Does Cabot need redefining? What direction should city leaders be going? Questions, rather than answers, were the object of an informal meeting, Friday, which became the city council’s newest committee by the time the discussion was finished.
Alderman Kevin Davis spearheaded the meeting intended to discuss community development. Mayor Bill Cypert and aldermen Ed Long and Ryan Flynn were at the meeting as well as operations director Eddie Cook. Aldermen Dallan Buchanan and Ann Gilliam were invited but unable to come.
By the time the meeting was finished, Cypert designated the group as the Community Development Committee to be added to the current City Council Committees. Davis is chairman, Flynn is vice-chairman with Long, Buchannan and Gilliam as committee members.
Cypert announced the committee and appointments in a press release Monday.
The committee members are to establish a long-term strategy for what the community is to look like in the near, mid-range, and long-term future. The scope is in business development support strategy and function.
“This will include a vision for retail, commercial, and industrial development plus the quality of life amenities that support our already existent industry of rooftops,” Cypert said.
Comment and suggestions from residents as well as the retail and commercial sector to develop a view of what the community is to look like in the next 25 years, Cypert said.
“This will be promoted on the Cabot website home page as well as making available an e-mail address for input,” he said.
The press release noted that town hall meetings would be considered as a means for residents to comment on plans, make suggestions and meet with committee members and other city officials.
“Substantial efforts have been made in the last three years to continue the evolution of the strategic planning process from a reactive mode to a very proactive mode,” Cypert said. “The community development function will be the capstone to maintain a viable and proactive mode of strategic planning and development.”
Davis opened Friday’s meeting saying it was intended as a brainstorming session, and posed a series of questions. Is community development needed? Is relying on Little Rock Air Force Base and the schools to bring people to the area the way to continue? If so, how can it be done better? If another way, what would it be?
“What do we need to do? … If we develop community, then it keeps people here,” Davis remarked.
Flynn asked about what has been done in the past? “What has been most effective?” he asked.
The BMX track is “big,” Davis said. “It’s bigger than a lot of people think.”
Cook referred to earlier plans to turn the area into an extensive regional park with ball facilities and other services.
The studies and plans that were drawn up for the park were funded by the Cabot Advertising and Promotion Committee (A&P), Cook said. “It ended more desirable as a passive park … We still have copies of the plans.”
Some of the long-range ideas for the park, such as an amphitheater, trails and camping, are still being pursued by the Parks and Recreation Commission, Cook said.
Flynn said his experience is that people are looking for more services such as restaurants to come to the area. “When are we going to get more restaurants? When are we going to get a better place to shop,” are the questions he gets, Flynn said.
Long said efforts to bring industry into the area have been made, but gained little progress. Although, having the Cabot Commerce Center was a deciding factor in building a National Guard Readiness Center in the city, he said.
“The two biggest industries we have here … is the school, and because of the school, we have residences. Rooftops as the mayor likes to call it, that have driven [growth],” he said.
“The school is the largest employer we’ve got,” Long remarked.
Cypert pointed out that there remain infrastructure needs still remaining from the strong growth periods the city saw for nearly two decades.
Balancing economic and community development with the capital improvements the city will have to make calls for careful planning, Cypert said. With that he said he would appoint a Community Development Committee to put a plan together, and appointed Davis, Flynn, Long, Buchannan and Gilliam as committee members.