The city of Denison unveiled its plan to address growth-related issues and took note of the desired improvements the community wants to see in a public forum on Tuesday night.

The meeting was held at the Denison Community Center and the dozens of attendees listened as city staff and representatives from consulting firm Huitt-Zollars outlined the city’s Comprehensive Plan. After a brief update, the participants rose from their chairs and milled about the room where they were free to ask questions and lend their opinions on everything from Denison’s history and housing options to its education and economy. The city last updated its existing Comprehensive Plan in 2002.

“The Denison of 15 years ago is far different than the Denison of today, and in that time, we’ve been presented with a lot of growth questions and challenges,” Denison Director of Community and Development Services Gabe Reaume said. “The goal of updating this plan is to answer and address those.”

To help Denison meet its stated goal of retaining that small town feel, while improving neighborhoods and attracting new businesses, residents and visitors, the city assembled a steering committee composed of 13 members with diverse knowledge of the city to help outline 10 key areas and approaches that would allow such improvement. Those included a focus on the keeping the community closely knit, recognizing the city’s history, increasing and diversifying housing options, upgrading and maintaining roadways and infrastructure, and attracting new, high-paying employers. The remaining initiatives include encouraging development and code enforcement, leveraging tourism and recreation resources like Lake Texoma, protecting natural features of the landscape, and improving the downtown area by making it more pedestrian friendly and adding new shops, eateries and entertainment options.

Reaume said the public meeting was one of two that are currently planned and that it allowed the city to collect valuable input from those who call Denison home. He added that the updated plan was intended not only to allow Denison to address its current needs but to position the city well in the decades ahead.

“It’s a long-term planning document — probably 20 years,” Reaume said. “But it’s not just going to be something we put on the shelf for that whole time. You have to take a look at it every two to five years.”

Denison resident and Grayson College employee Molly Harris attended the public hearing and said she was there to voice her support for two key areas: education and tourism.

“I want to make sure that we’re providing access to education,” she said. “And the second area is tourism and making sure that it’s not just about bringing people in to enjoy what we already have in Denison, but also making sure that we’re bringing events to Denison so that people can enjoy them.”

Harris also said she, her husband and their elementary-age daughter moved to Denison two years ago and the small town warmth they were welcomed with was something she hoped Denison would retain as it prepares to tackle its growth.

“The small-town feel is important and a place where people care about each other and take care of each other and know your neighbors, that’s really important to us, ” Harris said.

Reaume said city staff would take the questions and recommendations presented by the residents and hand them over to the steering committee for further tailoring of the plan. He said the final recommendation of the Comprehensive Plan will be presented to the city council in March.