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Helena leaders grateful for public interest in growth policy update

Posted at 10:36 PM, Apr 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-08 16:25:35-04

(HELENA) Helena leaders say they’re pleased with the feedback they received this week on a proposal to update the city’s growth policy.

Helena is preparing to revise the growth policy for the first time in about 10 years. On Wednesday, they set up a “storefront studio” downtown, where people could learn about the process and share their own ideas about what the city’s development priorities should be.

“We want to be as transparent and inclusive about this process as possible,” said Sharon Haugen, the city’s community development director.

The city hired SCJ Alliance as a consultant on the growth policy update. SCJ principal Bill Grimes said more than 100 people provided input during the four days the studio was open.

“We saw a community that was really striving for a way to make their growth policy pragmatic and visionary at the same time,” he said.

The studio included features like a “graffiti wall,” where the public could write any suggestions they had. By Saturday, it was crowded with submissions.

“This was all blank butcher paper when we showed up on Wednesday afternoon,” said Grimes.

Helena Growth Policy Response

On Saturday, SCJ held a community workshop to highlight some of the feedback they have already received. They said people have emphasized the importance of issues like downtown development, transportation improvements and access to affordable housing.

Grimes also noted there is an interest in developing new neighborhood centers.

“I think one of the most important takeaways that we’ve gotten so far is that the community is interested in finding ways to really enhance the identity and character of its individual neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s going to become the underpinning of this policy update.”

One possible example Grimes pointed to would be developing Helena’s west side as an “entry statement” to the city.

“I think the community is realizing there are areas of potential that haven’t been fully realized yet,” he said.

SCJ will take what they learned from this week’s meetings and begin developing ideas. They will return in July for a series of neighborhood meetings, where the public will be able to give additional feedback.

“People can understand how we’re understanding what they like, and have a chance to comment and fine-tune what we’re proposing,” said Grimes.

You can find more information about the growth policy update on the city’s website.