Danedri Thompson
Gardner City Council members approved two documents that will be used to shape the future of the community last week.
During a Sept. 15 meeting, the council adopted a comprehensive plan and an economic development strategy.
The comprehensive plan is the result of more than a year-long process to draft a document designed to tell the story of where Gardner has been and where it hopes to be 20 years from now. With the help of consultants, the city hosted a series of public and private meetings with community shareholders to draft a 51-page document that must be reviewed annually.
“I don’t agree with everything in this plan,” council member Steve Shute said. “…That’s why we have the annual review process.”
Maps detailing where city officials would prefer to see certain types of development are included in the comprehensive plan. Community Development Director Mike Hall told the council members the plan is “a policy guide to future decision-making.” It creates a future vision for the city that the economic development strategy, also approved by council on Sept. 15, will assist in bringing to fruition.
The strategy includes seven goals city officials hope to achieve. They include: continuing to develop while maintaining a quality community; creating a community that people don’t want to leave; building an image of a city that is business friendly; creating a downtown that is a destination; utilizing existing assets; being development ready; and diversifying the city’s income base.
Audrey Taylor, a consultant with Chabin Concepts, walked city council members through the economic development strategy before it was adopted.
Taylor said the city’s access to the Kansas City market, the BNSF intermodal and New Century AirCenter will help in driving Gardner’s development.
“You’re sitting well in the marketplace,” she told the council.
The city doesn’t need to focus on attracting industrial growth.
“It’s already on the way,” she said.
Instead, she said the community will want to organize around retail growth.
Gardner is at a tipping point, but competition for growth and development “is very steep here,” Taylor told the council.
Competition isn’t the city’s only challenge, however. There are lots of starter homes in town, but there’s a limited number of second-tier homes available.
“Young people move here and have to move when they move up,” she said.
The plan should assist the city development department in inventorying the available commercial properties and matching those properties with potential users.
The strategy suggests a few specifics, like repurposing the Johnson County Fairgrounds, which sit in the middle of town.
Communities that are successful at attracting growth have a plan, and the economic development strategy is where it starts.
“They have a path, and they move quickly on it,” she said. “…Economic development is not a destination. It’s a journey. Now you have a roadmap.”