$1.4 Million Ranson-Charles Town Plan Making Major News

The Eastern Panhandle cities are at the heart of a project to make the growing region greener and more sustainable.

The news release touting next week’s series of workshops to outline a greener future for this Jefferson County community notes that “even the White House has been blogging about it.”

The White House Blog does, in fact, describe the planning under way in Ranson as a national model, right alongside a project in Boston. Both are major initiatives in President Barack Obama’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

“This is a really big deal,” said Ben Brown of North Carolina-based Placemakers, a planning firm working on Ranson Renewed, which starts next week with a seven-day workshop blitz.

“This is the kind of project all planners love to be involved in,” he said. “It’s ambitious and a real opportunity to make a difference — to change a community and people’s lives for the better.”

Federal grant money from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation will pay for a seven-day series of intense workshops that begins Sept. 8 and will include a bevy of international experts.

The end result, Brown said, will be a blueprint that makes Ranson and Charles Town thriving, green, livable communities for the coming century.

The $1.4 million in federal funding also will pay for planning and engineering costs associated with major projects for Ranson and neighboring Charles Town, including a new Fairfax Boulevard-George Street Corridor to make the commercial corridor bike- and pedestrian-friendly, as well as a commuter center near the historic Jefferson County Courthouse that will allow residents easy access to bus and train service.

“It just makes sense to look at downtown redevelopment, housing and transportation planning in a comprehensive way. They’re all connected,” Brown said. “The federal government has been encouraging communities to look at planning as a way to save taxpayer money.

“Because this is an area with a long history and a promising future where growth is still happening even with the economic downturn, this is an ideal place to work out these kinds of issues.”

Ranson’s acting city manager Andrew P. Blake said the Ranson Renewed initiative will kick off Sept. 8 with a keynote speech by former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who has been an outspoken proponent of green growth through the Smart Growth Leadership Institute.

His speech begins at 7 p.m. in the Washington High School auditorium.

On Sept. 9, residents and consultants will meet in focus groups to brainstorm possibilities. On Sept. 11, working drawings will go on display at the Independent Fire Hall.

The following night, the plan calls for a joint meeting of the Ranson and Charles Town city councils. A closing presentation is scheduled for Sept. 14 at the Old Opera House in Charles Town.

By the end of 2012, Ranson Renewed will position the cities to apply for grants to implement the changes settled on during the workshops, Blake said.

“We’ll come out of this week with a really strong first draft of what citizens, business leaders and other community stakeholders want for Ranson,” Brown said.

For details, go to http://ransonrenewed.com

Source / Fuente: http://www.wtrf.com

Author / Autor: Christine Miller Ford

Date / Fecha: 31/08/11

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