Hampton comprehensive plan a work in progress

Friday, January 24, 2020 | 12:01 AM

Issues that are important to residents of Hampton about their township are unfolding and being recognized thanks to the research and public engagement being done to help create an implementable comprehensive plan for the community.

An update in the long process of making a new comprehensive plan was presented by Jim Pashek, of Pashek MTR, at the Jan. 22 Hampton Township Council meeting. The landscape firm was hired by the township as a consultant to help develop the planning document.

Pashek reminded the council that an implementable comprehensive plan is formed differently than the traditional kind, as it involves “robust conversation” with its residents of what their issues are.

“We’re really trying to find out what’s going on in the community,” he said.

An alternative to a traditional comprehensive plan, this type focuses on real, relevant community issues; organizing the plan the way local officials and citizens think; and devising practical and workable recommendations, according to an October presentation to council by Pashek.

Traditional “old school” plans were data heavy, and not always based on public input, he said.

Last week, Pashek gave an overview of what has been done up to this point.

Prior to the council meeting last week, the steering committee for the implementable comprehensive plan met with the zoning hearing board, environmental advisory council, planning commission, township council and department heads to review and evaluate the feedback that has come from the community so far, according to Dr. Carolynn Johnson, who serves on Hampton Council.

“I think we’re getting a lot accomplished. We are seeing some very common themes of key issues,” said Johnson, who is serving as council liaison to the process.

A main focus is certainly on public engagement, with having pop-up booths at community events this past year; interviewing residents; and sending out a Hampton Township Community Quality of Life Questionnaire survey which garnered more than 900 responses.

They also had public meetings where Hampton residents were asked to submit key issues.

Pashek said by taking all the feedback so far, they start to see common themes of issues among the residents. They can then narrow it down to look at these ideas and concerns that keep reappearing from comments they gather.

Some of these include a lot of people looking for more connectivity and trails in Hampton. Others expressed concern over the appearance of Route 8 corridor. And conservation and natural resources were something that was repeatedly mentioned as relevant, Pashek said.

Also, the issue of better communication between the community, and township was another common theme.

Any other issues were also acknowledged, though some of them could be a challenge to accomplish, Pashek said.

For example, the traffic on Route 8 was a concern for residents, but there’s not a lot that can be done to solve that, he said. However, the concern will not be ignored but be “captured and preserved,” keeping it for future reference, he said.

Other feedback included a desire for a “downtown Hampton,” he said. It seemed that residents wanted a place where they can see a neighbor or other community members. He said a “downtown” might not be practical but they can look at other ways and places in Hampton where that scenario could be accomplished.

The Steering Committee members will be at the upcoming Hampton Community Association bonfire and sled ride party Feb. 1. The free event is being held at the community center from 4 to 7 p.m. and will now have fireworks, according to Susan Bernet, assistant township manager. And if there’s no snow, they’ll still have a bonfire.

Pashek said there will be more pop-up booths regarding the implementable comprehensive plan at various places in the local community in the coming months.

“Our hope is the public engagement is going to go on forever after we are completed,”Pashek said.

He said they’ll assemble examples of best practices for each key issue by looking around other parts of the country which dealt with the same scenario. Focus groups will be tasked with each major key issue. After these steps, they’ll begin drafting an implementable comprehensive plan, he said.

They’ll be back to present council with a recommendation and council can expect a first draft possibly in June.

Then, there is the process of submitting it to Allegheny County for review. Public meetings in Hampton will be held, Pashek said.