CLEVELAND, Tenn. - More than 60 people met at the Museum Center at Five Points this week for the public kickoff of long-range planning for Bradley County, Cleveland and Charleston.
The participants broke into work groups Monday night to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and concerns involving three key areas expected to encounter significant change in the next 20 years: southern Bradley County near Interstate 75, the Mouse Creek corridor in northern Bradley County, and the central city area of Cleveland.
"I want to be very clear: we're not calling for that change, we're not creating that change," said Gregory Dale, a planning consultant working with the county and two cities.
Some attendees questioned the forces driving the need for comprehensive planning and even the workgroup discussion process itself.
Dale and his associate, Emily Crow, cited market forces and the region's ability to sustain renewable energy and manufacturing as key elements that will increase the county's population, housing and jobs. Current trends, they said, would result in up to 33,000 new residents, 14,000 new housing units and 19,000 new jobs by 2035.
"What this process is all about is just helping you, as a series of communities, think through how you want to prepare for that change," Dale said.
Crow said the public input offered in the workgroups would be analyzed and presented to local planning officials in March.
Cleveland Senior Planner Paul Corder described the next immediate steps in long-range planning as a "recipe" that will be used to figure out how the local governments best can accommodate the expected growth in a coordinated manner.
On Tuesday morning, study committees composed of government, planning, and business officials met to identify objectives for those areas. Some of those needs involve concerns on residential quality of life and economic development.
The interchange of APD-40 and Interstate 75 at exit 20 was noted as a priority during the committee session. A proposed industrial park in southern Bradley County likely will depend on the exit as the quickest, most accessible route to the interstate.
A plan for schools also was listed during the session. Both Cleveland and Bradley County school system officials say they need a new elementary school -- one in the south for the county and one in the north for the city.
Planning officials said that the public input into the comprehensive planning strategies will occur over nine months, with the next meetings scheduled for April and August.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.