More street lights, more law enforcement, a walking and bike path between town and school, proper restoration of the covered bridge, a new library and more downtown parking were common hopes expressed by Felton residents at a town meeting Tuesday, March 19.
More than 120 valley residents packed into a meeting room at Felton Community Hall to voice concerns and share ideas about Felton’s future to 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPherson and several Santa Cruz County planners who have dusted off the 1987 Felton Town Plan to see what Felton residents wish to focus on.
The plan was created to guide the town’s growth and offer goals for future development.
Renee Shepherd, McPherson’s representative on the county planning commission, was at Tuesday’s meeting and was also part of the process to create the original plan in the mid-1980s.
She pointed out that some items from the plan have been completed, including burying utility wires in the town core, creating a summer farmer’s market, instituting proper zoning for horse stables near the covered bridge and building Felton Covered Bridge Park.
“We in Felton have always done what we wanted to do,” Shepherd told the audience.
Other accomplishments included the institution of development standards and design guidelines to create conformity in the town core and mapping the town’s flood plain and open space.
But some things from the 1987 plan are still not accomplished, said Samantha Haschert, a development review planner for the county.
She noted some improvements on Highway 9, including a middle turn lane in downtown, a safe pedestrian and bike route from Felton to Santa Cruz, and relocating the Felton library to a larger facility were not complete.
Several county employees shared what the planning department is doing to help push business growth forward in the county.
Barbara Mason, who was hired nine months ago as the county’s first economic development coordinator, has begun to meet with business groups to determine strategies to improve commerce in the county.
Kathy Previsich, the county planning director, said that the permitting process has already been streamlined and there is a new use and structure ordinance that has made it easier for businesses to remodel. She said getting permits to improve a business is still not cheap, but should be easier than in the past.
“If you do have plans to improve your residence or business, give us another shot, because we want to work with you,” she said.
McPherson who was elected in November called the meeting to gauge residents’ priorities in relation to the town plan. His office will return in several months with a laundry list of projects that he will have the county work on.
Felton business owner John Fasolas suggested clearing all the brush along the San Lorenzo River in Felton so the river can be accessed from the Covered Bridge Park.
George Wylie of Brookdale asked about the Felton Library, which was conceived in the 1987 plan. McPherson said a countywide bond measure will likely be needed before the library could be built, adding one could potentially be placed on the Nov. 2014 ballot.
Brian Largay, an advocate for a bike and walking path between downtown Felton and the San Lorenzo Valley High School campus, said that plan is still in the works.
McPherson said the county is pursuing Safe Routes to School funding to pay for the improvements.
Other concerns included angling parking spaces on Highway 9, adding parking on side streets, increasing the width of sidewalks, adding more streetlights at the south end of town and repairing the roof of the covered bridge.
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