March 23, 2011 —
The results of the community survey administered for the city’s master plan have been received and tabulated. “People are pretty much content with the town,” said City Manager Steve Hartsel, “but would like to see some improvements and are not afraid of development.” The city’s master plan is supposed to be completed every ten years, although this one is a little late. The local input from the surveys helps to form the basis for how the city should develop in the future. “The planning commission hired a professional firm McKenna Associates,” said Hartsel. McKenna Associates is a firm based out of Northville that specializes in community planning and zoning, urban design and economic development.
“We originally tried for 100 completed surveys,” said Hartsel, naming a number that would represent approximately 10% of households in Hudson. In the past, the surveys have been mailed out to people, and they may or may not have been returned or completed with any care. “We decided we were going to try doing one on one interviews to make sure these were done carefully. We got more quality input that way instead of just badgering somebody to fill something out and mail it in.” There were a number of people, mostly from the planning commission, who went out and conducted interviews, usually in the part of town they resided in. At the high school, surveys were conducted by the honor society but were administered to a broad base of students. Households were randomly selected by first assigning numbers to water accounts, since every household in town has one, and then randomly selecting numbers to generate a list of random households in town. The original list identified approximately 120 households, and city officials were hoping to get approximately 100 completed surveys. Because of the time of year, the number of people conducting surveys, and the fact that the surveys given were on a one-on-one basis, officials feel lucky to have completed as many as they did. There were approximately 100 completed, of which 65 were adult households, 25 were at the high school for a younger input, and the remaining 10 were a slightly different survey administered randomly to local businesses. “We were trying for a 10% household response rate,” said Hartsel, “but approximately 6.5% is still statistically relevant. The neat thing is that the entire city is represented geographically. Every part of town had an equal say in this input.” Additionally, while the surveys were administered to two separate age groups, the survey questions themselves were identical. “They’re a little different than the one we did last spring,” said Hartsel, “But we could compare apples to apples.” Overall, the firm that is drawing up the master plan concluded that the results would be a statistically relevant sample and that the data provided will allow officials to draw accurate conclusions for how the city ought to develop. The survey itself addresses things present in town, things that the town should have but doesn’t, or things it does have but shouldn’t. It asks where the emphasis and priorities should be and what the town’s current strengths are. The results are broken down by different demographic characteristics. “The software we use allows us to cross-tabulate and really drill down into this data and find out what people’s preferences are,” said Hartsel.
There were some fairly typical results as far as what people liked and didn’t on the household survey. More than 70% of respondents enjoyed living in Hudson, felt like a part of the community, and felt safe in their neighborhoods. They were proud to live in Hudson and felt that Hudson had a strong historical character and buildings that should be preserved. The most liked characteristics of Hudson were the small town character (53%), and that residents had family nearby (52%.) More than 85% believed or strongly believed that the school, downtown, industries, local neighborhoods, parks, historic buildings and library were important or very important for the City of Hudson. Many people also liked downtown for a variety of reasons, and only cited a lack of selection of goods as a reason for unhappiness. Of the many options about problems in local city conditions, two stood out: 44% believed that the condition of city streets were a problem or a significant problem; and 33% believed that the condition of sidewalks were a problem or a significant problem. The two next highest concerns were the concerns about traffic safety on city streets (27%), and the lack of sidewalks and bike paths (22%). There was high support listed for an increase in availability of senior housing (59%). Respondents believed that the city needed to be careful about future development, but that progress should not be hindered. A majority (62%) believed that commercial and industrial development should be encouraged in the city as long as residential areas were not affected; 68% believed that development should be allowed only if adequate services are available, and 57.1% believed that development was acceptable as long as Hudson kept its small town character. 90% believed that Hudson should be encouraging more industrial and commercial uses, and 70% agreed that they would continue living in the city even if the present rate of growth continued. More than 60% disagreed with the statements that new industrial and commercial development should be kept out of the city. Support for current or potential community recreation opportunities like bike paths and trails and hiking paths and trails were surprisingly high, with 40-50% of respondents saying that those resources were important to them. 41% thought the town should have an indoor swimming pool, and 39% felt that playgrounds and tot lots were important. Most people believed that the City of Hudson should sponsor organized recreation programs (77% agree/strongly agree), and believed that the parks were well maintained (73%), were conveniently located (76%), and had activities and facilities that people liked to use (61%). The community/youth center were put together on the survey, and so, surmises Hartsel, the results were unusually high. “The answers were split 50/50 between people who wanted to have an actual youth center built in town and seniors who liked the community center we already had, but since those two were already combined into one it became the single largest response and may not have actually been the case.” Most respondents also thought most public services in town, like public water, sewer, cable TV, electrical services, library services, and so on, were good or fair, the exceptions being property assessments and building inspections, where the responses was mixed across the board. A majority of respondents also indicated that they would support millage increases for fire protection, police protection, and road maintenance and repair. A majority said they would not support increases for sidewalk maintenance, park maintenance, or recreation improvements. Hartsel also indicated that he was happy that the surveys were given to households and to young adults by pointing out, “The adults seemed to indicate that there was not nearly enough for young people to do in town, and that more opportunities needed to be there for young people around town. But when we looked at what young people said, it showed they felt they had plenty to do here. We would never have gotten that response if we hadn’t given one to kids.” One of the more interesting aspects of the results is that they can be narrowed down by neighborhoods, and with that ability, some odd things popped out. For instance, of all the respondents, “the only positive responses to people wanting bussing or busses were all isolated to an area around Oak and Grove Streets,” reported Hartsel.
The Road Ahead
“Our consultant on the Master Plan, Jim Brueckman, pointed out to the Planning Commission that the results pointed to a higher level of cohesion and support for city institutions and the quality of pubic services than he normally sees,” reflected Hartsel. The survey results will be incorporated into the master plan as its drawn up by McKenna Associates. After that, the master plan will go to the planning commission for approval, and then on to council for its approval. After that, it will be sent up to the state for adoption. “We hope to post the results on the city website in the near future,” said Hartsel. In the meantime, those interested in seeing the results of the city survey are welcome to come into the city office if they would like to review a copy of the survey results.