The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

March 25, 2013

Sunday Forum: Progress after the storm

— On Jan. 19, 2012, a citizen plan to guide the post-tornado rebuilding of Joplin and Duquesne was endorsed in an historic meeting at Missouri Southern State University.

The Joplin City Council, the Duquesne Board of Aldermen, the Joplin School Board, the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and the board of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, also known as CART, put the plan into motion.

Hundreds of citizens came to open meetings and put their ideas on sticky notes and then onto easels to help create the plan. The recovery team received more than 1,500 distinct pieces of input from the community.

So where does Joplin stand 14 months after adopting those recommendations?

“I feel really good about the progress one year later,’’ said Jane Cage, chairwoman of CART. “We are certainly not complete, but we are making progress on some of the highest priorities I want to see us make. What we have done in the past year is lay the groundwork for objectives to be completed.’’

A key recommendation that has been implemented is the hiring of the master developer, Wallace Bajjali Development Partners. Cage said, “It took time to lay the groundwork for that foundation. Think about all of the pieces of the puzzle it took to get that lined out. We are doing well now. We can expect to see a lot of progress in that area now.’’

Another CART recommendation that is gaining momentum is the East 20th Street streetscaping design project. A consulting firm has been hired with grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The firm’s design should be ready in June.

“The idea is to turn 20th Street into a more pleasing streetscape for bicyclists and pedestrians,’’ she said. “The citizens said they wanted 20th Street to have a different look.’’

Another element on the economic development side is the comprehensive plan the city passed in 2012 with new design standards.

The plan put together by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team identified concepts new to Joplin in terms of housing and commercial development and redefining land uses in certain locations. It has given the city a guidebook for redevelopment.

Those guidelines have been added to the city’s comprehensive development plan, and the accompanying zoning changes will encourage their use in building a more attractive city that melds commercial development with surrounding neighborhoods.

The standards will encourage developers to blend their buildings with styles that suit the surrounding neighborhoods, call for the use of durable building materials, such as masonry rather than vinyl siding, and set out suggestions for landscaping and parking.

People asked for more of a mix in neighborhoods, with pockets of retail businesses available for easy access to stores that provide for everyday needs. They also asked for more public transportation, sidewalks, and walking and biking trails. More green spaces, enlarged parks and systems for recycling also were favored.

“With this report, we felt it is our duty to report back to the citizens about where we are on their plan,’’ Cage said. “I think we are being honest about where we are. Sometimes one domino has to fall before the next one can fall.’’

Cage said the CART plan sets the model for community engagement.

“This was really the first time in a long time that citizens gave direct input about what was important to them. There’s no one better to do that than the people who live here.’’

A progress report, released on March 25, she said, will become a yearly item for CART.

“It’s CART’s responsibility to be an advocate and guardian of the plan. What the people said they wanted is important.’’

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