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Folsom turning to residents for planning feedback, input

By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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FOLSOM, CA - Arm chair critics of city leaders are being asked to get involved to help plan the Folsom’s vision for the next quarter century.

Last updated in 1988, the city’s general plan is due for a dusting off and update, which is what’s prompted a new public outreach campaign.

There is now a new town hall forum at www.townhall.Folsom2035.com as well as a website at Folsom2035.com.

State law requires every city and county to have a general plan. Officials are looking at this as a two-year process.

“Since 1988, Folsom has evolved from a small town into a vibrant mid-sized community with wonderful neighborhoods and schools, extensive recreational opportunities, a strong base of employers and exciting shopping, dining and entertainment options,” said City Manager Evert Palmer. “Our updated general plan will build on our successes and help move us forward with improvements that will promote sustainable development patterns.”

Some of the hot topics include the plan for the development south of Highway 50, the newest area in city limits, as well as tackle new state mandates regarding greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and flood safety planning.

David Miller, who oversees the public works and community development department, said social media has sparked new ways the city is reaching out to residents.

“What we’re looking at now is how we give the public a chance to let us know what they like and what they’d like the city to look like in 25 years,” he said. “We often always hear from people who come to a public forum or meeting who want to advance their own agenda, which usually has a narrow focus. We want people who can log in from the comfort of their own living rooms to have input.”

Miller also envisions focus groups of people who have expertise in certain areas to get their input as well, but the major effort is to get the average Folsom resident to give their feedback.

“The people giving input and their broad-based opinions is what we’re looking for,” Miller said. “We often hear from the same people.”
To cast a wider net, they’ve retained the services of Mintier Harnish, a consulting firm who was already busy at work on another project in the city.

“Since we were already using them for the housing element, some of this overlaps, so it seemed easier to just keep it with one company rather than paying two to do some of the same services,” Miller said.

Chelsey Norton, project manager with the consulting firm, said they are focused on public outreach.

“The website (Folsom2035.com) and town hall forum are ways to get residents involved in the conversation,” Norton said. “Right now we’re asking, what are the major challenges? What are the major assets? We’re asking for specific input. We’ll start to hone in more specifically as the project progresses.”

She said with social media, it’s much easier to gain feedback.

“Before social media, we relied on meeting attendance,” she said. “The forum gives us a way to reach a broader segment of the community. This gives people a chance to have a voice and take ownership of the future of the city.”

She said it’s a good way to check out the general mood of the residents.

“For us, it’s taking the pulse of the community,” Norton said. “It’s a very easy platform, a lot like Facebook.”

She said it’s also a way to make an otherwise dry city function more accessible.

“The planning process can seem really abstract,” Norton said. “This is an easy process for people to give feedback.”

Miller said they already know much about what people like.

“Residents are passionate about their schools, parks and trails,” he said. “We feel … (Folsom) is a special place in the region.”

To learn more, visit Folsom2035.com.