Residents address riverfront concerns at meeting
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 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 Shepherdstowns tree commission, inquired as to whether or not the revitalization partnership has considered the impact revitalization plans could have on Shepherdstowns 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 Services 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 Tkaczs 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.
A question was also raised by Judy Shanholtz, an owner of property adjacent to Cullison park, about rumored plans to construct a parking lot next to her home, though the members of partnership explained that there are no official recommendations being made for a lot. Shanholtz expressed her personal interest in the plans for Cullison by explaining that her father had dedicated his time to prepare the land now used for the park upon the request of his neighbor Mrs. Cullison, who donated the area to the town with explicit direction for its use.
John Loeffler, co-chair of the riverfronts connections committee explained that the proposed foot bridge on Rocky Street would serve as a preferable alternative to an additional parking area.
There is an inadequate parking situation there, he said.
Regarding discussion of the parking lot, Planning Commissioner Kathryn Bragg-Stella said she had recently discovered evidence that Cullison Park has official status as a protected area.
Its simply not an option, she said.
Mill Street resident Patrinka Kelch addressed her concerns with the proposed foot bridge along Rocky Street.
Kelch quoted the findings from a town-commissioned scientific survey conducted in 2010 by Geologist Robert Denten that stated, Mature trees should remain in place and every effort should be made to protect their root systems, in order to assist in maintaining the stability of the slopes along Bones Wright Street, also known as Rocky Street.
Kelch said she feels the area ought to be preserved.
Just because it’s government-owned doesn’t mean it has to be developed, she said.
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 and a member of the unofficial group of resisents who have organized in protest of the project, declared that it was not a participatory process and alleged that the partnership’s work lacked proper transparency.
Rana Harmon, another member of the group called it a shame that the volunteers who had worked for the past year to develop ideas are now finding their proposals were a waste of 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.