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Amherst MA: A New Village Plan for Atkins Corner - page 9 / 13





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Smart Growth Leadership Case Library

such as the wood turtle. According to Dodson’s Cutting, environmental impacts continue to be a concern, and the design team did their best to address these issues in the final design.

The Second Meeting. A month later, Dodson Associates held a day-long design “charette” with members of the public, the working group, and professional consultants who volunteered to provide guidance. The team presented “a wide range of design alternatives for the study parcels . . . . Each was accompanied by land-use diagrams, build-out figures with square footage and parking spaces, and an illustrative plan inserted into the GIS photo base of the surrounding area.” Dodson Associates used tracings to overlay the different options and give people excellent visuals of these. Several options for road realignment were included, each affording dense development near Atkins Farm Market with permanent open spaces on parcels of visual or environmental concern.

The second half of the meeting was devoted to small group break-out sessions, with members of the public randomly assigned to teams. Working group members and volunteer professionals were then assigned to answer questions and guide discussion. According to Cutting, assigning people randomly was a key consensus-building strategy. “It keeps people of the same mindset from grouping up, where they can become entrenched. It forces people of different opinions to get to know each other; you’re more likely to work things out with people that way.”

The teams worked on the road realignment options and a “visual preference survey,” in which they examined photographs of building types, neighborhoods, and road features, indicating what they liked and didn’t like. Throughout, Dodson provided aerial photographs and perspective renderings of the site under current conditions and under implementation of a number of design concepts. This, combined with the GIS visuals, build-outs, and tracings, gave people a firm understanding of what change would look like. “Giving people visuals takes them from saying, ‘No! No change!’ to saying, ‘I don’t like this feature, can we change it to this?’ It gets people invested in the work,” according to LaCour.


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