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New year, new plans for Milton

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
January 18, 2012
— The city of Milton on Tuesday unveiled a set of New Year's goals for projects, programs and planning—many aimed at development on the city's east side in the face of the pending Highway 26 bypass.

Call it vision planning. For Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore, it's more like a pre-game pep talk.


In an interview this week, Chesmore said he believes it's time for the city to get moving on some of the plans that have been in the works for months and to start moving forward on new goals.


"I don't want Milton to miss the big game. I want Milton to be in it," he said.


On Tuesday, the city council approved funds for planning to continue work on the Goodrich Square redevelopment plan.


The council also OK'd a list of goals this year brainstormed by the mayor and city staff, including plans to start a small business association and develop a hotel feasibility study.


Community House

The council Tuesday approved architectural designs for possible restoration and renovations to the Community House at 20 Parkview Drive in Goodrich Park.


The council voted to lay aside $5,000 in unspent planning funds and $3,600 from a historic preservation matching grant to pay for the design work, which will be done by Madison architect Dorschner Associates.


The city has been studying work to the Community House since last year, after the ad hoc Goodrich Square steering committee identified it as a key part of redevelopment efforts for Goodrich Park and the city's eastside business district.


Some possible plans for renovation include adding a larger rental space for events and turning the building into an office for the Milton Area Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.


Like a proposed splash park and bike paths in Goodrich Park's south end, the Community House is part of the city's vision to redefine its east side in the face of the planned Highway 26 bypass in 2013.


"The east side and getting ourselves prepared for the bypass is really a priority for us. It's something you can't ignore. The bypass is going to happen," Chesmore said.


Officials have said work on the Community House likely would be funded through private fundraising and grant money.


Small business

In 2011, a handful of small businesses sprung up in Milton. On the east side, there was a new coffee shop built in a former church, an expansion to an existing winery and a new art gallery. On the west side, an entrepreneur built a three-season ice cream shop.


The city and local lenders last year developed a loan program to help small businesses get started Milton.


This year, the city is looking into starting a small business association. It was just one goal identified by city staff in a presentation Tuesday.


"If MACCIT is dealing with big businesses like Penn Color or the United (Ethanol), their needs are going to be a different focus for small business. You're dealing with a different animal," Chesmore said.


He said the city recently talked to a man interested in putting a small family business in the downstairs of a former mill.


"You've got to take the perspective that if it's one job, two jobs, we want it here. Every little bit helps," Chesmore said.


According to a city memo, the group would be a subcommittee of the chamber of commerce, but it would focus on recruiting, developing and retaining small businesses.


The idea is in tandem with more large-scale development goals. For example, the city Tuesday identified goals to secure at least one new business in the city's Crossroads Industrial Park and do a feasibility study for a possible hotel.


The council also authorized city staff to solicit proposals from branding and marketing consultants.


Sound ambitious? Chesmore says it's supposed to.


"When the economy starts to turn around, it's the cities that are moving right now and taking steps to be in position when things recover. They're going to score," he said.



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