Citizens offer input on strategic community development plan

Halen Doughty
Attendees placed stickers next to the goals they felt were most important

Gonzales residents gathered at the newly-renovated civic center to offer their input on the strategic plan for the future development of the city. A strategic planning steering committee hosted the town hall on Tuesday night, where citizens were asked about transportation, education, community services, economic development, and quality of life in Gonzales.

The city has been working with Louisiana Economic Development through the Louisiana Development Ready Communities program. The program seeks to help cities get ready for economic development projects.

Stacey Neal with LDRC said everybody wants a new plant that brings a thousand new jobs to the area. But the first thing she asks is, is the city ready for one thousand new residents? She said the program looks at housing options and infrastructure, as well as other quality of life factors, to market the city as a good place to do business. The program's objective is to put the city in a position that it is ready to welcome new companies and their employees.

The meeting began with a review of the survey results from a poll asking residents and business owners to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the city from an economic development standpoint. Retail and restaurants in the city were named as the top strength, with the people making up the community listed as the second strength. Schools and the city's proximity to both Baton Rouge and New Orleans were also listed, with city government and trust in local police and firefighters rounding out the list.

The top weakness, according to the survey, is traffic and roads. Drainage and flooding were another big concern. Blight, especially along Burnside, was also named, and over growth of subdivisions made up the remaining weaknesses identified in the poll.

Citizens in attendance at the town hall prioritized their goals for the future of the city. A multi-use facility was the top priority for residents, as the center could be used for recreation and after-school activities. Creating a magnet school, developing a community gym, and creating ordinances to deal with blight were among the top goals.

Creating more after school programs, promoting enrollment at River Parishes Community College, and raising awareness of services offered by the city were also a the top of the list. Finding ways to boost Uber and other ride sharing services was a key priority. Bringing back video poker was named as one method of funding the goals outlined at the meeting.

When the steering committee meets again, members will begin outlining a plan of action to implement these goals. The strategic plan will be presented to the Gonzales City Council later this summer.

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