Sometimes applying a lesson learned in an improv class can come in handy when working with developers who are hoping to rezone a piece of property.
At least it works for Allison Hardin, the city of Conway’s new director of planning and development who joins the city after more than two decades with the city of Myrtle Beach.
“The first thing is you say ‘yes’ and then you say ‘and,’” Hardin said of an improv tool she learned to use. “If someone brings me a plan and I look at it, let's say it almost meets the code, I have the opportunity of saying, ‘No, this doesn’t meet the code go back and fix it,’ or I have the opportunity to say, ‘Yeah, I see what you’re doing, this is great, this is a good start, this all meets the code, this is the section that needs to be fixed, just go and focus on this and come back and we’ll be happy to work with you.’ No puts people in a defensive position automatically.”
Hardin began with the city of Conway in July and is looking ahead to new challenges of riverine flooding and a city with four quadrants — both things that were not the case in Myrtle Beach.
“One of the biggest challenges is the map has four quadrants,” she said of Conway. “Myrtle Beach has an ocean. Everything starts from the beach and radiates out from there, and Conway, you have the downtown area and everything radiates from there, but you also have industrial areas, you’ve got the college, and it has its own dynamics. So there are centers of activity that are around the city that have their own vibe and things and they’re not related specifically to the river or to the city core. It’s going to be interesting to see how the laws that we put out throughout the city are applied in the different districts.”
Hardin, a certified floodplain manager, frequently travels to teach flood preparation and floodplain management.
Hardin and the department of seven people are currently working to determine how many gallons of water certain types of trees will absorb, which also depends on the size of the tree, as the city looks to amend its tree ordinance.
Originally from North Carolina, Hardin is a graduate of Appalachian State. Her husband's job brought the couple to Myrtle Beach in 1996 — and they never left. She later started an entry level position with the city of Myrtle Beach as a planning technician, then moved her way up to a GIS coordinator, floodplain manager and then to a planner.
“Moving into Myrtle Beach and finding out how much Myrtle Beach cares about the open space and the parks and the trees and knowing that Conway does the same, that’s where my heart is,” she said. “People need space to breathe and walk and recreate and relax and get a sense of their place on earth, and open spaces and parks do that.”
The move to the city of Conway was to further her career, she said.
“I still love Myrtle Beach, but this was an opportunity to move forward with my career that I couldn’t pass up,” Hardin said.
Hardin said her job is not to keep people from doing what they want to do in the city.
"My job is to help make sure that the things they do are of the best quality for the community and the property owner," she said. "Conway is a valuable community and it is absolutely worth the time to do it right up front. There is so much to be gained from keeping the character of Conway that people have grown to love."