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Monday, Jul 14 2014 03:58 PM

Future looks bright for Old Towne revitalization

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(From left) Kern County Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivener, Lorelei Oviatt, director of Kern County Planning and Community Development, and Jeanine Cavalli, consultant of PMC, greeted attendees of the Old Towne Tehachapi Vision Plan unveiling event held July 9 at Valley Oaks Charter School.

Local residents and business owners participated in the workshop by offering their feedback and opinions on the proposed Vision Plan.

Kern County Planning and Community Development Department held an unveiling event of the proposed Vision Plan for Old Towne Tehachapi Wednesday evening at Valley Oaks Charter School. Local residents and business owners were invited to attend and share their ideas about the Vision Plan and Vision Poster to assist in the development of community programs to revitalize Old Towne Tehachapi.

A project overview, purpose and timeline for parcels north of Brian Way was presented by Lorelei Oviatt, director of Kern County Planning and Community Development.

"Our project objectives include the development of a 25- to 50-year vision plan, so this all won't take place overnight," said Oviatt, adding, "however, we want to know what areas you feel are important so we can focus on those first."

Project objectives included:

* Improve the aesthetic character of the area;

* Enhance connectivity and access through street design and streetscape improvements;

* Support economic vitality by providing employment opportunities and encouraging new local businesses to locate in the area;

* Identify community design preferences for public improvements that will help beautify the area and establish a sense of place;

* Establish public spaces in the area where residents and visitors can congregate, recreate and socialize;

* Develop an action-oriented vision plan that will provide a guide for implementing desired improvements.

Jeanine Cavalli, PMC consultant, gave a presentation of key components of the Vision Plan.

Based on feedback and data received from weekend workshops which were previously held, and marked the beginning of the anticipated revitalization for Old Towne, of key importance in the Vision Plan was the need for the community to be characterized by its rural, charming, small-town atmosphere.

Residents and local business owners felt it should be a unique in its structure so that it was viewed as being diverse, colorful and vibrant, and yet have a cohesive and harmonious look. One way to achieve this was by improving the landscaping, streets, signage, street furnishings and by adding attractive building facades.

Also important in the vision was for Old Towne to become an enclave of locally-run, convenient businesses where residents and visitors alike to go to meet all their shopping and dining needs while at the same time provide a number of outdoor places to relax, be active, or attend social events.

Another key element was that Old Towne and surrounding areas be known as a safe and comfortable place for pedestrians, equestrians, cyclists and motorists; a family-friendly environment with all the amenities and great schools.

Pioneered by Second District Supervisor Zack Scrivner, funding for the Vision Plan so far has been from the grant program Renewable Energy Neighborhood Enhancement Wind Business Zone, or RENEWBIZ. RENEWBIZ uses a portion of collected property tax money from incorporated areas of Eastern Kern County to provide grants for improvements.

"Last year, $380k in grants were awarded to businesses in Mojave and Rosamond," said Scrivner. "With these envisioning projects being complete, we are ready to open these grant opportunities to Old Towne business owners.

"One opportunity will be the facade improvement grant for businesses and non-profits who can apply for $5k and $10k grants to improve the appearance of their building structures, which will require a 10 percent match on their part, either in-kind or monetary match," said Scrivner.

"I thought it (Wednesday's meeting) went well, said John George, planner for the Kern County Planning and Community Development Department. "We had great attendance and the participants were really engaged."

According to George, the next step in the process is for PMC Consulting firm to take the responses received during the meeting back to their office and a final Vision Plan can be constructed. Once a final plan is drafted, it will be placed on the Kern County Planning Department's website at pcd.kerndsa.com.


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