter residents take the chance to give their opinion on the future makeup and direction of the city and county by taking a public survey, which will be used to develop the Sumter 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
"This survey will be used during the planning process to gauge citizen attitudes about planning issues," said George McGregor, planning director for the Sumter City-County Planning Department. "The results of the survey will be used to help shape the future vision for the Sumter community, which will help guide new development projects in both the city and the county."
The 14-question survey, which is open through Sept. 30, is designed to ask for public input on the planning, zoning and development issues facing the city and county today and into the future, McGregor said. Questions ask about how residents feel about development, their priorities about the environment and the condition of their neighborhoods.
Most questions ask participants to fill in a bubble. Some are about where they live, while others rate quality-of-life elements such as parks, downtown, race relations, traffic congestion, schools, etc. Participants are also asked about how important growth and development issues are, including new housing options, attracting new businesses, water quality, density, environmental resources and protecting rural farmland. One question simply asks what makes neighborhoods great, such as proximity to schools, open spaces, trees, active neighborhood groups, etc. Participants can rank neighborhood problems and have the opportunity to type in their own positive or negative feedback.
What is a comprehensive plan?
Planning commissions, whether for cities, counties, joint or consolidated governments, must, by law, develop a comprehensive planning process that involves a "systematic preparation and continual re-evaluation and updating" of the elements considered "critical, necessary and desirable to guide the development and redevelopment" of a city, county or area, according to South Carolina code.
The comprehensive plan must be reviewed at least every five years and updated at least every 10 years.
Why is it important to plan for land use?
Land use ensures areas and amenities will be planned for and executed to make a community the best it can be and allows for planning into the future.
"A broad, consensus-driven land use plan helps Sumter achieve established community goals, such as the protection of Shaw Air Force Base, better landscaping and architectural design and the preservation of sensitive environmental elements, such as floodplain," McGregor said.
Why should I care?
McGregor said Sumter2040 is designed to guide growth and development in Sumter and that it is more than a grand-scale idea - it actually affects the community, down to the neighborhood.
"We all have a stake in what a future Sumter looks like," he said, "and how it develops, both in terms of quality and location. The comprehensive plan process takes existing conditions, trends and community input and molds a vision for the future."
Not planning comprehensively, he said, will exacerbate traffic congestion, increase the cost of infrastructure and encourage unwanted land uses.
How will my voice actually be heard?
"This is, if anything, a citizen-based planning process," McGregor said. "From the initial survey to stakeholder meetings with neighborhoods to more formal public meetings, community feedback will influence the goals and policy recommendations eventually drafted into a plan."
A report will be made on the feedback received in this survey. It will be given to the Planning Commission, City Council and County Council. It will also be made available to the public.
"All the meetings will be public, and we will publish draft versions of the plan's development during the months ahead," McGregor said.
What are the next steps?
The planning process is broken down into these phases:
Now through late fall 2018 - Data collection - Individual topics such as demographics, housing, economy; a public survey; and contacting stakeholders;
Winter 2018-spring 2019 - Identification of needs and goals;
Summer 2019 - Policy and strategy development and developing alternative options; and
Summer 2019 through late fall 2019 - Implementation strategy and final drafting.
How can I take the survey?
The survey can be taken online at www.sumter2040.com, and links can also be found on the city's website at www.sumtersc.gov and the county's website at www.sumtercountysc.org. Hard copies of the survey are also available at locations throughout the community, including City Hall, County Administration Building, Planning Office, HOPE Centers and Sumter County Library.
Completed hard copies can be dropped off at or mailed to the Planning Department at 12 W. Liberty St., Sumter SC 29150, faxed to (803) 774-1687 or emailed to email@example.com.
All surveys should be completed by Sept. 30.
Editor's note: The logo was made by City of Sumter.
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