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What will a charrette inspire for Penn Yan?

    PENN YAN—Several small mini-yard signs in Penn Yan advertise, “The Charrette is Coming.” Maybe you have asked the question, “What is a charrette and what will it do?”
    Webster’s dictionary defines a charrette as the intense effort made by architectural students to complete their solutions to a given architectural problem in an allotted time or the period in which an effort is made. Charettes have also become known as broader planning sessions for many disciplines. Some of these areas include land use planning, municipal and town development issues and historic preservation.
    The Penn Yan charrette is billed as a one day brainstorming session scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Penn Yan Middle School from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The meeting will include seven focus areas: waterfront development, downtown, new commercial development, transportation, preservation, housing and mixed use development along with gateways to the community. The gathering is part of the Penn Yan 20/20 Vision Committee and will include comments, debate and conversation about some key local issues.
    Roger Brown, board president of the Rochester Regional Community Design Center and a coordinator of the Penn Yan meeting, said the key to design charrettes is community engagement-involving citizenry in the planning process of their neighborhoods.
    Brian Zerges, owner of the Best Western Vineyard Inn and Suites in Penn Yan, and one of the early proponents of conducting a local charrette said he is encouraged that more than 150 people have already signed-up to attend.
    What kind of things can come from a charrette? The Observer asked the charrette coordinators to provide some examples of villages or towns (with a comparable population range of Penn Yan) that have conducted charrettes and then to list some of the initiatives that came from those sessions. A few examples included:
    The hamlet of Williamson in the town of Williamson (pop. 6,700), Wayne County, was the object of a community design charrette in 2005 requested by the town. The charrette resulted in a vision plan that was adopted by the town. The vision plan was a catalyst for a more detailed roadway/gateway intersection study funded by a grant from the Genesee Transportation Council (GTC) as well as a Design Guideline document. These creative planning items were helpful in procuring a $200,000 grant from the NYS Main Street Grant program for the historic business district.
    In 2006 the village of Churchville (pop. 2,000), in the town of Riga (pop. 5,600), adopted the Community Design Charrette process as a prelude to the creation of its vision plan a year later. This process paralleled with the comprehensive planning efforts by the town of Riga. The Churchville plan prompted the village to develop an Overlay Design District to its zoning code for its historic main street.
    The coordinators added that the information above does not include a total of any additional private investment dollars generated in the local areas because of the positive developments from the original charrette ideas and programs.
    Since 2001, the Community Design Center has conducted some 27 community design charrettes, more than 100 lectures, workshops and presentations in the nine-county Greater Rochester region.
    (Additional charrette results were also provided for other villages, cities and towns with significantly larger population areas. (Pittsford, Brighton and Rochester were included).





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