Specht: Where do we want to grow?

Specht

In recent days, I have had the privilege of meeting with several people who want to see Minden and Webster Parish grow. While it is an admirable goal, it is no easy task. We are in competition with various communities, both in our own backyard and throughout the nation.

Over the years, and even the past few weeks, there has been a “pushing back” against perceived progress.

People were up in arms over the construction of Minden’s Walmart at the corner of Homer Road and Country Club Circle.

People were up in arms about a proposed Walgreens at the corner of Homer Road and Broadway.

People were up in arms over the creation of Grace Estates in the old Rathbun House.

People are up in arms over a zoning change on Homer Road near Minden’s Historic Residential District.

People are up in arms over the burn chamber at Camp Minden.

And the list could go on and on.

The concerns raised, while important, are not the heart of the issue. In the simplest of terms, we do not know how we want to grow as a community.

It is long past time to develop a master plan for growth, both for Minden and all of Webster Parish. I was encouraged to learn of efforts to create such a plan in Minden’s economic development and TIF districts. However, the scope needs to be much larger.

As we look at our communities, we must ask, “Where do we want to grow?” Then we must drill down deeper and get specific:

Where do we want heavy industry to locate? Where are the best locations? How do we mitigate the current challenges at those locations?

Where do we want light industry to locate? Is there proper infrastructure to accommodate these industries, should we have a chance at landing them?

How do we want our retail base to expand? Should we grow toward Interstate 20? If so, how? Should we look toward our northeast for retail growth, since we are garnering more and more sales traffic from Claiborne Parish? And how do we minimize encroachment on our residential districts?

Speaking of residential, where should our next subdivisions locate? What would be the impact on roads, schools and others?

What do we do with our downtown, historic residential, and other districts moving forward?
nWhat plans are needed for school growth, building standards, signage, etc.?

This master plan would need to be formulated by experts in community growth and open to public comment. While it is impossible to keep politics completely out of any government process, we can keep it to a minimum.

A master plan is an expensive and tedious process. However, for our community to grow properly, it is imperative. All our public bodies should take part in the formation and expense of this process. However, we do not what a “horse built by committee.” That would be disastrous,

Why now? Because we aren’t growing, yet.

Can you imagine how easy it would be for those in economic development to court new businesses and industries if they could show a comprehensive plan? Just imagine how the decision maker would see our community.

But we have to have this plan before, not during or after. It reminds me of a story in the movie, “Facing the Giants.”

There were two farmers who desperately needed rain. Both farmers prayed to God for rain. But only one farmer went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which farmer had more faith in God?

Which one will we be?

David Specht is president of Specht Newspapers Inc. He may be reached via email at david@snimedia.com.

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