“What’s Next Davidson”: Town Solicits Student Help

Kaizad Irani ‘22

Staff Writer

Upon returning back from winter break, Davidson students received an email from the Student Government Association (SGA) asking for student input on the Town of Davidson’s “What’s Next Davidson” initiative. Started last fall, “What’s Next Davidson” is a movement partnered with members of the Davidson community and local officials to update the town’s comprehensive plan. 

A comprehensive plan is a general document that aims to inform decisions and guide policy initiatives in a community. In the town’s case, according to the “What’s Next Davidson” website, the comprehensive plan should “help understand our historical context; identify current or anticipated issues; evaluate options for how to best proceed; and, establish a set of recommendations to accomplish our aims.” The website also states that Davidson’s current comprehensive plan is outdated, as it was last updated in 2010. 

Cristina Shaul is the Communications Director for the Town of Davidson and a leading voice in “What’s Next Davidson.” She expressed the importance of a movement like this for the Davidson community.

“We are at a crossroads,” said Shaul. “Growth is happening all around us and within Davidson, and this is our chance to examine how we want Davidson to be and look in the future. It is critical that we all work together to create a vision and a plan to guide decision-making for the future to benefit our entire community.”

“What’s Next Davidson” is split into four phases. The first phase took place during 2018 and involved preparation and publicization. Phase two began last month and is titled “Technical Analysis.” It involves the creation of workshops and surveys to garner input from members of the community. The entire process is scheduled to finish in early 2020. 

 The first community-wide workshop took place on January 17th. The goal was to cover a variety of issues facing the community, such as economic growth and housing, and foster participation from members of the community using activities such as live polling, small group discussion, and interactive displays. 

“We had over 170 people attend the workshop in the Lilly Family Gallery and the room was full of energy,” expressed Shaul. “ People came ready to participate and they really seemed to like the interactive polling tool that showed results in the real time, as well were very eager to share their thoughts on Davidson’s future in the small group discussions.” 

Shaul shared how important it is for “What’s Next Davidson” to get input from Davidson College students. SGA Town Liaison Wilson Pava ‘19 was responsible for sharing the initiative with students and trying to link the student body with the town’s mission.

“As Town Liaison, I try to keep the SGA up to date on major things going on with town, especially if they present a clear implication for campus issues,” said Pava. “Student participation in What’s Next Davidson is a great way of influencing the town and ensuring that a student voice is a part of the permanent plan going forward.”

“Davidson College makes up about 15% of our total population, so it is very important for students to weigh in on the future of Davidson,” shared Shaul. “Some of the topics on which we’d like input are affordable housing, employment, and transportation. Students offer a unique perspective that we need to consider when creating a vision and plan for the town.” 

Students can get involved by taking an online survey at www.whatsnextdavidson.com and attending a multi-day workshop on April 1st-3rd at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Additionally, Pava and the SGA will be sharing more information with students as the town finishes processing the results of the survey and meetings and begin to draft the new plan. 

“I have spoken with community leaders from various parts of town about specific aspects of the comprehensive plan, especially around environmental and land use questions, as part of the broader attempt to be aware of ongoing conversations outside of campus,” said Pava. “If students have any questions, they should feel free to reach out to me and I can get them in touch with the town officials in charge of the comprehensive plan as a whole or the specific sections that students have questions about.” 

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