Businesses’ ideas sought for Johnstown plan

JOHNSTOWN – The city Planning Board on Tuesday strategized about how to begin soliciting ideas from downtown business owners about improving the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The board in December began an initial review of the plan, which was adopted in 2008. It must by law be reviewed every five years, and it charges the Planning Board with developing a strategy for the central business district, which is downtown.

The district is bordered by North and South Melcher streets to the west, Washington Street and West and East Green streets to the north, Union Place and East State Street to the east, and West Clinton to the south.

In its meeting Tuesday at City Hall, the board discussed sending out letters to business owners to solicit their feedback about improving downtown and strengthening the plan. The board also is considering sending out surveys about downtown issues.

The board decided to meet initially with a few business owners at its next meeting April 4.

Board member Fred Franko suggested four to six initial business owners to sit down with.

City Attorney Susan Palmer Johnson said the board might want to talk immediately to longtime downtown business owners, such as those running a restaurant or bookstore.

“There’s a lot of longevity for some of these folks on Main Street,” Johnson said.

She said the board should avoid large, unwieldy discussion groups if it can, but also let businesses know there will be multiple, future smaller sessions.

“You make it clear that this is going to be a repeat process,” Johnson said.

Franko added: “I don’t think we would turn anyone away.”

The board developed a letter to be sent out, which in part states: “Over the course of the next few months, we will be inviting commercial property and business owners/operators to small discussion groups with the planning board. These sessions are limited in size to help promote discussion, but are not intended to be exclusive in any way … At the conclusion of these preliminary sessions, we will be conducting one or more workshops, open to all, to outline and finalize our conclusions and make recommendations to modify the Comprehensive Plan.”