LACONIA — After conducting surveys and holding forums, sifting responses and collating opinions for much the past year, the Planning Department and Master Plan Advisory Team have formulated nine "value statements," which together represent the grist of the "vision statement" of a new city Master Plan.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders told the Planing Board last night that the state statute requiring planning boards "to prepare and amend" master plans further stipulates that the plan include a "vision section" or "set of statements which articulate the desires of the citizens affected by the master plan, not only for their locality but for the region and the whole state. It shall contain a set of guiding principles and priorities to implement that vision."
"The vision is the soup and the values are the ingredients," Saunders remarked as the screen behind her displayed a bunch of different vegetables, each bearing a distinct value, tumbling into a soup bowl.
Saunders recalled that last summer, members of the Planning Department, Master Plan Advisory Team and other volunteers began asking both residents and visitors to "re-imagine Laconia" in order to elicit their perspective of the values that they believe most distinguish the city and should direct its future. Two forums, one at the Belknap Mill and another at the Opechee Conference Center, were held. At the first, Saunders said that participants prized a community that fostered economic development and opportunities for youth, catered to a range of incomes, cherished its natural beauty, enjoyed responsive and accessible government, and told a "good story" about itself.
The process was funded and shepherded by the Orton Family Foundation of Shelburne, Vermont, which by its Community Heart & Soul method seeks to increase "participation in local decision-making and empowers residents to shape the future of their communities in a way that upholds the unique character of each place."
The results of the surveys and forums reviewed and the words and themes weighed on a visual display, which displayed them in ascending sizes of type according to how often they were mentioned. Then associated themes were grouped together to form the basis for the nine value statements.
The nine include the character of the community, a strong sense of community,, and connectivity among members of the community. Residents should also enjoy sound health and safety and live amid beauty both natural and man-made. The economy should be robust, the government responsive and the population diverse. Finally, the city should be marked by a high quality of life ... sound health and beauty,
Saunders referred the nine value statements to the Planning Board, which appeared to accept them without dissent. She explained they will be presented to the City Council when its meets on Monday, July 13.