Who are your neighbors? How broadly does your definition of “neighbor” go? Canada is a neighbor of the United States. Rutherford County is a neighbor of Bedford County. Are new residents of Bedford County all your neighbors? Southern hospitality typically extends friendliness and a welcoming attitude to visitors and new neighbors alike. One of the things that attracted Shelbyville’s new Planning and Community Development Director, Waleed Albakry, to Bedford County is that famous southern hospitality. After living in Canada since 2004, the Egyptian-born Waleed is excited to be part of the visionary growth that is happening in Shelbyville.
Keeping the flavor and personality of Shelbyville is top on his list of priorities while making sure that all residents, long-term and new, have input into Shelbyville’s future. He is looking forward to meeting as many Shelbyville residents as he can so he can better understand what you love about this region and what you feel would make it even better. Join him on October 22 from 11-12 at Coffee Break (121 Public Square S) to share your thoughts.
There is no doubt that Shelbyville is growing. How growth, projects, and initiatives are handled will have a huge impact on generations to come. With a Master of City Planning from the University of Manitoba, Waleed is aware of the importance of community engagement to help determine a vision for the future that is as unique as Shelbyville is. There is a need for standards for expansion and development to determine what is desirable.
There are opportunities for smart growth by approaching development in a way that encourages a mix of building types and uses, creating diverse housing, preserving open spaces, farmland, and historic buildings, and fostering diversity and community engagement.
Prior to interviewing for the position of Planning Director, Waleed had driven through Shelbyville several times with his brother and family who live in Rutherford County. His trained eye could see the rough-cut gems of Shelbyville need a little polish to shine like the hearts of the citizens here.
Part of planning is being a good steward of resources and supporting the many departments and people who touch the planning process. Waleed is excited to bring digital planning to the community, reducing a huge amount of paper and delays. Initially, he will implement digital planning for subdivisions where there are numerous phases and levels of planning to coordinate. Imagine a sheet of paper, approximately 24” x 36”, about the size of a café table, which is the size of a blueprint. Currently, when a subdivision is being planned and developed, the end result of all of the details, changes, and planning required, results in a stack of those pages being approximately five feet tall! Not only will digital planning reduce paper, it will also enable multiple departments to review plans and comment on them simultaneously.This reduces unnecessary delays and helps all of the affected departments run more efficiently.
In addition to overseeing the planning process, Waleed will also support community development projects. One example is the recently funded Duck River Overlook, an observation deck that will provide an opportunity to view the river and its wildlife in downtown Shelbyville. The project is expected to take up to two years to complete.
CREATING HOPE FOR NEIGHBORS
Within communities are the “hidden neighbors,” people who are struggling financially and are in the community but do not have permanent housing. City Manager, Josh Ray, is enthusiastic about the City Commission’s decision to better understand the issue of homelessness in Shelbyville by voting to form a HOPE (Help Our People Engage) Committee at the September meeting. The committee will be tasked with researching the many factors impacting the issue of being homeless and how the city might be able to better address those issues. As the cost of housing increases and Covid-eviction protections are reducing, it is imperative that this vulnerable population’s needs be addressed in a proactive manner.committee will be tasked with researching the many factors impacting the issue of being homeless and how the city might be able to better address those issues. As the cost of housing increases and Covid-eviction protections are reducing, it is imperative that this vulnerable population’s needs be addressed in a proactive manner.
Homelessness isn’t just about housing. It is about creating stability for an entire family through educational opportunities for children and adults, job training, mental health support, safety, technology, and nutrition. What is needed is to understand the many complexities and then address them with a comprehensive plan.
ONGOING NEIGHBORHOOD IMPROVEMENTS
The Blue Cross Blue Shield grant-funded playground construction has begun at HV Griffin Park. In addition, planning for improved signage for Shelbyville at the entrances for the community as well as banners announcing current events or historical recognition is in the works.
This is a time of hope in Shelbyville, a time of reflecting, planning, and contributing to creating a brighter future for all of our neighbors. -GN