Where do we go from here? That seemed to be the over arching question at a town hall style meeting on Feb. 5.Craig Farmer, Director of Planning and Development for the City of Weatherford, estimated that more than 100 people turned out to voice their opinion on where they saw Weatherford’s historic downtown by the year 2030.“I thought it was a great meeting and we had excellent attendance,” Farmer said.Those attending broke into small groups to talk about issues facing the city and identify any new concerns. Afterward, through a voting system using “clickers,” people were able to vote on how important certain issues were which, in effect, prioritized them.Karen Walz from Strategic Community Solutions of Dallas facilitated the event which took place at the Cotten-Bratton Building located at 113 College Ave.After the meeting, Farmer reviewed the results and some of the issues have been a concern for a long time, such as the truck traffic in downtown.“There was huge support for getting truck traffic out of downtown,” Farmer said. “Parking was also an issue and traffic overall was mixed; I read it like some traffic is good, but not too much.”He did acknowledge that the completion of the “Ric” Williamson Memorial Highway should alleviate some of the truck traffic issue.Farmer said the preservation of the traditional historic character of downtown saw “huge” support as well as a desire for sidewalk cafes. He also added the possibility of amending the ordinances, which would allow for loft apartments above businesses showed support.“In terms of what you call mixed-use, three- and four-story apartments buildings... that didn’t go very well,” Farmer added. “But more townhomes, medium density, seemed to do pretty well so we probably should take another look at that.”He said there was also “enormous” support for financial incentives to preserve historic buildings or even buildings that help support the downtown’s historic character.Farmer said technology was also an issue. Some in attendance wanted historic downtown to have an “application” so that visitors could use while touring the city and shoppers could use to find the best deals.“I think what will end up happening is that we will take this information and divvy up the responsibilities from these results among the departments and other organizations,” Farmer said. “We received good direction on most things.”He said the biggest surprise to him was when it was revealed that 80 percent of those attending said they would be willing to work on making this happen by volunteering.Tammy Gazzola, President of the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce, said she was “thrilled” with the turnout and excited to see that so many value the importance of a healthy downtown district.“There were lots of positive recommendations and I am excited to get the data from the consultant to get an even better picture of the wants/ needs of the downtown area,” Gazzola said. “I applaud the City of Weatherford for organizing the event and I am confident the information they received will help them put together a solid plan that we can all work together to achieve.”Kim Thieme, Main Street and Special Event coordinator, said downtown revitalization is always more successful as a collaborative effort.“It was great to see so many people in attendance to discuss downtown Weatherford,” she said. “As a re-certified Main Street Community, we look forward to continuing to build on the work that’s been done over the last couple of years.”Dennis Clayton, Executive Director of the Weatherford Economic Development Authority, congratulated the City Planning Department and Historical Preservation Committee (HPC) in organizing and hosting the downtown development community meeting.“The crowd was very good and the venue was great,” Clayton said. “The community love and interest of the downtown area is obvious.“Continued development and redevelopment of the downtown area is a key component and growth sector for our economic development program and continued city growth. Community input and ideas are vital to our development programs.”Parker County Judge Mark Riley echoed similar sentiments."I was excited to see the participation by businesses and residents,” Riley said. “Downtown has many rich opportunities to be cultivated and there is obvious support to make the area a fun, enticing place for residents and visitors."He said the Courthouse is the centerpiece of the Downtown Square, but has never been fully utilized.“I want the courthouse to be recognized for what it is, the anchor, the crown jewel if you will, of the Square,” he said. “To facilitate that process, I have appointed a citizen’s committee to develop a plan for enhancing the exterior appearance.”He said this will include not only at Christmas, but throughout the year.“The six citizens who have agreed to serve represent business, historical groups and the community at-large,” Riley said. “Each of them has exhibited a strong interest in preserving our heritage through their various commitments.Once they complete their work, Riley said, their suggestions will be presented to the Commissioner’s Court for consideration.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter