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Residents voice concerns of transparency, time line at riverfront meeting

By Staff | Apr 8, 2011

At a public forum held Wednesday, April 6, the Riverfront Revitalization Partnership took questions and comments from the community.

In an attempt to address the concerns and questions that some Shepherdstown residents, like the Neighbors of the Ravine, have expressed at various town meetings, the revitalization partnership hosted a nighttime public forum at the Train Station.

Mayor Jim Auxer opened the meeting by offering all in attendance a “bite of the apple” in an effort to give everyone an opportunity to be heard.

Community members like Sonya Evanisko, a resident of High Street, urged the riverfront committee to try to consider the point of view of those she believes are most directly impacted by the opening up of the riverfront to increased tourism.

Evanisko described life for the people living on High, Duke, Mill and Princess streets as a distinct experience and said she would be disturbed by “a larger scale volume of people”making use of the town streets.

Another High Street resident Borys Tkacz, a member of Shepherdstown’s tree commission, inquired as to whether or not the revitalization partnership has considered the impact revitalization plans could have on Shepherdstown’s “canopy cover.” Tkacz charged that the partnership’s members “haven’t thought about green infrastructure at all.”

Though Dave Humphreys, project coordinator for the partnership, responded that he was not aware of any recommendation that would diminish the numbers of trees in town, Chris Niewold, of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program, conceded that there should be greater attention paid to that issue.

Tkacz also insisted that though the partnership has worked for over a year, no concrete ideas or proposals have surfaced for the public to respond to. Tkacz questioned what the next step is for the partnership.

Town council and planning commission member David Springer seconded Tkacz’s comment and encouraged the partnership to develop a specific plan for the presentation of ideas.

“What is the time line?” he said.

Mayor Auxer proposed the partnership have something prepared to present before the town council by June.

Perhaps the most frequently voiced concern throughout the nearly two-hour long meeting was that the work done thus far by the riverfront committee had lacked the cooperation and input of the residents from the beginning.

Zenia Kuzma, an East High Street resident, declared that it was “not a participatory process” and alleged that the partnership’s work lacked proper transparency.

Patrinka Kelch, a Mill Street resident and member of the Neighbors of the Ravine group, agreed with Kuzma’s sentiments.

“What about transparency?” she said. “You guys are pretty good at secrets.”

Ranna Harmon, another member of the Neighbors group, said it was “a shame” that the volunteers who had worked for the past year to develop ideas are now finding their proposals were a waste time because residents weren’t included from the beginning.

Niewold who stepped in as moderator of the forum concluded the meeting by asking if all parties involved felt it was helpful.

Both the residents and revitalization team agreed that additional nighttime meetings would be useful as the effort continues to determine ideas for revitalization.

No date has been set for the next meeting. More information about the riverfront revitalization project can be found at www.ourwaterfront.org.