Off and Running:
Workshop launches with flourish

More than 80 folks turned out on a rainy Thursday night, September 8, for the kick-off of a weeklong workshop to shape the future of the Ranson/Charles Town region.

The evening was part celebration of what’s already taken place, the coming-together of the two towns in an historic planning effort, and part introduction to an intensive week of collaboration.

The celebration inched up a notch or two Thursday night when Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill announced to the crowd at Washington High School in Charles Town that Ranson had been chosen to receive an additional $1.5 million grant, plus a $3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The money will help redevelop a former factory site.

Added to the $1.5 million already funding the week’s workshop planning, the new money means federal agencies are investing a total of $6 million in Ranson and Charles Town with the conviction that this region is a good place to leverage taxpayer dollars to create economic opportunity and shape more compact, walkable, livable places for broad cross-sections of people.

“These are cities on the right track,” said the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mathy Stanislaus, one of a half-dozen federal officials on hand for the planning workshop launch.

Ben Brown interviews Mathy Stanislaus post-presentation.

Former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, president of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute, delivered the evening’s keynote address. He lauded the Ranson/Charles Town partnership as a key example of the type of planning that’s necessary in an era in which community ambitions must pass the bang-for-the-buck test before they can be supported by public or private investment.

From the federal agencies to local communities, planning and engineering officials know they have to consolidate efforts and focus on getting the most results from diminished resources. Planning in silos is out; collaboration is in.

The Obama Administration’s commitment to a multi-agency Partners in Sustainable Communities initiative is evidenced in grants like the ones that have made the Ranson/Charles Town project possible. To address the workshop’s goals in a comprehensive way, the towns have combined targeted funding from the EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and HUD.

To get a sense of the goals of specific components of the project funded by the separate grants, check out the column to the immediate right. And follow the path to this point in the posts preceding this one.

Over the next six days, a team of consulting planners and designers will work alongside Ranson and Charles Town city staffs, property owners, developers and residents to test ideas and draft plans that integrate goals for growth in harmony with community character. To see the full array of opportunities to participate directly, check out the week’s schedule. And even if you can’t be with us in person, follow and comment on the daily updates here on these web pages.