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Webster embarks on planning study

How can Webster be improved? What would make it more walkable? What would encourage community socialization? 

Town leaders aim to find out. Having secured a $5,000 Southwestern Commission Toolbox Implementation Fund grant — and matching it with another $5,000 — they are pursuing a planning study in an effort to map out some possible changes to consider.

“It’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,” 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. 

“Like you can’t go out and buy a park bench,” Breedlove explained. “It has to be used for planning.”

According to the town’s grant application, a planning study will be conducted that “examines walkability, town history and strengthening existing town ordinances.”

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“The 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,” the grant application explains. “This Plan will identify projects, programs and policies to improve health, by promoting walkability, and stimulate economic development for the town.” 

This is not new territory for Webster. The town board has considered ways to accomplish these ends before. 

“The town board did a planning retreat and have some ideas already,” Breedlove said, “but we want someone with a fresh set of eyes.”

So, the town is using its grant to hire planner Don Kostelec. He’s familiar with the area — having done work in Sylva, and currently in Cullowhee — and Breedlove said the board felt confident in Kostelec’s ability to produce a usable, tailor-made plan.

“Our board was very cautious in agreeing to do this study,” the mayor said. “We don’t want to end up with a plan that gathers dust or a plan that is written for another town with Webster’s name slapped on it.” 

Kostelec said he will be focusing on “small, bite-sized things they can work on.” 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. 

“Little things like that,” 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 — which Kostelec says will be “tangible” — that arise from the planning study and how best to accomplish them.

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