City officials hosted residents and members of the business community to workshops last week. Consultants lead the meetings designed to engage community members in the process of drafting a new comprehensive plan.
During the brain-storming sessions, Dan Gardner, a consultant for the comprehensive plan project, asked participants to identify issues and concerns with the city.
“We’re going to weave you through an interactive session,” Gardner told approximately 15 participants at a public meeting for residents on Nov. 21. Approximately 25 business owners attended a separate meeting the following day.
Gardner said the comprehensive plan update will consider all of the things that go into making a city. For example, the comprehensive plan will address items like market capacity, city infrastructure, economic issues and community values.
The comprehensive plan is used for economic development purposes, and the new plan will establish a road map for future map.
Gardner’s current comprehensive plan was adopted in 2003 and partially updated in 2008.
In addition to community engagement workshops, city council members created a comprehensive plan advisory committee consisting of approximately 20 people.
There will be additional opportunities for the public-at-large to weigh-in as well, Gardner said.
“We want to make sure everyone is involved in the process, and you’re engaged,” he said.
Last week’s meetings were designed to primarily determine concerns and strengths of the city of Gardner. Residents, committee members and business owners expressed similar concerns during the meetings. For example, one resident on Nov. 21 said he would like to see the comprehensive plan address how the city can take advantage of opportunities from the intermodal facility.
“And how we can create a buffer between the industrial and residential,” the resident said.
Another resident said one of his primary concerns is the perception that the community isn’t very business friendly. Another resident said he would like to see access to Interstate 35 at 183rd Street.
Future public workshops will seek input on visioning for the community, and consultants will build a website to engage citizens that might not be able to attend meetings. The website will feature map-drawing capabilities, so citizens can anonymously submit comments and maps for preferred future development.
Gardner said the website will not be collecting statistical or scientific data, but it should provide a reflection of what the community desires.
“It’s not our plan,” Gardner said. “It’s the community’s plan and it has to reflect that.”
The comprehensive plan update will involve a seven-step process including project initiation, community outreach, analysis of existing conditions, community vision and goals, drafting a downtown sub-area plan, community-wide plans and policies and adopting the documents.