What: Town of Summerville Planning Commission public hearing
When: 4 p.m. Monday
Where: Summerville Town Hall Training Room, 200 S. Main St., Summerville
Details: The commission will hold a public hearing and then consider a request to amend the town's current Comprehensive Plan 2009-2011 with the Vision Plan as an update that details the potential strategies.
In the first 10 years of this century, the town of Summerville moved from the 14th largest city in the state to the seventh.
That was enough to make town officials realize they needed to have a plan.
"We know growth has been phenomenal," said Madelyn Robinson, director of planning for the town. "It's not slowing down. We know it's going to grow and we can either get run over or take the time to say, 'We know it's coming. How do we handle it?'"
Since last summer the town has been working with the Lawrence Group to come up with a Vision Plan as a supplement to the town's Comprehensive Plan 2009-2011. It looks at housing, transportation, infrastructure, parks, playgrounds and business development as might be in 2040.
Now officials are sharing the vision with the community with a public hearing on Monday.
The plan calls for street improvements, trail enhancements and extensions and new and improved parks in addition to development in downtown, Oakbrook and the as-yet-unbuilt Sheep Island interchange area. It also mentions the possibility of a possible civic center for conventions or weddings.
"The town has never before planned beyond the Comprehensive Plan," said Monica Holmes, project manager for the Lawrence Group. "This plan aims to look at some of those things in a little bit closer detail."
She called it a roadmap for growth.
"This is not just about having a Summerville that's a bedroom community, but looking at Summerville holistically and figuring out how we can make it an economic engine for the region," she said.
The consultants were "able to come in and see things that maybe we don't see because we see it every day," Robinson said. "They were able to identify some simple things the town can do."
For instance, it suggests a facelift for Hutchinson Square that would include seating areas and a fountain.
The plan suggests redefining the downtown and Oakbrook areas, improving crosswalks, looking at residential density and design standards throughout the town, and redesigning entrances to the town.
"You have an opportunity with Sheep Island," Holmes said. "What the entrance looks like is very important because it's your do-over. It's your chance to right all the wrongs of North Main Street and you have to do it right the first time so you don't have to spend five times as much money to come back and fix it 10 years from now."
North Main Street has become a hodge-podge of shopping centers and restaurants.
Summerville has long been a bedroom community and 60 percent of its residents currently leave the town to work, Robinson said, but now "we are recognizing the need for people who live here to be able to work here."
After the plan was presented to the public last week, some residents balked at a suggestion that includes a possible 880 additional homes in downtown Summerville, saying the town's infrastructure couldn't handle such growth.
"There is one sentence on page 74 of the 134-page plan in a section called 'Infill Housing,' that mentions 880 houses," Robinson said. It mostly addresses the area north of the railroad tracks, not in the historic section of town, she said. "All this area is already zoned to allow for that type of housing and has been since 1980s. It could happen today."
Mayor Bill Collins said he will use the vision in planning for the town's future.
"If we are to maintain the special small town atmosphere Summerville has enjoyed for 166 years, we must find a plan to manage this growth," he wrote on the town's website. "This new Vision Plan will enhance what we have and provide suggestions for steps we can take going forward on development."
But officials also caution that it is not a concrete plan.
"We are not going to adopt it and start doing everything in here," Robinson said. "No community can do all of this. It's almost like a wish list, but we're very excited about some of the opportunities."
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.