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Survey says…

Ask a question, get an answer. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes drawing much-wanted information from people both familiar and strange can be harder than it would seem.

Case in point, the recent 2019 Pine Plains Comprehensive Plan Survey. Out of the roughly 2,500 people living in Pine Plains (according to the 2017 U.S. census), 229 responded — that’s about 9.15%. That tiny fraction reflects only a small pool of people willing to share their thoughts and feelings about what makes Pine Plains great, and what could make it better.

The Comprehensive Plan Review Committee drafted the survey based on a 2004 Comprehensive Plan that was updated in 2009. Working with the consulting firm BFJ Planning to develop an updated plan, the goal of the committee was to address local needs.

Residents were encouraged to participate in the survey following a public hearing on the plan in June. The survey was made available for one month, from June 10 to July 10. Given how few people responded, one might be apt to say more time should have been given. But, what we believe, is that people are either going to participate or not — and usually, if they do, they won’t procrastinate. So while more time might have helped with the overall response, more outreach might have been the better solution.

That’s a hard one, because the committee didn’t have a lot of options. We noticed the survey in this newspaper. The community was informed at the public hearing and through the town website. And town Supervisor Darrah Cloud made mention of the survey at Town Board meetings. The reality is that low response rates aren’t unusual with surveys — they’re just emblematic of an apathetic public that doesn’t have the time, or the interest, to fill out another form.

But, let’s look on the bright side. Roughly 230 people did respond to the survey, and they contributed important feedback in doing so. The 21 survey questions covered everything from affordable housing to Main Street improvements to recreation concerns, as well as the possibility of relocating Town Hall to the main hamlet. All of those issues are important to the town and its residents. 

We’re so pleased that the committee had the foresight to draft the survey, and the wherewithal to distribute it (done via SurveyMonkey and in hard copy). While we wish more responded to the planning tool, we acknowledge that you have to start somewhere. Now, armed with that vital information, we hope the town of Pine Plains moves forward with an updated Comprehensive Plan reflective of its citizens’ needs and wants. The more outreach, the better, so kudos to all involved.