Public Input Survey
Residents of all ages were invited to complete a survey to provide input into helping make Shepherdstown a great place to live and work in the future. A total of 327 people participated in the survey including 325 online submissions and 2 hardcopy submissions. The survey covered four demographic questions and twelve discussion questions. The responses to these questions were utilized throughout the development of the plan recommendations. A summary of the responses to each question are listed below as submitted by the survey participants.
Questions 1 and 2: Demographics
The age of the participants in the survey trended toward an older demographic, with nearly a simple majority of the responses coming from residents between the ages of 41 and 65. In total, 95% of the responses were received from residents over the age of 25. Interestingly, a slighlty larger share of the responses were received from presons residing outside of the corporate limits, but given the small size of Shepherdstown’s population, the rate of participation from residents of the corporation was significant.
Questions 3 and 4: Demographics
Over half of the paticipants work either within the town or suroundding area, or are retired. Nearly one-third of the participants work outside of the local area, while fewer than 5% indicated that theywere students at Shepherd University. The length of time that survey participants have lived in Shepherdstown is distributed fairly evenly, but with a slightly larger share of long time residents (20+ years) participating than the other groups. Also, participation was divided nearly evenly between participants who have lived in Shepherdstown more than 10 years or fewer than 10 years.
Question 5: Annexation
Survey Question: The Corporation of Shepherdstown provides a wide range of municipal services and benefits to residents and businesses within its corporate limits. Should the Town pursue the expansion of these services, and the benefits of residing within the corporate limits of Shepherdstown, throughout a larger portion of the greater Shepherdstown area? Do you think that this would have a positive or negative impact on current residents of Shepherdstown?
When asked about the possibility of Town services being expanded to a larger portion of the greater Shepherdstown area, more participants responded favorably than unfavorably to the question. There were a substantial number of responses that were not sure or responded without a definitive answer, indicating a need to better inform the public about annexation.
The responses received to this question demonstrates that there is not a signficant degree of distinction between place of residence, either inside or outside of town, and whether the respondent appeared to be in favor of or opposed to annexation, though slighlty more of the respondents from outside of town appeared to have a positive view of annexation than participants who live inside of town. Most notable was the number of in-town residents who appeared to lack enough information to give a response favorably or unfavorably.
|Yes||No||Not Sure||No Definitive Answer|
|Greater Shepherdstown Area||53||26||13||5|
|Inside Shepherdstown Corporate Limits||46||18||21||9|
|On the Shepherd University Campus||1||0||0||0|
|Blank (Did not specify residence)||3||0||0||2|
Question 6: Downtown Shepherdstown
Survey Question: Downtown Shepherdstown is a cornerstone of the community, serving as a hub for social, cultural and economic activity in town. What do you see as being the most important assets to protect in the downtown area to ensure its viability and sustainability? What types of investments could be made to help improve downtown?
- The primary assets that were associated with downtown Shep-herdstown included its historic character, small local business-es and status as a deistination for tourists.
- Other assets that were identified include the walkability of downtown, the library, restaurants, green space and the Po-tomac River.
- Parking was the most frequently identified need for additional investment, primaril focused on adding capacity.
- A close second behind parking was the need to continue the improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- The third most frequently mentioned topic for investment was economic development. This centered primarily on helping small businesses with assistance through an entrepreneurial incubator, lower rents, grants, incentives and similar ideas.
Question 7: Shepherd University
Survey Question: A significant number of opportunities are created by the physical, social and economic links between the Town and Shepherd University. What assets do the Town and University have that can be leveraged to enhance the quality of life for both residents and students? How do you perceive the current relationship between the Town and University, and how could that relationship change or evolve to better serve the needs of each entity?
- Overwhelmingly, most respondents see a positive relation-ship between the University and Town. A significant number perceive that this has improved in recent years, with many attributing this to the current leadership of the University and the Town. Equally stressed was the need for a good working relationship and continued cooperation and communication between the two entities.
- Respondents were very pleased with the number and diver-sity of assets shared between the University and Town. Assets most frequently cited include:
- Wellness Center
- McMurran Hall
- The Wall
- Events & Activities
- Wellness Center
- Again, the number one topic most cited by respondents is parking. Many see the lack of parking as bad for the Univer-sity AND Town. It’s seen as the number one issue that would promote better relations.
- Respondents commented that involvement between stu-dents and residents is lacking and needs to be improved. Several offered ideas ranging from business relationships to volunteer activities. Specific suggestions included intern-ships, discounts for students at town businesses and restau-rants, a University store, and a volunteer database.
- Increasing involvement was not just between students and residents. Several commented that faculty need to support the Town - live in town (if lower rents), work with local busi-nesses to promote internships and/or projects.
- Many respponses indicated that more participation in uni-versity activites is desired, but there is a lack of public infor-mation about events, activities and/or programs. Several stated that the cost of using facilities is too high.
Question 8: The Potomac River
Survey Question: The Potomac River is a key foundation of the Town’s origins and history, but over time development has moved away from the river, with the Town essentially turning its back to the Potomac as its economic importance declined. How, and where, can the Town take better advantage of its location on the Potomac to enhance the quality of life for residents and the experience of visitors to Shepherdstown?
- The responses indicated a general desire to not “over commercialize” the riverfront – instead maintaining the area primarily for recreation in a more natural setting, especially given the flooding potential along the river.
- The appearance and upkeep of the riverfron, particularly around the boat ramp, was cited as needing improvement by many respondents.
- A large number of responses indicated a desire to restore and better utilize the tobacco warehouse, particularly for a river related use such as a pad-dlesports outfitter.
- The majority of responses where people suggested some sort of “develop-ment” of the riverfront requested passive recreational facilities, such as a boardwalk/walking trails, picnic areas, wildlife viewing areas, overlooks and similar features.
- Pedestrian connectivity from downtown to the riverfront and between the boat ramp area and the Rumsey Monument was a frequent suggestion, as was the need to provide better directional signage to the river.
Question 9: Cultural Assets
Survey Question: Shepherdstown has a diverse base of cultural resources, with significant artistic, historic and architectural assets that enhance the livability and attractiveness of the Town. Of these assets, which do you feel are most critical to the long term success of the Town? What is missing from the cultural experience in Shepherdstown?
- Responses to this question overwhelmingly focused on the Town’s historic architectural resources and the need to preserve and enhance them.
- The Contemporary American Theater Festival was frequently cited as the most important cultural event in Shepherdstown.
- Many responses cited the need to better market / promote the Opera House and make better use of the facility.
- The presence of the University and the cultural opportunities that it provides was noted as being important to the cultural life of the town.
- The most frequently cited missing link in the town’s base of cultural resourc-es was the need for affordable space for studios and galleries for artists.
- Several responses noted the need to better market and publicize the events that are being offered in town.
- There was general consensus in the responses that maintaining and ex-panding the town’s cultural of are critical to its long term success and overall vibrancy.
- Interestingly, a number of responses focused in the need to include food in the list of cultural resources and better integrate that into the town’s overall base of cultural resources.
- A major sentiment included in the responses was to maintain the historic character of the town without becoming like Harpers Ferry, Williamsburg or similar communities (the environment is too sterile or over commercialized).
Question 10: Community Services
Survey Question: The Corporation of Shepherdstown strives to provide its residents and businesses with high quality and efficient services. Are there any services that are not currently provided by the Town that it should offer to the community? Are there any services that the Town currently offers that would benefit from improvements and what would those improvements be?
- Most responses regarding the quality of existing services said that they were excellent.
- Suggestions for improvements included the quality of the drinking water, recycling services and public transportation.
- Responses were generally complimentary of the police force, with sugges-tions aimed primarily at expanding the size of the force to be able to better offer services on a 24 hour per day basis.
- Suggestions for new services included free wireless internet service through-out town, leaf collection in the fall, building code enforcement and com-posting of organic waste.
- Some respondents seemed to be unaware of the full range of services that are provided by the town.
Question 11: Natural Resources
Survey Question: The natural environment plays a significant role in the attractiveness of Shepherdstown and the surrounding region as a destination for both residents and tourists. What are the most significant natural and environmental resources in the area, and what role should the Town play in helping to preserve and protect these critical assets?
- Responses to the survey indicated that the Potomac River as an important asset for the town for both environmental and quality of life reasons. The primary concern regarding the river was protecting water quality.
- The tree canopy, and natural vegetation in general, were cited as import-ant contributors to the aesthetic beauty of the town. Respondents stated that they would like to see efforts to preserve existing trees and a greater emphasis on planting new trees by the town.
- Parks and open spaces such as Morgan’s Grove Park, the Rumsey Monu-ment Park, and the C&O Tow Path were all identified as important open spaces to protect.
- A large number of responses indicated that the preservation of open space, through farmland and battlefield preservation efforts, should be a top priority as these are seen as critical components of Shepherdstown’s rural charm.
- Town Run was also cited frequently as a natural asset that needs to be pro-tected, preserved and improved due to its prominent location in town and the contributions that it makes to the town’s character.
Question 12: Economic Development
Survey Question: In recent years, education, tourism and the arts have played significant roles in the local economy, driving much of the economic growth in Town. What economic sectors might the town want to pursue if it were looking to diversify its economy? What role should the Town play in supporting economic development, such as through business retention efforts, incentives for new or expanding businesses or similar efforts?
- The survey results indicate that there is a general feeling that high rent-al rates impair the ability of small businesses to succeed and are a prime cause of vacancies in the downtown area. Many of the responses indicat-ed a belief that lowering or subsidizing rental fees would allow the town to build a more diverse economic base and help existing businesses remain downtown.
- Along with high rental rates, responses to the survey indicated that the lack of available parking was a negative influence on the ability of downtown businesses to thrive. Many believe that by increasing the amount of parking as well as providing shuttle services businesses will see a spike in activity.
- The outdoor recreational assets found in and around Shepherdstown were frequently cited as areas of great potential for the town to expand the share of tourists to the region that it captures in relation to neighboring communities. Respondents cited the need to better connect these assets as a way to improve the attractiveness of the area, including ideas for de-veloping bike share programs oriented to tourists, who could use them to visit various sites in and around town.
- Many responses to the survey cited the lack of “practical” retail in the downtown area. Residents o indicated that they would like daily neces-sities such as a grocery store or market, laundry or dry cleaner and similar essential services provided in the core of the town.
- The town’s proximity to the greater Washington area was frequently cited as a key potential driver of the local economy, with answers particularly focused on the potential for high-tech industries and employment.
- The farmland surrounding the town is thought of as an asset to the commu-nity; however the potential for its relationship with the town is underutilized. Responses to the survey indicate a desire for the town to take better ad-vantage of its proximity to valuable farmland and encourage sustainable agriculture and work on developing a retail market for locally produed ag-ricultural goods.
Question 13: Housing
Survey Question: Shepherdstown has a large stock of single family dwellings in its historic neighborhoods, and a large amount of group housing for students on the campus of Shepherd University, but little diversity in the overall housing supply. Is there any demand in the market for the Town to expand and diversify its housing stock? Which areas of Town (or outside of Town) might be most appropriate to accommodate new types of housing, and what types of housing development should the town seek to accommodate?
- Surveys indicated that the gap that currently exists in the Shepherdstown housing market are quality, well designed, and affordable housing options for older residents and moderaely priced homes for young professionals and families.
- Due to the town’s historic character, many residents feel that any growth in and around town should be consistent with historic architectural precedents.
- Some respondents felt that there is no need to expand the town’s housing stock to accommodate a larger residential population. These residents fear that by expanding the opportunities for development the results will be poor-ly built homes in generic suburban developments that are not in character with the town’s reputation as a quaint historic village.
- Another theme that emerged from the housing survey question was a general desire for new residential development to occur within a reasonable walking distance of downtown.
Question 14: Transportation
Survey Question: The ability to move safely around town by automobile, bicycle or as a pedestrian is a key factor in the attractiveness of the community and its long term sustainability. What are the most important improvements that can be made to enhance the safety or functionality of the local street, walkway and bikeway systems? Which areas outside of Town, if any, should be connected to the Town with a trail system?
- Responses to this question focused overwhelmingly on improving pedestri-an and bicycle facilities in and around the town, with very few responses suggesting any improvements solely for motor vehicle facilities, except in the context of making them safer for bikes and pedestrians.
- Most frequently cited in the responses were the need to construct a bike and pedestrian connection to Morgan’s Grove Park and to improve the current connection to the Maddex Square area. These were followed closely by River Road and Shepherd Grade Road
- River Road and Shepherd Grade Road were the second most cited roads that respondents identified as needing improved bike and pedestrian fa-cilities.
- A general desire was expressed for the improved availability of designated bike lanes on streets in town.
- Other topics included the need to strictly enforce speed limits and laws on cell phone use, maintaining sidewalks in a safe condition and improve the visibility of pedestrian crossings.
Question 15: Shepherdstown’s Future
Survey Question: Imagine that it is 20 years from today and all of your ideas for improving Shepherdstown have been successfully implemented. What is the Town like in this ideal future? What is the most important idea that you contributed to help Shepherdstown grow into a more livable and prosperous community?
The following list represents the main themes that were most frequently cited in response to this question:
- Retaining the small town atmosphere and character
- German street is thriving and full of businesses
- Fewer cars on the roads and more walking/biking by residents
- An environmentally sustainable community
- A diverse population – especially in terms of age
- No generic “Anytow, USA” development
- A broader tax base
- Historic buildings are preserved
- More parking options
Overall, responses were very positive about the future of the town.