In August, Franklin County supervisors will have before them the Ferrum Village Area Plan, recently approved by the county’s Planning Commission.

The plan addresses community goals that were compiled into three principal objectives: creating a stronger sense of place, supporting economic development and a sense of vitality and enhancing community well-being, health and safety. While officials acknowledge this plan will require 20 years or more to accomplish outlined tasks, adopting the plan and making it official will help serve as a guideline for implementation.

Like Rocky Mount, Ferrum has a lot of potential, and it has something no other Franklin County community has — a college. Ferrum College might be small with only 1,500 students but that’s 1,500 more bodies in an area with a population of 2,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012-16 American Community Survey. Despite having this huge asset, the town-gown relationship seems to be lacking, according to comments by residents during the July 9 Planning Commission meeting.

For example, one resident expressed interest in using a pavilion on the campus, but from the way they said, “you have to get permission from the college” to use it, one could hear the disdain. In actuality, it isn’t so much that citizens need to have “permission” to use the facility but rather to create order so that it can be reserved and not fought over.

Another resident said she believes the gap between residents and the college is not as wide as it once was but there has been some division such as not supporting the farmers’ market “because it was a ‘college thing.’ ” She said she would like to see more improvement and closing that gap.

“How do we bridge that gap? What are we not addressing here so we can have a better relationship with the college?” she said.

Steve Sandy, director of planning and community development, said forming a merchants’ group or effectively, a community partnership group, and including people from Ferrum College would be a good step. “I’m all about the low-hanging fruit idea — picking those things that you have agreement on as a community and a college, things you can check off a list to get started, to get that momentum started, rather than try to tackle something that may be more difficult for a first step,” Sandy said.

Getting that group going and being open-minded are going to be key in advancing Ferrum as a whole.

As one resident pointed out, with newer leadership there are “a lot of options for discussion.”

“This is a perfect time to start the discussion to build on the exciting things that can happen in the Ferrum community,” the man said.

He added that relying on students doesn’t create sustainability because students are temporary, they leave after graduation, but gaining support from the college community, as a whole, is key.

We encourage Ferrum residents and college administrators, students and interested parties to come together to make Ferrum a place people want to visit, not just a pass-through on Va. 40.

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