Residents talk likes, dislikes about city, county at Sumter 2040 public meeting

BY KAYLA ROBINS
kayla@theitem.com
Posted 12/12/18

Residents from different times and walks of Sumter came together last week to talk about what they do and don't want to see in their county in the next 20 years.

The Sumter City-County Planning Department hosted a public kickoff meeting for the …

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Residents talk likes, dislikes about city, county at Sumter 2040 public meeting

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Residents from different times and walks of Sumter came together last week to talk about what they do and don't want to see in their county in the next 20 years.

The Sumter City-County Planning Department hosted a public kickoff meeting for the Sumter 2040 Comprehensive Plan, a future land-use document that guides the city and county's governments through the year 2040.

Municipalities are required by state law to have a 20-year vision for land use that is actionable, and they are required to update it every 10 years. The 2030 plan was established in 2009 and was a major change from the previous plan that has led to much of the revitalization and development Sumter is now seeing, according to George McGregor, director of the planning department.

A community survey was open from September to October that asked multiple-choice and open-ended questions about what residents like, dislike, value and would like to see about and in Sumter. The next step was a public meeting, where members of the planning department reviewed responses from the survey, showed attendees the priorities from the current 2030 plan and asked them to break out into small discussion groups that went over different aspects of a comp plan, such as priorities for neighborhoods and aesthetics.

"Most of them lingered and hung out past when the meeting ended," McGregor said. "Most of the conversations reflected a lot of what we heard in the survey, kind of a laundry list of what's good and not good in their communities."

Major priorities currently in place include protecting Shaw Air Force Base, transforming built environments into more desirable spaces, tearing down dilapidated and abandoned buildings and bringing in new development where there's already other infrastructure.

Any comp plan, McGregor said at the meeting, must find a balance between development and maintaining low-density areas where that is favorable.

Nearly 400 houses have been torn down since 2010 that had been abandoned and falling into disrepair, and the planning department must continue to find out what other points of the plan remain important.

McGregor said the most surprising aspect of the survey and the meeting was residents' want for environmental preservation. Often, community involvement focuses on smaller-picture themes like what they want their neighborhoods to look like and whether they want more sidewalks.

"It's harder to articulate, but we do need trees and to be careful of what we cut down. So they were on more of a bigger-picture approach," he said.

Next steps in the process include going to stakeholder groups such as homeowner and neighborhood associations and other community members. There will likely be another public meeting in the spring.

The updated plan is expected to be adopted by the end of 2019.

After stakeholder meetings and more data collection in the spring, maps, options and alternatives will be drawn in the fall, with adjustments made to end in adoption at the end of the year.

For more information, call Sumter City-County Planning Department at (803) 774-1660 or go to www.sumter2040.com.