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Anniston residents try their hand at planning city’s future

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By using large maps of Anniston and marking pens, about 50 residents took part Thursday in an exercise to brainstorm ways that Anniston can be improved  Left is Dennis and Yvette Lovvorn and right is Rachel Young. 

About 50 civic-minded residents got to try their hand at being Anniston city planners Thursday night during a comprehensive planning meeting at the City Meeting Center.

The residents were divided into small groups, presented with a map of the city of Anniston and then tasked to come up with ideas to improve the city — whether it be in the area of infrastructure, housing, recreation or any other aspect. 

Later in the evening each group presented its ideas to the comprehensive plan team. The comprehensive plan team includes The Walker Collaborative — a planning firm partnered with the city — and a variety of other consultants and a steering committee consisting of local stakeholders. 

On Monday, Sept. 13, the comprehensive plan team will present its plan to the public. 

Anniston Mayor Jack Draper welcomed the residents and said the comprehensive plan is an incredibly important process for future economic development and quality of life.

“This comprehensive plan will ultimately be what we want our city to look like 20-30 years from now,” the mayor said.

According to Phillip Walker of the Walker Collaborative, a comprehensive plan is a blueprint for future growth and development for a city. Walker said it addresses such issues as natural and cultural resources, land uses, economics, housing, public facilities and transportation.

Anniston City Councilman Demetric “DD” Roberts participated in one of the groups and said his group focused on McClellan and its possible uses.

“It could help further the economic development of our city,” Roberts said. 

“I think we need to take one section of it at a time, I think one of the biggest problems we have is we’re trying to eat the whole elephant at once,” said Roberts.

“Let’s get one section decent and build along those lines,” he said.

Roberts said one goal of the plan is to attract more business such as hotels and restaurants to McClellan.

Roberts said a hotel would give users of the various trails — bike trails, horse trails and hiking trails — a place to sleep and lounge after they’re finished for the day.

Rachel Young’s group tackled a host of issues, including affordable housing and transportation, and said the collaboration with fellow residents to help shape the comprehensive plan was constructive.

 “I think it will be very productive for the city, I’ve lived here basically all my life so I’ve seen changes,” Young said. Young also said she hopes that Anniston's seniors and individuals who have been in rehab housing will see their needs be addressed.

Dennis Lovvorn was in Young’s group and said he had never participated in a collaborative effort to help shape the city but was glad to help.

“I would really love to see the city of Anniston move forward and do something better for its citizens and start to outpace Oxford,” Lovvorn said.

The group had multi-colored markers to denote different avenues of concern to address on their map including public spaces, businesses, transportation and housing. 

Anniston City Manager Steven Folks looked out at the various tables where everyone was working together for the common good.

“I think this is great right here, look at how diverse the tables are, and everybody is having an open coverstion, nobody’s yelling, everybody is on one accord, I think this is great,” Folks said. 

The concept plan presentation of the comprehensive master plan will be Monday, Sept. 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Anniston City meeting center’s main hall. The wearing of masks will be required.