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Decatur Diary | December 14, 2018

Leaving a Legacy: Adopted UMCH Master Plan Now Available

Almost two years to the day from when city leaders first authorized negotiations towards purchase of the 77 acre United Methodist Children’s Home property, a community-driven master plan for the site — adopted unanimously by the City Commission at their December 3, 2018 meeting — is now in place.

“I’m excited about the project but I’m also really proud of the document and the documentation that went into this plan,” said Mayor Patti Garrett. “It shows a lot of integration of ideas and putting those puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense.”

A Community Plan

The adoption follows an extensive 10-month process, including a broad visioning workshop with over 400 in attendance; 40 Civic Dinners in which smaller groups gathered and discussed the property over a meal; a series of meetings drilling down on key ideas; presentation of initial draft options; multiple surveys; release of a single, unified concept; stakeholder meetings with potential partners; and finally, citizen input on the master plan as it came together.

Fundamental principles that would ultimately guide the plan’s development emerged early in the process, including:

  • Community space for all
  • Preservation of the historic core campus
  • Sustainability in all respects — environmental, social and economic
  • A wide range of complementing uses

From those principles came three key resident priorities under which individual initiatives have subsequently been categorized. Specifically:

  • Green space preservation and enhancement
  • Competition track and field and other recreational uses
  • Affordable housing

Balancing these sometimes conflicting priorities — a tall order under any circumstances — comprised the primary challenge addressed by both the community and, ultimately, the adopted plan.

Much Work Yet to be Done

Over the course of Commission questions, Planning Director Angela Threadgill clarified what should be expected in the months and years ahead, including annexation of the property, assignment of a zoning classification, establishment of an appropriate entity to manage the plan’s implementation over time, and work on the plan’s individual initiatives — some of which has already begun.

For example, in almost textbook-Decatur fashion, efforts towards creating a track and field facility, originally expected to be a long-term goal, began almost immediately, as interested groups of resident supporters have already formed to explore logistics, potential partners, and funding sources for the $4-7 million in anticipated costs.

Similarly, application and documentation for the property’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places has been completed as well for submittal in the new year.

Review the Plan

The complete plan, 250 pages in length, contains a wealth of history and process information together with goals, comprehensive task list, timing, and general cost projections. Take a look. You might find areas where your energy and talents can help to turn this ambitious vision into reality.

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