HAMLET — Several residents rounded the council chamber Wednesday to view and give input on the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
Various charts, schematics and plans were positioned around the room as Liza Monroe and Jay McLeod from WithersRavenel discussed a number of topics regarding the development plan.
Monroe and McLeod’s consulting firm is experienced in public sector planning.
Comprehensive planning is defined as “an ordered process that determines community goals and aspirations in terms of community development.”
“We’re doing land use planning for communities around the state,” said McLeod, “helping them achieve their dreams and futures trying to grow in the direction they want to grow.”
McLeod said that Hamlet has planted “seeds” worth cultivating.
“It’s a beautiful town,” said McLeod. “You can tell just by driving in. There’s great bones here and there are ways a town can help incentivize revitalization. We’re still here learning and we’re gonna see what we hear.”
WithersRavenel has had people doing research around Hamlet over the past several months.
“They’ve been on the ground taking a tour, but we’re still in the fact-finding phase and finding out what people care about,” McLeod said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the first of two planned to discuss the city’s vision for the future.
“The next meeting will be to roll out the information to the public to say “Here’s what we’ve learned and here’s what we heard and here’s what are our recommendations,’” said McLeod.
“Solutions aren’t the same everywhere,” he added. “You’ve got to make them fit the community they are in.”
Councilwoman Abbie Covington attended the open house and was encouraged with what she saw.
“Things that are going to be important to the people who live here are things that are aesthetically pleasing first,” said Covington. “Aesthetic changes to the streetscapes and to the downtown area are things that people can see.
“I think that changes people’s attitudes and it generates a whole lot of domino-type changes. It (revitalization) sets the tone.”
Covington feels that embracing the past can only encourage growth in the future.
“I think our initial niche is our history…John Coltrane and our railroad is a huge part of that history,” said Covington. “All those stories of our history can give the young people who live here a sense of our roots and history.”
Former county commissioner Pam Dillman is excited about the entire comprehensive plan.
“We have such history here and such phenomenal people who live here and why not take advantage of all these different things we have here,” said Dillman. “It’s so much fun to be able to walk down the street and have dinner or have a place to have music and that’s what all our communities are.
“This is the way we grow and make families happy and wanna be here.”
Dillman feels that building the concept of community will bring everyone together.
“The more information we have, to help each other bring this community together is what’s important,” said Dillman. “We still have that community, but there are things we can do to improve it.”
Rockingham Mayor John Hutchinson feels that growth of one community can result in a trickle-down effect for the other communities throughout the community.
“What’s good for Hamlet is good for all of Richmond County including Rockingham,” said Hutchinson. “The more strong, vibrant communities we have, the better off we all are.
“It’s great to see Hamlet sitting down and planning what they want their future to look like.”
NOTE: This story was updated 9:49 p.m. 3-29-23