Planning board worries efforts being duplicated

JOHNSTOWN – City Planning Board members are concerned area business groups might be duplicating planning efforts they are trying to achieve, at least with downtown Johnstown merchants.

The board met at City Hall on Tuesday with the intention of conducting its second “vision-strategic plan session” regarding the city’s Central Business District.

Downtown business leaders and property owners in the first session on April 2 provided the board with ideas on how to improve the Main Street area. The dialogue is part of an overall strategy to solicit ideas from business leaders to aid the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Passed around at the board meeting Tuesday were copies of a letter from an entity trying to get input from downtown businesses.

Board members said the CEO Roundtable or the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce might be soliciting ideas from Johnstown businesses, similar to what the city is trying to do.

Planning board Chairman Peter K. Smith said his board has an obligation to make a report to the Common Council in connection with the Comprehensive Plan and doesn’t want to delay its work.

“It’s nice if we could finish up our job and not have to follow through until Christmas,” Smith said.

City Attorney Susan Palmer Johnson said the board should investigate to determine who is contacting local businesses with this “outreach.”

“They need to reach out to us,” Johnson said.

The board said it will follow through by contacting the chamber.

A Fulton County official last week also weighed in on downtown business.

The area needs a downtown revitalization plan, preferably done by a professional consultant, the official told supervisors.

County Planning Director James Mraz, also executive director of the Fulton County Industrial Development Agency, discussed down revitalization with the Board of Supervisors’ Economic Development and Environment Committee at the County Office Building.

Mraz noted the 2011 Regional Business Plan done by Fulton and Montgomery County civic and business leaders identified revitalization of the downtowns of Gloversville, Johnstown and Amsterdam as a key component to move the area forward. He noted the CEO Roundtable group last fall sponsored a city revitalization symposium, In its April meeting, he said that group also sponsored a seminar stressing a downtown revitalization plan is needed, and he concurs.

He said professional expertise would be “vital” to developing a plan if both of Fulton County’s cities – Gloversville and Johnstown – pursue such an initiative.

“We’re in the process of looking at that particular program,” Mraz said.

He said a downtown revitalization plan is critically important to create a vision for what local cities want their downtowns to be. He said it allows potential investors to see that vision in and seek downtown development opportunities. Mraz said it would also provide a strategy to achieve that vision.