Speak Up! Residents give input for city plan

Courtesy of Jim Nuttle.

By KRISSI HUMBARD — Hyattsville residents young and old have been speaking up about what they want to see in the city’s future.

The City of Hyattsville is updating its Community Sustainability Plan — the document the city uses to guide planning for the next five years in Hyattsville — and has asked for input from residents. The plan is a strategic document encompassing a broad range of cultural, social, economic and other priorities of the city, and is used to set goals and measure progress. Speak Up! is a new initiative to engage residents to help set those goals.

City officials held three “Community Vision” meetings to hear from residents about what they thought was working in Hyattsville, what they thought wasn’t working, and what they’d like to see the city focus on for the next five years.

“This process is one of the best ways for residents to get involved in dictating our city’s future,” said Katie Gerbes, Hyattsville’s community planner. “A community sustainability plan is a living document it doesn’t just sit on a shelf but is taken into consideration for many of the decisions the city makes.”

 

The city is working with consultants from Beyer Blinder and Belle (BBB), which helped facilitate the meetings. Gerbes and BBB associates Liz Ellington and Kevin Storm took turns giving a presentation about what a community sustainability plan involves, what it means to be a sustainable community, and what the city has accomplished since the last plan.

The presentation included text-in polling that showed live results when residents answered questions about Hyattsville and specific areas of the city. After the presentation and polling, residents in attendance were broken into smaller groups for table discussions facilitated by city employees.

Didn’t make it to a meeting? There is a website — speakuphvl.com — which residents can use to answer the same questions from the meetings and offer their input. Gerbes said the city is working to get the website translated into Spanish so all residents can participate.

“All comments made before Oct. 17 will be in the data set we use for the November meetings. Our follow-up sessions, ‘Community Choices,’ will take place on Nov. 1 and Nov. 5 and will act as a validation to make sure that we got the main points from the meetings,” Gerbes said.

The first “Community Vision” meeting was held at Edward M. Felegy Elementary on Sept. 15; the second was held at Hyattsville Elementary on Sept. 21; and the final meeting was held Sept. 24 at the Municipal Building. About 100 residents attended the meetings. Jim Nuttle, a freelance artist, created a mural during the final meeting using words and phrases from the live polling and the vision cards that residents were asked to fill out.

During the polling at the Sept. 24 meeting, residents seemed to agree that diversity, walkability, the two Metro stops, the sense of community, the neighbors, and the arts were the best parts of Hyattsville. During the table discussions, residents touted Hyattsville’s “small-town feel,” civic engagement, government and police involvement, and the diverse school stock.

“There are many people who believe in Hyattsville,” one resident said.

In another group, a resident said, “The open dialogue in the city is spectacular.”

Another resident who spoke during a table discussion said she moved to Hyattsville in 2003, thinking she’d only be here a year or two. “I didn’t plan to stay,” she said, “but got hooked on the neighborhood feel.”

As for things that residents felt needed improvement? Parking, traffic calming, bikeability and lighting were mentioned.

One topic that kept coming up in the discussion groups: West Hyattsville. In the live polling, 68 percent of residents at the meeting said they rarely or never go to West Hyattsville, outside of using transportation or living there. Many questioned why the area near the Metro station hadn’t been developed. Councilmember Kevin Ward (Ward 1) said he’d like to see a more varied type of business in West Hyattsville. Another resident mentioned his desire to see better-looking storefronts. Gloria Felix-Thompson said West Hyattsville needs a community gathering space. Ann Barrett, a local realtor, praised the diversity of housing options and the lower home prices, especially for homes so close to a Metro station.

Gerbes said she was pleased with the way the three meetings had gone and added that she has received positive feedback from many residents.

“Most of the people in attendance seem to share the common desire of wanting to make our city a better place, and we’ve had some really enlightened conversations of the best way to do that,” she said.