The Town of Archer Lodge is a small community and should remain that way.
That was the sentiment of many people who gathered Tuesday to talk about how Archer Lodge should or shouldnt grow. A forum on shaping the towns first land-use plan drew about 50 people to town hall.
Since February, Archer Lodge leaders have been working with the states Division of Community Assistance to write long-range goals for such planning matters as economic development, parks and recreation, and environmental protection.
As part of that process, the town invited residents to weigh in on how the town should develop over the next 15 to 20 years. What town leaders learned is that many residents want Archer Lodge to retain its rural characteristics.
Jill Harding Dillons family has owned land on Archer Lodge Road for generations. Her biggest fear is that commercial development will spoil the rural communitys peaceful atmosphere.
My mother still lives in the family home, and people are constantly approaching her to sell the land because its considered prime space, Dillon said. I want to see the town stay just like it is. Thats why Im here.
Mark Ostrander has lived in the community for just six years. He was attracted to the area by its small-town charm.
Tuesdays community forum was an important date on Ostranders calendar, and he left work early to attend.
I personally want to see Archer Lodge kept the way it already is, Ostrander said. Im hoping they (town leaders) dont make any changes at all.
I think if we put any money into the infrastructure, then it should be towards the community center, he added.
Lee Nichols, a planner with the Division of Community Assistance, led attendees through a visual preference survey, which showed photographs of prospective shopping centers, neighborhoods and commercial developments. He asked participants to rank the designs by how well they felt the designs would fit into the community. Later, attendees broke into small groups to talk about specific land-use issues.
Teresa Bruton, a member of the towns Land Use Plan Steering Committee, helped lead the conversations and charted results. The committee will review opinions from the forum at its next meeting.
Everyone here really cares about the community and are concerned, Bruton said. This is all about trying to control the growth and do it the right way.
The town is taking its time with the planning process and expects to spend at least 18 months considering options and public opinion before making any decisions, said Mayor Mike Gordon. Plans call for mailing surveys to households in the near future.
The participation portion went really well, Gordon said of the forum. The people that were here shared their visions and views. Thats what we were hoping for.