City staff issues apology about downtown master plan process

Kevin PowellCity

This week there are a series of public meetings about the downtown master plan.  There were also a series of invitation-only focus group meetings held with various representatives of particular stakeholder segments and the City’s master plan consultant, Houseal Lavigne Associates.  In hindsight, and as appropriately noted by the City Commission and members of the public at the City Commission meeting last evening, these focus group meetings lacked transparency and were inconsistent with an open process.  Diane Stoddard, Assistant City Manager, stated “I take full responsibility for this error in process. This master plan is extremely important for the future of our downtown and we want to engage input from everyone.”

To address this, the City published the list of these focus group meetings on the project website (under “focus group meetings”), along with the individuals or organizations included in the invitation lists.  There is one focus group remaining, with the goal of seeking input from youth high school age and younger.  That drop-in focus group, which is open to the public, is scheduled from 2-3:30 pm today in Meeting Room C at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont Street. Also, the consultants are gathering notes from the focus group meetings and will be posted on the website once available and summarized in the consultant’s final report.  The city is working with the consultant, Houseal Lavigne Associates to enhance and expand future community outreach and the public engagement aspect of the project.  Information will be released soon regarding additional outreach.

The public is encouraged to attend this evening’s community meeting to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium, 707 Vermont Street, or the downtown business and property owner meeting to be held tomorrow morning from 7:30 to 9:00 am in the City Commission room at City Hall.  These meetings will be held regardless of weather conditions.  The public is also invited to engage via online surveys and an interactive online mapping tool available through the project website,  Anyone interested can also sign up for future notification of meetings about the master plan at the website.