Last night's comprehensive plan committee meting focused on two characteristics of Carbondale that the committee feels need to be addressed, one of which I agree with and one of which I don't. The first is the transient nature of the majority of the population. As a college town, almost 50% of our population cycles through every 4-5 years and there needs to be more co-ordination between C'dale and SIUC over those students.
The other characteristics I don't necessarily agree with is the the shifting of C'dale from a railroad town to a college town. This was presented as an ongoing process, whereas it looks to me as this is a done deal, with the railroads, once the lifebood of Carbondale, a negligable influence on the town since the 70s and probably earlier. For better or worse, the shift from the railroad as economic engine to the university took place decades ago. One interesting thing that came out of this discussion was that the original plans for SIUC did not call for on campus housing, instead preferring to house students off campus in apartments and boarding houses concentrated in the area between S. University and S. Poplar, a trend which, despite the presence now of oncampus housing, continues today and contributes to the run down nature of much housing within the area.
The committee also looked at possible areas for future growth. Carbondale's growth is really constrained by the huge amount of property owned by SIUC on the south side of the city and the foodplains and creeks on the east and west side, leaving only the north and infilling as viable areas for expansion. The city is looking at the area around New Era Road on the northwest outskirts of town as the major growth area over the next 5-15 years, though the trailer courts on S. Illinois and the area along S. Wall are also being looked at. There was also some concern expressed that the consultants working on the plan are not aware of the existance of the Green Earth organization and its green spaces within the city.
Finally, the committee looked at the main topics it wants the vision statement to cover. In no particular order, they are: housing, downtown, economy, walkability, education, open space preservation. The meeting closed with a short discussion of what the heck "smart growth" is, since we supposedly want it for the community.