Vision for the town of Dunkirk’s future unfolds

Town of Dunkirk community members recently came to hear about the future of the place they all call home.

MRB Group Business Development Director Diana Smith and Project Manager Connie Sowards shed some light on what makes the town so unique at a recent public hearing held at JCC North Campus Training Center.

Supervisor Richard Purol said he believes this comprehensive plan will benefit the entire community.

“The reason for this is to hear the opinions residents have, and what they want to see going forward into the future,” he said. “We made this area commercial. Vineyard Drive is one of the busiest intersections.”

“We have talked about this for some time,” Planning Board member Jay Warren said. “We have a lot of resources in the town looking to develop this plan. We have a lot of open land and big economic development. I am very confident in the two groups (MRB Group and Environmental Design and Research) we have working with us.”

Smith presented the public with a step-by-step process for the vision of the community.

“The most tremendous resource you have is strong leadership,” she said. “The definition of a comprehensive plan is simply the discussion about quality of life. How do we not lose our identity and keep what we love about our community?”

According to Smith, there are several aspects of Dunkirk, which make it so unique: agricultural heritage, waterfront property, sense of place, open land and economy.

“Community members can assess why they want to live here,” Smith said. “Focus groups will talk about issues, strengths and trends in the area.”

“The goals are where you want to go and the objectives are how to get there,” she continued. “It is great to have vision to create tools to implement a plan.”

MRB Group is planning to have a draft of this plan ready by next summer, but from this point on, the community needs to get involved.

Residents can go to www.TownofDunkirkComprehensivePlan.org to take part in the discussion and see the plan process unfold.

Some questions MRB Group and EDR are asking residents is: What do you value the most about Dunkirk? What services are most important? What strengths should be considered? What are the challenges facing Dunkirk?

Residents will be asked to fill out surveys in the coming months; the steering committee will take all the input gathered throughout the community and apply it to the plan. The community is also asked to come to workshops, and public hearings to: have their voices heard.

It all boils down to how does the community want outsiders to view their hometown?

Planning Board member Craig Lyford is deeply concerned about the zoning board changing laws while the plan is in process.

“Don’t change the zones until we have a plan in place,” he said. “I want to see long-term goals, but if the zoning is going to change things, I won’t be able to participate in this.”

“If we are going to get involved in making this process, we can’t be disconnected,” he continued. “When we have problems, we deal with them. We are spending a lot of money on this plan and we can’t deal with it months before the plan is documented.”

Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Mourer stated these laws mentioned have been in the process of being changed long before he came into the position three years ago.

“Respect that I need to do my job, and continue to fix the problems on town taxpayers,” he said. “Zoning variances are meant to be hard to get. They should be almost impossible to get, and be a hardship to get through.”

“Changes need to be made,” he continued. “Putting a lot on hold is not the right thing to do, minor changes can be made and won’t affect the town plan. My job is to protect the taxpayers. You (Lyford) are a valuable asset to this committee, but respect what I have to do for my job.”

Board member Juan Pagan offered a parallel track between the plan and zoning.

“These issues are very important and have been delayed for a long time,” he said. “No conflict of interest; we should get together to discuss it. Help us enhance what we neglected in the past.”

Smith added everyone’s input is important and should be heard. The whole point of a plan is to hear everyone’s opinions, and the passion they feel for the town.

Comments on this article may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com