Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LET'S FOCUS ON THE FOCUS GROUPS

As part of its 10 Year Long Range Strategic Plan the district held a series of ten focus groups in February and March of 2011. In addition, Standing Committees were asked to submit items they thought needed to be addressed over the next ten years. The results of these meetings were compiled and presented to the MA Board Meeting in April of last year. (Available in member's section of www.farmingtonwoods.com)

According to media analyst and professor Douglas Rushkoff, focus groups are often useless, with data often "cherry picked" to support a foregone conclusion. Let's take a look at some of the focus group results and see what concerns were voiced and what conclusions were drawn from them by the committee. Some results:

  • (From Focus Group Report April, 2011)" While this project was originally for the long range plan, the residents provided input on issues that were important to them. Many did not have long-term, strategic items, but sure had items to discuss."
  •  Most wanted a definition of the "village of Farmington Woods". (Residential? Golf Community?)
  • Residents wanted the board/committees to look at everything with "fresh eyes".
  • Most consider "In the Woods" a golf/restaurant newsletter. Want minutes of meetings in magazine.
  • Want to understand how (a bond) impacts condo fees. Will putting items in a bond reduce fees?
  • Overwhelmingly want golf to be "self-funding".
  • Want the restaurant/clubhouse to be the center of FW. Would like a fitness center/library.
  • Want better insulation in buildings, facelifts, new colors, new lights.
  • Want a subcommittee to investigate/evaluate 4-plexes.
  • Some feel courtyards are neglected, want ponds dredged, sidewalks expanded, trees removed and a children's playground built with walking paths and areas.
  • Others want to change rarely used paddle courts to basketball courts.
  • Some would like to clean up Mallard pool and update poolside furniture at all pools.

As the first bullet points out, many residents did not have long-term, strategic items to suggest, but had plenty of other ideas to improve FW. They also made it perfectly clear that they wanted the golf course to be "self-funding". Unfortunately, after reviewing the focus group remarks the Long Range Strategic Planning Committee came up with a plan to float two bonds, one for golf course irrigation, one to improve the curb appeal and accessibility of the clubhouse, totaling $4M. Their plan, however, turns a deaf ear to the desire of most residents that golf be self-supporting and to the fact that residents want fees and taxes kept low.

It's hard to understand how this committee after taking the time to ask residents what they wanted and getting the answer-an updated community with enhanced infrastructure, more sidewalks for walkers and a fitness center surrounding a "self-funding" golf course, could come to the conclusion that floating bonds totaling $4M, thereby increasing district taxes 18% for each resident for the next 20 years, is what residents wanted long term. Is it possible that since residents could not provide many long term, strategic needs the committee just provided one for them?

Comments? You're welcome to email me at 2chewman@gmail.com.

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