Several dozen people, mostly from the surrounding neighborhood, got their first introduction Thursday to what a medical neighborhood near Campbell County Memorial Hospital might one day look like.
The informal gathering at the Campbell County Senior Center was the start of the city of Gillette’s senior/medical neighborhood planning project.
The goal of the plan would be to help guide future construction and development in the neighborhood south of Second Street, north of Interstate 90 and west of 4J Road.
“This (meeting) was to kick off the process, to get people to participate and sort of commit themselves to the process at the beginning,” said Marty Shukert, with RDG Planning & Design of Omaha, Neb., which is heading the planning process.
While there was much interest in how a neighborhood plan would help guide development, one of the first topics mentioned by many of the residents was their displeasure with the plan to put Pioneer Manor at the old recreation center.
“I’m mainly concerned about the Pioneer Manor being at busy Highway 59,” said Marian Neugebauer, a nearby resident who was not alone in voicing her displeasure. It was not lost on Shukert.
“We know the Pioneer Manor issue is really preeminent right now,” Shukert said. “It’s something we’re really not involved in. This is, in a way, a bigger process that just that.”
The bigger process is trying to develop a path for development in the area, Shukert said. If the City Council adopted a neighborhood plan, it would help guide redevelopment of property in the area as that property is sold.
“The plan becomes the template for development decisions. It really provides guidance for everybody,” Shukert said. “It provides suggestions to property owners of possibilities (for development).”
People were asked to write out their ideas for the neighborhood so the planners could address all of their concerns.
Sue Deaton, who lives in Cottonwood Terrace, said she appreciated the information the meeting provided to her and her neighbors. She thought the plan should include more housing and perhaps even a small store — something that Shukert said was a possibility.
“I think (a plan) is an excellent idea,” Deaton said.
While RDG has worked on numerous neighborhood plans across the country, Shukert said the neighborhood next to the hospital presents some unique challenges.
“The thing that’s unusual about this area is the amount of land that’s in flux. We’re in an area that’s quiet, high density and very high value and there are a lot of uses in it that reflect an earlier period,” he said. “I mean you would never, in 2012, put a school bus maintenance facility in an area that’s close to this gigantic medical center.”
The next step in the plan will be for RDG to come back at least twice this fall to present neighborhood residents with their ideas. Shukert said he wanted to make sure the neighborhood’s desires and concerns were being met during each stage of the process.
“I much prefer working on site than working in my office because they’re subtleties to look at,” Shukert said. “That gives us a chance, while the ideas are in progress, for people to interact with that process and tell us, ‘you’re going down the wrong path’ or ‘have you thought of this.’”
Michael Surface, the senior planner for the city who helped lead the discussion, said he was extremely pleased with the turnout.
“People are very interested in the neighborhood,” Surface said.