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What do you like about Forest Grove?

It's amazing that a question so simple is proving so difficult to answer. 'What do you like best about Forest Grove?' So far, more than 250 people have taken a shot at that question in the News-Times' on-line survey and while we haven't gotten 250 different answers, it almost seems that way.

'Its proximity to wine country... the proximity to the coast... the historic downtown... the schools.... the farmers market... the sidewalk chalk thing.'

Within the litany of amenities, however, a theme emerged. Half the responses included the phrase 'small town' or otherwise indicated that attribute.

'I like the feel of knowing my mailman by name,' wrote one respondent. Another added that 'you can see how much people love living here during parades, where there are almost as many people participating as watching.'

Given that sentiment, you can probably guess how most people answered the question of whether they see the recent population boom as a good thing or a bad thing.

Well, hold on to your calculators. About two-thirds of the respondents view growth as an opportunity.

Parsing through the accompanying comments it's clear these two thoughts are not inconsistent: People like Forest Grove's small-town feel but want more options for shopping, eating and cultural events. And, they're optimistic that the coming growth will help bring those things without destroying what's here.

Of course, turning those goals into actions won't be easy. When asked about increasing density, most of our respondents are open to the idea. But try putting row-houses on their block, and you'll likely hear a different tune.

The good news, however, is that people care. They care enough to fill out a survey and share their dreams for the city. We hope that some of them turn out for Saturday's meeting and join others in the difficult (and sometimes contentious) process of turning visions into reality.