More than 50 students met this past Wednesday to discuss revisions for the Blacksburg 2006-2046 Comprehensive Plan.
Wesley Hill and Kate Gerwig, both Virginia Tech public and urban affairs majors and interns with the town, coordinated Wednesday’s meeting.
“People have tried doing this before, but haven’t had the process down or people to do it. We were extra interns and we are planning on passing this on to someone else next year,” Gerwig said.
Hill said they attempted to move the discussion into classrooms.
“We were trying to get a feel for a way to do this continually. We want to take this and make it a semester-by-semester occurrence campus wide,” Hill said. “We had double the amount of people this time than past meetings.”
The meeting was spent discussing four major topics: neighborhood planning, community design, transportation and historic preservation.
Students were broken up into groups and spent 15 minutes in discussion groups for each topic. All information was recorded and sent to the town council so when the review occurs in 2011, the student voice will be recognized.
Those attending the event were asked to fill out a survey beforehand rating each topic as great, good, fair or bad. The survey determined what topics were discussed based on what received the most negative feedback.
“It allowed us to focus on bigger problems. With semester-to-semester meetings we can broaden the scope covered,” Hill said.
Karen Drake, a planner for the town, spends time visiting eighth-graders, 12th-graders, and senior citizens in the area. The meeting on Wednesday targeted the Tech student population.
“We all have different needs and perspectives on how the town should develop,” Drake said.
Gerwig noted the need for a strong relationship between students and residents of the town.
“The student population is growing and Blacksburg is a town, not just where Virginia Tech is,” Gerwig said.
Diversity also weighed into the discussion.
“Students come here from all over. Diversity helps to make a place better and build a stronger community,” Hill said.
State code requires the town to review the plan every five years.
“Versions of comprehensive plans began in the ‘70s or ‘80s. (Since then) 96 major updates occurred and established Blacksburg 2046,” Drake said.
In Drake’s speech she asked the students, “What do we want Blacksburg to look like?”
Students were engaged in each 15 minute session to discuss what changes should be made in the town. Topics discussed included the Harding bus route, town aesthetics, bike paths, gateways, shared green space and making the original 16 blocks better known.