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Cumberland Is Shaping Its Destiny

CUMBERLAND – County residents will have another opportunity to shape their community's direction and destiny next month during a series of forums on October 11, 15 and 18 hosted by Cumberland's Planning Commission.

Previously announced September dates have been cancelled to provide additional time to make sure the forums offer county residents the full opportunity they deserve, County officials explain.

State Code, notes Cumberland's Planning Director, Bret Schardein, requires that localities adopt a long-term plan for their growth and development-an official Comprehensive Plan. And they are required to update those plans every five years.

“We are now in the early stages of that update,” Schardein informed The Herald on Wednesday.

And the voice of the people of Cumberland continues to be invited to articulate the county's future.

“The plan is essentially whatever the community wants it to be,” Schardein explained.

“In some instances,” Schardein noted, “there will be things about the County we may want to see changed or improved, and in other instances there are things we may not want to see change at all as the community grows.”

The plan will contain policies and guideline for how the community, the government, and staff can best achieve those goals, according to Schardein. “How do we get the things we want and at the same time how do we preserve those things that are important to the community,” he pointed out.

Schardein stressed that, “following the plan is not mandatory and its contents do not have the power of law as our County Codes do, but it is a guiding document that can help steer the actions of the County, so it is none the less critical that it reflect the overall will of the County.”

The October 11 forum will be held at the Randolph Fire Department at 2145 Cumberland Road. The October 15 forum will be held at the Cumberland Community Center at 1874 Anderson Highway. And the October 18 edition will be held at the Cartersville Rescue Squad building at 1667 Cartersville Road.

All three of the forums will begin at 6:30 p.m.

“We first started the update process by conducting a citizen survey. This survey,” Schardein explained, “was done over the phone, internet and in person and we asked citizens to rate various aspects of the County and to tell us what they like best about the County and what they would like to see change.”

The citizen survey has produced 280 responses, about double the number of responses in 2006.

“We have finished tallying those responses and some things are already clear,” Schardein noted. “For example, while most people think the County is growing just about right residentially, an overwhelming majority believe the County is growing too slowly when it comes to businesses.

“So it is that kind of information we got out of the survey that we can use to help focus our efforts in engaging the public at these forums. We chose to delay the forums until October,” he explained, “because this update only happens once every five years and we really want it to be as good and as inclusive of the community's input as possible. If people are going to take the time out of their busy everyday lives to come out to one of these meetings and give us their input, we owe it to them to make sure it is a really useful experience and for them to be able to have a direct impact on the plan.”

Cumberland officials decided the delay until October would allow County staff to more fully prepare for the forums and give county families a chance to get settled into the rhythm of the new school year.

“Although updating the plan is mandated, there is no set deadline from the State for us to complete it,” Schardein summed up, “so it is more important that we put together the best plan possible, rather than rush it through.”