â€śItâ€™s going to be really great for the town to see where we are, where we want to go and what we could do better,â€ť said Webster Mayor Nick Breedlove.
The grant can only be used for planning purposes. Any implementation of resulting recommendations would have to be tackled with other funds.
â€śLike you canâ€™t go out and buy a park bench,â€ť Breedlove explained. â€śIt has to be used for planning.â€ť
According to the townâ€™s grant application, a planning study will be conducted that â€śexamines walkability, town history and strengthening existing town ordinances.â€ť
â€śThe purpose of the project is to conduct an overall townwide walkability assessment, increase awareness and appreciation for the town history and develop a plan for the town of Webster,â€ť the grant application explains. â€śThis Plan will identify projects, programs and policies to improve health, by promoting walkability, and stimulate economic development for the town.â€ť
This is not new territory for Webster. The town board has considered ways to accomplish these ends before.
â€śThe town board did a planning retreat and have some ideas already,â€ť Breedlove said, â€śbut we want someone with a fresh set of eyes.â€ť
So, the town is using its grant to hire planner Don Kostelec. Heâ€™s familiar with the area â€” having done work in Sylva, and currently in Cullowhee â€” and Breedlove said the board felt confident in Kostelecâ€™s ability to produce a usable, tailor-made plan.
â€śOur board was very cautious in agreeing to do this study,â€ť the mayor said. â€śWe donâ€™t want to end up with a plan that gathers dust or a plan that is written for another town with Websterâ€™s name slapped on it.â€ť
Kostelec said he will be focusing on â€śsmall, bite-sized things they can work on.â€ť He mentions possibly making improvements to Buchanan Loop, a popular walking trail, or considering developing a brand and logo. A water fountain could enhance the town, and a library kiosk might encourage socialization.
â€śLittle things like that,â€ť Kostelec said.
The planning study began in August and will wrap up next March. It will entail fieldwork and public input. At that point, Webster will consider the recommendations â€” which Kostelec says will be â€śtangibleâ€ť â€” that arise from the planning study and how best to accomplish them.