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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF Workers put the finishing landscaping touches Wednesday on a remodeled home on Northeast Blake Street in Bentonville. Bentonville's population increased from 49,341 in 2017 to 51,111, according to Census estimates, growing by 3.6%.

BENTONVILLE -- The mayor is working to bolster relationships between residents and the city by launching the Great Neighborhoods Partnership.

"Ultimately, this program is designed to work with residents to make Bentonville neighborhoods the most friendly, safe, attractive and engaged neighborhoods in America," Mayor Stephanie Orman said.

Aspects of the program will help neighborhoods establish associations and geographical boundaries; assist residents to prioritize goals; prepare neighborhood maps, data and demographics; and create a repository of information, ideas and resources, said Shelli Kerr, planning manager.

Bentonville's Great Neighborhoods Partnership is inspired by a similar program in Springfield, Mo., said Kerr, who discovered the program when browsing the city's website.

Springfield has 21 neighborhood associations participating in the program, said Alana Owen, Springfield's senior planner. Program elements help neighborhoods engage through activities such as cleanup events, potlucks, after-school programs and training, she said.

"They are engaging the citizens within their neighborhood to get involved, meet each other, help each other, clean up their neighborhoods, put more eyes on the street and become actively engaged with other neighborhood associations to support or rally against citywide issues that are of importance to neighborhoods," she said.

The basis of exceptional communities is often how engaged residents are with each other as well as the city, Kerr said.

"What we're trying to do is achieve both -- encourage neighbors to work together to improve the quality of life right around where they live and collectively," she said. "As all neighborhoods are doing that, then we create an even better community."

The definition of a neighborhood as it applies to the partnership between the city and community can be as unique as an area's residents, Kerr said, adding neighborhoods don't have to have a homeowners association to participate. Even apartment complexes and businesses fall within the definition of a "neighborhood" for program participation, she said.

The city will create a Neighborhood Advisory Committee of representatives from participating neighborhoods as the program develops, Kerr said.

Victoria Mizner, property manager and bookkeeper for the Chapel Hill Homeowners Association in northeast Bentonville, said she doesn't see a downside to her association participating in the partnership.

"They're trying to help improve Bentonville," she said. "I don't think it's a non-benefit. I think there's only good things to come from that."

Although Chapel Hill uses platforms such as email, mailings, Facebook, Nextdoor and a website to communicate to residents, she said communication with the city could always improve by having a Chapel Hill resident on the program's committee.

"There have been numerous questions that we've had as a group," Mizner said. "It would be wonderful to have a direct contact."

Potential partnership participants are encouraged to start within their neighborhoods to gauge if it's a good fit for residents.

Participation in the program is wholly voluntary, she said, and the city isn't taking on the role of organizing and pulling individual neighborhoods together.

"If you want to, we're going to help, but we're not going to force it," Kerr said.

How engaged the neighborhoods are with each other and the city is key to building strong neighborhoods, she said.

"Close-knit communities where families and individuals thrive are a strength of Bentonville and something I think is a strong attraction for people who are looking to call Bentonville home," Orman said.

Web watch

Supporting material for the Great Neighborhoods Partnership are being developed, but interested program participants can to go to the city’s website at www.bentonvillear.com to get started.

Source: Staff report

NW News on 06/17/2019

Print Headline: Partnership seeks to create Great Neighborhoods

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