Survey time

Community planning effort kicks off in Marietta

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times On Tuesday, Development Director Andy Coleman, right, hands Jeremiah's Coffee House owners Karen Henthorn, left, and Liz Johnson, right, copies of the community survey developed with Marietta Main Street Executive Director Sam Tuten, left, and the downtown steering committee.

The first copies of a community-wide survey have filtered into local meetings and gathering places this week.

On Tuesday, City Development Director Andy Coleman and Marietta Main Street Executive Director Sam Tuten dropped off the 22-question survey at Jeremiah’s Coffee House prior to a display to appear there during the downtown evening shopping event this Friday.

“First Fridays is a great avenue to really launch the survey and encourage people to participate,” said Tuten. “There we will have a couple boards, which will have a map, highlighting what’s been accomplished with past city planning efforts, an explainer of what could become additional projects in the future and tell more about how we’re trying to inclusively represent all people who have an interest in the downtown.”

Tuten explained that Jeremiah’s, Marietta Brewing Company on Friday and both Marietta College basketball games on Saturday will be supplied with electronic methods for interested parties to take the survey.

Then both Jeremiah’s and the brewery, plus other gathering spaces in town will also house hard copies for local residents, business owners, visitors and other constituencies to complete throughout February.

The survey was developed out of the downtown steering committee which has worked with OHM Advisors for the past six months in developing the next community-wide plan for economic development after Marietta City Council authorized an initial investment in the planning process of $10,000 in federal funds.

“This survey is a part of that whole planning process, as community engagement, so that we can plan projects that different people will actually want and will use,” said Tuten.

The steering committee, now called Enrich Marietta, is made up of Tuten, Coleman, regional council and development officials, and officials from the city, Marietta College, Washington State Community College, local business organizations, health and climate organizations, public entities and nonprofit foundations.

“I think it can help us steer in the direction and desires of the citizens,” noted Coleman on Tuesday. “It can help us pinpoint the (ways) people utilize downtown.”

One of Coleman’s roles for the city is to plan for handicap accessibility throughout Marietta, including in downtown buildings, public parks and on sidewalks.

“I think it’s a very important piece so that we don’t lose the ability to hold activities and festivals and so forth,” he said, noting potential upgrades to the Ohio River levee are on the list of potential projects identified through the steering committee. “Right now those are the lifeblood of the downtown so if we lose those due to inaccessibility then we have issues.”

Jeremiah’s co-owner Karen Henthorn said she is happy to host Tuten’s team Friday and be a point of pickup for the surveys throughout February.

“I think the parking (situation) downtown is going to be one of the things this survey will identify as peoples’ priority, I hear that a lot here, and for me, as a business owner you’re always keeping an eye on other places downtown if you were to expand,” she said. “I picked this spot because I like the feel of it… I could expand. When you’re opening a business downtown you look at the big picture.”

Survey questions range from how an individual uses downtown, from working to shopping and living, to what they want in public spaces, along the riverfronts, for roadway improvements, housing development and businesses.

One question even identifies potential projects which could result from this planning process including increased opportunities for upper-story residential units above commerce-oriented storefronts and offices.

Marietta City Council members weighed in last week on Tuten’s plan to market the survey to different residents in the city and visitors to the downtown.

Councilman Steve Thomas suggested having surveys available at nonprofit organization events this month like Pancake Days and Councilwoman Cindy Oxender suggested providing the survey for distribution to service organizations like Rotary, Shriners and Kiwanis.

Planning, Zoning, Annexation and Housing Committee Chairman Geoff Schenkel said these suggestions, and concerns raised about providing access to the survey to those without computers give him hope that the community will actively participate in the engagement exercise.

“This isn’t the first time planning has truly benefited the city, things like the River Trail, or the levee, didn’t happen by accident,” he noted Tuesday, “They happened by plan and execution.”

Tuten echoed Schenkel’s sentiment, noting how Community 2020, a city planning from 1984, resulted in major investments like the Ely Chapman Education Foundation and Peoples Bank Theatre.

He said those accomplishments, taken on by the investment of public and private partnerships, started with similar seeds in community planning.

“As a ward councilman and from the perspective of planning chair, this is something I’m pouring myself into,” added Schenkel. “I’ll be going door to door to talk with residents. At our January Main Street West meeting at the Boys and Girls Club, Sam (Tuten) Nick (Arnold and Jackson Patterson (MSW leader and community mentor) and I explained the survey to neighbors and talked about downtown improvement ideas. We’ll have the chance to do that again when we host our next meeting at Harmar School.”

Tuten said the next Main Street West meeting to be held in Harmar Elementary at 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 will also provide an avenue for Harmar residents to be heard through the survey, which could then be mirrored at other community and neighborhood watch meetings and events.

“Please make more work for us, we want more input rather than less so we really understand what the different priorities of all people who have an interest in Marietta are,” said Tuten, noting both website surveys and hard copies will be analyzed for future planning of development projects. “We’re hoping for more than a thousand responses to truly represent all voices of Marietta.”

Voices should include those of residents, business owners, those who work in town but don’t live in town, those who shop in town regardless of where they live, local college and high school alumni, and even tourists.

“A lot of people do better with paper surveys than online surveys so we’re offering both so people have options,” noted Schenkel. “Also, sometimes professional language of surveys can be limiting, so I’m spending time with people to unpack what may sound like jargon…to make this the most inclusive process it can be.”

Kuhn said statistically significant standards would require a lesser response tally to be deemed by experts as an accurate sample size, but Tuten added the goal is to shape planning that includes more than the minimum input.

Kuhn said for a representation of how Washington County’s population utilizes Marietta’s downtown and what that population’s priorities and desires for the town are, a participation count of about 3,879 would be considered representative of the county’s population with 99 percent accuracy by experts.

Enrich Marietta Community Survey:

• Marietta Main Street and other Enrich Marietta team members will be downtown from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Jeremiah’s Coffee House and the Marietta Brewing Company explaining the downtown planning effort in progress and soliciting participation in the Enrich Marietta Community Survey.

• Team members will also solicit survey involvement at Marietta College’s Winter Weekend basketball games Saturday between noon and 4 p.m.

• Additional hard copies of the survey will be available at Jeremiah’s Coffee House, Marietta Brewing Company and City Hall throughout February.

• Interested parties may complete the survey in hard copy form and drop it off at City Hall or to Marietta Main Street’s office in the Ketter Block building, 204 Front St.

• The survey is also available online at EnrichMarietta.com.